Supreme Choice

The Supreme Court will hear today “American Broadcasting Companies versus Aereo”. News reports claim the Supreme Court decision could change the way we watch TV. Hmmm.

Imagine that you have a DVD and you tape several programs aired on CBS (or either of the other major networks) from your rabbit ears outfitted TV. Later you invite some friends over to watch the shows together. A few days after that you receive a bill from CBS demanding a small fee for having “rebroadcasted” the shows.

What would you think? Initially you might think “what’s going on? CBS is “free” TV, isn’t it?” In a strangely clever way this Supreme Court case is about whether a commercial company, Aereo, can in essence do the same in your behalf.

Aereo claims it captures “free, public” signals from CBS and stores the transmissions on a complex DVD system. Aereo, with a straight face, claims that there is a DVD for each of its subscribers and they are simply duplicating what each person could do on their own.

The major networks are up in arms. They claim they are loosing valuable “retransmission fees” and if Aereo is allowed to continue, they may leave the over the air broadcast world and go only to internet or wireless. Some content providers, like major sports, who broadcast some of their games on CBS, NBC, and ABC say they will stop broadcasting over these networks.

For the many millions who only receive TV through an antenna this could be a major loss. For the cable subscriber, it is hard to say but most likely “retransmission fees” would jump and so would monthly cable bills.

Remember this is the same Supreme Court who views the extravagant amounts of money flooding Washington as “free speech”. It seems to make no difference to the Court’s majority that money is corroding Washington, or that their Citizens United decision has reinforced the power of the wealthy versus the average person.

So, what will the Court decide?

If the Court stays consistent, it should rule that Aereo is free to follow its business model providing it is not charging extra for any of CBS, ABC, or NBC content.

Will the world end? Who knows. Each of the players is acting in their own selfish best interest. The market, however, could care less.

If Major League Baseball were to elect either cable or pay per view, or nothing, many people would either watch less or pay a little more. When this is multiplied by millions of these decisions, it is nearly impossible to determine what would be the net economic results for Major League Baseball.

The same can be said about CBS, NBC, or ABC.

Unbundling Cable TV packages and allowing subscribers to buy only what they want is frequently heard from consumers. The driving force behind this request is the ever mounting monthly Cable bills. Since there is no law requiring anyone to subscribe to Cable or to watch TV, the free market might be the correct place to settle this issue.

The Supreme Court has recently shown a propensity to know what’s best for America. We should know by summer how they view this issue.

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