Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Will CBS vanish from the airwaves?

CBS head honcho Les Moonves likes to make a good threat but his latest -- to pull CBS from the free

To think that the biggest of the big four television networks could vanish from the airwaves to become a cable-only channel is, for lack of a better word, insane. Insane too, though, is Aereo's business plan of essentially hijacking a free over-the-air television signal (in a fair number of major metropolitan areas) and re-transmitting those signals to internet connected antennas which people then pay a fee to receive.

The biggest problem I have with Aereo's business model is that they are profiting from something which is free. Sure, some would claim that news aggregation websites already do this but they typically only use a brief snippet of the news item in question and direct readers to the full article on its originating website. Aereo, though, stands to make a decent profit by selling something they receive for free. This alone makes Aereo worse than cable companies because at least cable companies pay a retransmission fee to local affiliates and/or television networks to be able to sell subscription packages to users.

I find it hard to believe that Aereo will gain much traction, though. Yes, cable television rates are insane and show no sign of becoming less expensive... ever but Aereo is only another, cheaper and immoral alternative.

Rather than fight Aereo, I'd be encouraged if the big four television networks would work with Aereo to give television viewers who are unable to use a rooftop antenna, rabbit ears, satellite or cable TV an alternative to cable and satellite television. I'd love for television networks to embrace technology rather than fight it tooth and nail. Imagine a world where you could freely, without fear of your ISP disconnecting you, download a torrent of a television show you already have the ability to watch live but were unable to do so due to other conflicts. I would even tolerate a periodic lower third ad embedded in the video because as I well know, advertising pays the bills. Embrace more product placement. I know that shows like Bones and others already do this (even to the point of writing in rather clumsy statements promoting the advertiser).

The biggest uproar, though, will likely be from local affiliates who count on the advertising revenue from their local programmign to keep their local news-gathering operations afloat. Once they are left with fewer eyeballs, it will become increasingly difficult to sell advertising time and cuts will have to be made. It only snowballs from there until the local news operations wither up and eventually die. While we can argue all day that local television news is a dying breed like newspapers and radio, all things local effect us too and without knowing about that information, we are simply blind.
(think using a rooftop antenna) airwaves if Aereo's way of doing business isn't struck down as illegal is ridiculous.

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