Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

Aereo’s Court Victory Helps Make TV Service Less Awful

I’d like to begin this post with an honest cable company ad. Some may be offended by the language. Earmuffs!

The current state TV service is terrible. The pricing structure is senseless. Bundling forces you into accepting things no one wants, from landline phone service to a plethora of BBC channels. Even though I probably do 90% of my TV viewing on about 10 channels, I still pay for 190 other ones. Some of them are in languages I don’t speak. Some of them are targeted at women, which I am not. Some show content nobody seems to want, yet providers are more or less forced to drag them around like low-rated anchors for the privilege of carrying other, more popular channels. 

Perhaps the most irritating thing about TV content is that in this age of anytime, anywhere connectivity, live TV is still a pain to access where you want it. My cable company lets me stream live TV to my iPad or Android phone…on my home Wifi network, where it’s a physical impossibility to get more than 20 yards away from my TV. So that does me about as much good as a car service that will only take me to the end of my driveway. Individual networks (Watch ESPN, HBO Go), mobile providers (Sprint) and other sources have begun making inroads on the issue of on-the-go viewing, but it’s still fragmented and a pain to figure out. Enter Aereo.

Aereo is a subscription service run by former TV exec, Barry Diller. For a monthly fee, it rents users an antenna in their Brooklyn warehouse, and streams the live feeds of local broadcast TV to their iOS devices. True, it’s just another fragment, but it’s one that’s got the existing players seriously mad. This week, Aereo scored a court victory that clears them of copyright infringement and paves the way for them to expand to more markets. Beyond that, however, it threatens the hold cable providers, networks, and the ubiquitous bundles, have on TV content distribution. The battle will surely take time to  play out, and even if the law does not protect them, it’s possible that cable providers will simply lobby to change the law in the future. That said, this ruling opens up other avenues for startups to challenge the current model. So as an ad media worker, why would I cheer the slaughter of the existing model of TV, the biggest media vehicle that exists?

In short, I believe innovation, and adjustment to customer demands are good things for the whole marketplace. By clinging to the bundle model like grim death, networks and cable companies are doing their best to stop those things from happening. I understand I’m effectively asking for a reset of several industries, from telecommunications to ad media to TV production, and that could be painful. But it won’t happen overnight, and over the time it does, it will force a rethinking of what content consumers truly value, what the best way to get it to them is, how to use media to communicate with them more effectively, and how to measure and determine value more accurately. None of these things sound bad, unless you’re one of the firms which has built an industry off refusing to adapt.

As I write this post, I’m watching the Dodgers try to mount a comeback against the Giants, so I guess I owe all you non-sports-fans a thank you. I acknowledge the idea of a la carte TV vs. bundling is big and complex, and I don’t think Aereo or anyone else has a complete solution yet. I simply wish to make the case that more innovation and competition among models, not less, is what we should be shooting for.

Leave A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.