Aereo could expand its online and mobile broadcast TV platform to 75 to 100 cities in the next year, IAC (Nasdaq: IACI) chairman Barry Diller said Sunday.
Aereo plans to launch Wednesday in New York, offering customers a free 30-day trial for its $12 monthly service which allows users to watch about 20 local broadcast channels on mobile devices, tablets, and connected TV devices such as Apple TV and Roku set-tops. Aereo relies on arrays of dime-sized antennas to capture over-the-air content, store it on DVRs assigned to each user, and deliver TV shows and movies via HTML5 to customers.
Several broadcasters filed a lawsuit on March 1 aimed at blocking Aereo from launching its platform. But Diller's remarks at the South by Southwest Interactive conference show that the company may not let litigation prevent it from expanding to other markets.
While Aereo could appeal to cable cord cutters who would no longer have to rely on basic cable subscriptions to watch local TV, the platform could also give cable operators leverage in negotiations with local broadcasters demanding increased retransmission-consent fees. In markets such as Corpus Christi, Texas, where Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) has handed out more than 20,000 over-the-air antennas to subscribers that have lost four local TV stations because of a retransmission-consent dispute, cable subscribers may be able to use Aereo to watch local TV stations.
IAC is an investor in Aereo, which maintains that the copyright laws that have allowed Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) to launch its network-based DVR will also protect its platform. Diller, who helped launch Fox as the fourth national broadcast network in 1986, appears to welcome a lively debate on copyright law with broadcasters that have sued Aereo, including NBC, CBS, Fox, ABC and PBS. "Another reason I love it [Aereo]. It's going to be a great fight," Diller said Sunday.
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