Aereo vs. Fox, CBS and Univision: The week’s best insights

Bob Wright of NBC

Bob Wright, former head of NBC (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

The first thing I thought of when I heard earlier this week that News Corp. had threatened to make Fox a cable-only outlet if it doesn’t win its suit against Aereo is how much things have changed since Bob Wright threatened to do the same thing with NBC.

In 1999, then-NBC President Bob Wright warned that the network might replace affiliates reluctant to renew their contracts with NBC “in a sensible fashion” with a local cable system. 1 ABC indicated that it was also considering such a move.

At that time, of course, the Internet had yet to emerge as a mass medium, and the pay-TV ecosystem was entrenched and growing by the day, even as broadcast television, though not as all-powerful as it had been 10 years earlier, was still quite formidable. Because of this strength, there was no need to completely dismantle the network-affiliate relationship, though eventually reverse compensation would soon become the standard.

This time around, we are asked to believe that Fox, CBS and Univision would be willing to give up the revenue from their own TV stations to deny Aereo the chance to “pirate” their broadcast signals. My sense is that it won’t come to this, because no one wants the regulatory intervention that seems likely to develop once it becomes possible that “free, over-the-air television” will disappear altogether, even though more than 90% of U.S. households subscribe to a pay-TV service.

Here are some of the best takes I’ve seen on the issue this week.

 

 

 

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  1. “TV Networks’ Tough Talk Leaves Local Stations Fuming,” by Bill Carter. New York Times, April 12, 1999.