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CBS Might Go Web-Only with Aereo Win

19 Mar, 2014 By: Doug McPherson


NEW YORK – CBS chief Les Moonves threatened last week to make CBS a Web-only model if over-the-air broadcaster Aereo prevails in the Supreme Court this June.

“If Aereo ... can win, which we don’t think they can, we can go OTT,” Moonves said referring to “over-the-top” Internet television. “If the government wants to give them permission to steal our signal, we will find another way to get them our content and get paid for it.”

Last year, News Corp.’s Chase Carey said the company might pull Fox from the airwaves and turn it into a cable-only service. “If we can’t have our rights properly protected through legal and governmental solutions, we will pursue business solutions,” he reportedly said at broadcasters’ conference.

But insiders say networks aren’t positioned to stop offering over-the-air TV anytime soon. When Hearst (which owns the ABC affiliate WCVB in Boston) sued Aereo in Massachusetts, the broadcaster said it couldn’t offer Web streams of all of its programs. “For broadcasters like WCVB, Internet streaming involves discussions, negotiations and agreements between and among various stakeholders” the company argued. Bill Fine, president and general manager of WCVB, added in court papers that the station can’t stream network programs without first getting the content owner’s permission. He argued that Aereo’s launch in Boston would therefore “deprive WCVB of a significant first-mover advantage.”

Wendy Davis, a writer with MediaPost News says even if the networks overcame all logistical barriers tomorrow, they may not actually stop broadcasting free TV because as many as 60 million Americans watch TV via antennas, according to GfK. Some of those viewers may or may not opt to watch TV online.

She adds that it’s obvious that the networks would lose some significant portion of viewers by ending free broadcasts. And in a world where networks fight to attract an audience, it doesn’t seem likely that they will be eager to lose viewers.
 


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