So, Aereo lost its Supreme Court case and has suspended its service. As an Aereo subscriber and someone who studies cord-cutting, I was disappointed. I am no legal scholar, and as such I will let others with more wisdom of copyright law debate the finer points of the decision. However, whether Aereo was breaking the law or not, what Aereo gave consumers was a chance to enjoy television in a new and exciting way. Rather than embracing this new technology, the industry decided it was better to lawyer up and protect the status quo. A few thoughts:
1. Cord cutters aren’t going to run back to their cable subscriptions. Was the lawyer-up strategy the best strategy? Time will tell, but I am guessing that this scenario won’t cause cord cutters to give up and go ahead and renew that cable subscription. The cable companies seem to think that cord cutters pose no threat to their model, even though data suggests cord cutting is on the rise, and those cutting the cord are young, educated and employed, exactly the type of consumer who could eventually make a real dent in the market.
Also, while the Supreme Court struck down Aereo’s model based on the fact that it was cloud-based, it is still perfectly legal to record a free-broadcast, and a lot of companies are providing the gear to do just that.
2. There’s nothing wrong with hating commercials. I’ve heard this argument made a few times recently, not just regarding cord-cutting, but other ad-based services, as well. If you really support content creators, you won’t object to watching ads. I disagree. There’s nothing wrong with wishing to skip past advertisements. This doesn’t make you a bad consumer. The customer is always right. I enjoy watching shows uninterrupted, and I am not going to feel bad about it. “But how will the people who make the shows make money?” Well, I guarantee you the people who figure out how to give me entertainment without commercials will make money. Netflix has taken a lot of money from me over the years, and I am happy to give it to them. It’s unwise to make your clientele feel bad because you can’t offer them the service they want.
The smart broadcasting company is going to find a way to make money while giving the consumer uninterrupted shows. I am not sure what that looks like, but I know that when a company provides that, I’ll gladly pay for their service. Why not charge me a monthly or weekly fee to stream your shows, commercial free? I’ll sign up.
3. Cord cutting is magic. It’s not just because you get to avoid commercials. There’s something about watching a show you want, when you want to, and watching as much of it as you want. It’s not just streaming, but interactivity that makes cord cutting great. It’s 6:45 pm as I type this. On broadcast TV, it’s half-way or three-quarters of the way through any TV show currently being broadcast, and I am limited to just the shows being broadcast. Yeah, there are lots of channels, but I never watch most of those.
As a cord cutter, I can access thousands of shows from several services. I can start them at the beginning, and when I am done with one episode, I can start another. It’s more than just commercials and channel choice — it’s control.
Aereo leaves a void, but I am confident it won’t remain for long. The only question is how long and how hard will the broadcasters fight to keep old paradigms alive, rather than step into the future.