Time Warner Cable’s chief executive said his company may consider capturing television content from public airwaves and delivering them to customers over an Internet connection, a practice that has shaken the entertainment industry.
The idea was pioneered by a Web start-up called Aereo, whose business model sparked lawsuits from all of the nation’s broadcasters, including NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC. Their complaints in courts have failed.
The entry of Time Warner Cable into Aereo’s space would be a game changer, with broad implications for how TV is created and delivered to households. Unlike Aereo, which serves only two markets – though it has expansion plans which include the Triangle’s market – Time Warner has broad influence over how TV content is delivered to millions.
“What Aereo is doing to bring broadcast signals to its customers is interesting,” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said. “If it is found legal, we could conceivably use similar technology.”
Part of Britt’s interest in Aereo stems from his belief that the traditional model of television – in which broadcasters bundle together hundreds of channels and force cable companies to buy and distribute them to consumers as a package – is under siege.
Fed up by monthly bills that typically reach more than $100, millions of consumers have canceled their cable service and turned to Internet video where they can buy shows one at a time or pay a very low monthly subscription fee. But a major gap of the online content is that it is does not offer live programming, such as sports and local news.
Aereo fills that void, offering everything that appears on CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, PBS and about two dozen other channels. For less than $10 a month, its customers can see the latest episodes of “Dancing With the Stars” or “NCIS” – and save those shows on digital recorders.
Broadcasters argue its illegal to take their signal and charge for it, but so far courts have ruled in Aereo’s favor. A New York court is now reviewing the case.
If that continues broadcasters such as CBS, Fox and Univision have said they would simply take their shows off public airwaves and make them available only to cable subscribers.
Britt said Time Warner, which has 12 million customers in 29 states, does not have concrete plans but is watching the legal battle closely.