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Chief: CBS could go Internet-only for programming if Aereo wins court battle

President of CBS Les Moonves arrives at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on Nov. 16 in Hollywood, Calif.
President of CBS Les Moonves arrives at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on Nov. 16 in Hollywood, Calif.Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Ratcheting up the rhetoric during the network’s current legal entanglement with Aereo, CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves said the company may go Internet-only for programming if they lose their court battle, according to a report today from Variety.

The two companies are set for a Supreme Court showdown as the Internet start-up’s business model of taking over-the-air signals and digitalizing it for online consumption is being challenged by several television networks, including CBS.

Throwing gasoline on the fire today, however, Moonves said if Aereo should be successful in the legal battle, CBS could vary well move toward an over-the-top type of service.

“If Aereo should work — if they can win, which we don’t think they can — we can go OTT,” Moonves said during a speech at the Deutsche Bank’s Media, Internet and Telecom Conference.

Over the top, or OTT for short, essentially means the delivery of media content –– audio, video, etc. –– over the Internet without the operator controlling the distribution.

For example, Netflix and Hulu practice the OTT model, with licensed content available through applications or the web with content users controlling when and where they consume the media.

“If the government wants to give them permission to steal our signal, we will find another way to get them our content and get paid for it,” Moonves said.

Aereo uses small remote antennas to grab over-the-air content, then reformate its for live streaming or records it for later use by subscribers over the web.

In defense of this practice, Aereo says that they just rent the use of the equipment, which any person can use at home, so they can get the publically available television signals.

The TV networks, however, decry the practice as copyright infringement.

Either outcome of the Supreme Court hearing, due next month, Moonves said CBS could easily make the switch to OTT.

“… If it becomes a prevalent way of doing business, we are easily able to do that with CBS and Showtime,” Moonves said.

However, it’s likely that CBS would need to renegotiate rights with its partners, like the NFL and other sports leagues, who stand to lose if their content is offered for free online.