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DirecTV Considers Aereo-Like Service

12 Nov, 2013 By: Doug McPherson

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – DirecTV CEO Mike White has told analysts his company has done research and development work to see whether it could offer broadcast TV the way Aereo does – using antennas to tap free over-the-air transmissions without paying stations – Deadline New York, an online news source, reports.

"We have done some work this year to see whether from an R&D standpoint we might see additional ideas going forward that could be leveraged,” White said, speaking on the company's earnings call. “I don’t have anything imminent, and I don’t think speculating on Aereo make a lot of sense. That’s kind of a unique business in and of itself."

Earlier this year, DirecTV stated it was looking at numerous options to battle soaring retransmission fees, including set tops that included embedded antennas to nab over-the-air content. So far, those ambitions haven't materialized.

White, one of pay TV’s most outspoken critics of rising programming prices, also warned broadcasters that their rush to raise retransmission consent fees could backfire. DirecTV’s outlays to broadcast stations are up 50 percent this year, and White said that’s “not sustainable.” He added, “If prices continue to explode, then customers are going to demand other alternatives.”

DirecTV said its price hikes this year resulted in slightly higher voluntary churn in the U.S. in the third quarter – factoring out the impact of a dispute last year that left Viacom’s channels blacked out for 10 days.

White didn’t go after Time Warner Cable subscribers this summer during its 32-day fight with CBS. “What goes around comes around in these programming disputes,” he said.

White also mentioned he’s okay with cable companies including Charter that want to consolidate, which could make them more formidable competitors to satellite services such as DirecTV. “Having stronger distributors that would negotiate tough on content fees would be a good thing,” White says. “We would welcome that.”

Bloomberg News reported last month that both DirecTV and Time Warner Cable were considering an Aereo-like solution for consumers, though they both obviously would like to see how Aereo's current court battles against broadcasters turn out.

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