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Aereo CEO optimistic that company will prevail in case before high court

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In a Time magazine interview released yesterday, the CEO and founder of embattled Internet TV company Aereo expressed confidence that the company will eventually prevail in its court battles against the nation's top broadcasters.

Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia heads the firm as it prepares to take Aereo's fight before the Supreme Court in April to settle conflicting decisions in lower courts.

Aereo uses thousands of tiny antennas to pick up free, over-the-air television signals, then sends them over the Internet to customers who pay $8 or more per month. The service includes Aereo's cloud DVR as well, meaning customers can record shows to watch later without buying or renting their own equipment. Customers can access Aereo using various Internet connected devices such as computers, tablets and Roku players.

This strategy has angered the major broadcast networks - NBC, Fox, ABC and CBS - who sued Aereo as soon as it launched. The networks claim Aereo offers an illegal service because it doesn't pay for the programming it streams to customers, like cable and satellite providers do.

In the Time interview, Kanojia argues that each dime-sized antenna grabs and transmits signals for only one customer. Since individuals have a right to use an antenna, Kanojia says, he believes Aereo complies with the law's one-to-one antenna requirement.

"Nobody disputes the fact that a customer can make a recording for herself or himself in their home, and as a result of the Cablevision case, they can make a recording in a remote location as well," Kanojia explains. "Nobody is disputing that this system or combination of technologies that lots of companies sell today and make a profit on is perfectly legitimate. The debate is about how long the wire is between the user and the source of their recordings."

While major sports threaten to move big events like the Super Bowl to cable channels if Aereo wins and networks warn they might scale back or cut off over-the-air broadcast signals, Kanojia doesn't buy it. He doubts that the networks would jettison the 60 million viewers who still depend on antenna signals and predicts dire repercussions if Aereo loses.

Kanojia tells Time that the network DVRs which cable companies have been building would become illegal if the Supreme Court rules that cloud-based viewing doesn't pass legal muster. He claims other types of cloud computing could suffer as well, especially remote storage of media such as videos, photos and ebooks.

According to Kanojia, Aereo actually helps networks maintain and build their audiences, since "last I checked, no 25-year-old is running out to sign up for a cable connection. But with Aereo, they are watching quality television, and they have a legitimate way to get that television without resorting to piracy, because these people aren’t interested in paying a $200 bill."


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