Barry Diller-backed Aereo has conducted partnership talks with major pay-TV distributors and ISPs, with AT&T and Dish Network among the list of potential suitors.
According to a story by The Wall Street Journal, Aereo is looking to lock up partnerships with cable, satellite or telco companies as one way of moving its Web-based streaming service in front of more potential customers. Any potential partner with Aereo will have to take into consideration a lawsuit by broadcasters that contend that streaming local TV broadcast signals via antennas violates copyright laws.
Should Aereo prove victorious in its legal battles, it could emerge as a threat to cable operators that have already seen their basic video subscribers decline over the past few years. Aereo’s service could be more appealing to subscribers that don’t want to pay for a full lineup from a cable operator. Instead, viewers could pick and choose videos from Aereo’s cloud-based service.
According to the Journal’s sources, AT&T could pitch its broadband or wireless services with Aero’s video offering. Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen denied that his company planned on buying Aero during a February earnings call, but said he admired the company as a technology “disruptor.”
Ergen pointed out on the earnings call that any deal with Aereo could prove disruptive to his company’s retransmission agreements with some of the same broadcasters that filed suit against Aereo, and that broadcasters could mimic Aereo’s approach if it does win its legal battle.
Should TV distributors decided to partner with Aereo, they could cut the cost of their retransmission fees.
A spokeswoman for Aereo declined to comment on the partnership talks.
Aereo launched its streaming service last year in New York City and was promptly sued by major broadcast networks, including News Corp., Disney and NBCUniversal, for copyright infringement.
Aereo won the initial round of its legal battle last year, but the broadcasters have appealed.
Aereo uses small antennas to give its subscribers access to over-the-air signals. It also employs a network DVR technology that lets users pause, rewind and fast-forward live or recorded programs on a home DVR.
Aereo lets customers capture over-the-air broadcasts from 29 local channels for viewing on devices, with subscriptions starting at $8 a month. Aereo is currently supported on iPad, iPhone, Chrome, Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Apple TV and Roku.
In January, Aereo said it planned on expanding its service to 22 more cities across the nation this year.
In February, Aero announced that its service was available to the more than 19 million people living in the New York City metropolitan area. The New York City metropolitan region, commonly referred to as a designated market area (DMA), includes 29 counties across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Previously, Aereo was only available to residents of New York City’s five boroughs.