Aereo has few options for a Plan B, but now it needs one

Chet Kanojia, chief executive of Aereo (AP file photo/2013).
Chet Kanojia, chief executive of Aereo (AP file photo/2013).

Live-TV-on-the-Web startup Aereo has lost its US Supreme Court case and now must decide whether to try to stay in business.

No good options are evident. Aereo chief executive Chet Kanojia has hinted that the company would consider paying some sort of retransmission fee to broadcasters in order to continue streaming over-the-air shows. But it’s hard to see how that would be financially feasible for Aereo over the long term, since cable providers pay billions in retransmission fees a year to broadcasters. Aereo’s current base subscription fee is just $8 a month, and it would take a while for the company to grow to a substantial customer base.

Another option that has been hinted at: Aereo could push for a change to the Copyright Act that would allow it to keep operating as is. Most would say that any such effort would be doomed (Congress is unlikely to come together on something so controversial). But there is certainly a case to be made that the Copyright Act does need to be amended again in light of the rapid changes from the Web.

And in Aereo’s prior bid to swing public opinion ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, Harry Cole, an attorney focused on broadcast media cases, said previously that he saw an interest in potentially pursuing its case in Congress. “I suspect that Aereo is trying to at least point the consuming public in a particular direction so if things go bad in the Supreme Court, they may be able to muster public support to change copyright law,” Cole said.

In any case, it’s hard to believe the previous claim by media mogul Barry Diller, a major Aereo investor, that Aereo would just go away if the Supreme Court defeated the company. The firm has raised nearly $100 million and made a big name for itself in the world of tech. Startups are all about the pivot, and it would be surprising if we don’t see one soon from Aereo.

Update: In a statement today, Kanojia hinted that Aereo would not immediately give up. “We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done. We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world,” Kanojia said in the statement.

Read more: Aereo as we know it may still have five months left

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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