Diller Blasts Broadcasters for Stifling Innovation in Aereo Suit

Apr 30, 2014 10:25 am ET

April 30 (Bloomberg) -- Barry Diller said broadcasters are seeking to stifle innovation for their own financial gain by suing to shut down Aereo Inc., the streaming-video company he’s backing.

U.S. Supreme Court justices last week questioned the legality of Aereo as they weighed whether the startup violates copyright law by recording over-the-air programming from an offsite antenna and delivering it to customers via the Internet. Aereo aims to upend the broadcast industry’s decades-old business model by letting customers in 11 cities watch live and recorded shows for as little as $8 a month.

“I’m really tired of being accused of stealing anyone else’s programming when we’re not,” Diller said on the earnings conference call today of his media company, IAC/InterActiveCorp. “It’s kind of obnoxious to take away the programming they’ve promised the public they could receive directly simply because they want to take away every dollar from consumers.”

Aereo’s faceoff against broadcasters including CBS Corp. and 21st Century Fox Inc. at the nation’s highest court stemmed from its bid to forge a technological route around the television companies’ copyrights. It was Diller, co-creator of Fox’s broadcast network, who pushed Aereo beyond its original plan to offer service only in parts of New York, Aereo Chief Executive Officer Chet Kanojia said this month.

Neal Katyal, a Washington lawyer speaking on behalf of the TV companies, didn’t immediately return a phone call requesting comment.

Last week’s Supreme Court arguments didn’t indicate a likely outcome, as justices including Stephen Breyer repeatedly questioned whether ruling against Aereo would more broadly imperil cloud-computing technologies that let consumers remotely store content such as video and access it through the Web.

U.S. copyright law gives owners the exclusive right to perform their works “publicly.” If Aereo is deemed to be a public rather than private performance, the ruling may affect cloud storage offerings from companies like Google Inc., Dropbox Inc., Apple, Amazon.com Inc. and Box Inc.

“You stop Aereo and you stop technology,” Diller said.