Pete Putman /
04.23.2014 03:27 PM
Deconstructing Aereo's Patent
PHILADELPHIA—To receive TV broadcasts, you need some sort of antenna. And that antenna can’t just be a paper clip or coat hanger, although both can work sometimes. The antenna must have some physical relationship to the wavelength of the signal being received. If it does, it approaches resonance and transfers the maximum level of signal to a receiver.

We know the relationship between wavelength and frequency. They’re inversely proportional to each other, and a quick way to determine the wavelength is to divide the frequency into 300. Example: The wavelength of a TV broadcast signal on Ch. 2, broadcasting at about 55 MHz, is about 5.45 meters. If you could actually see the radio wave, one complete cycle of the signal would measure 5.45 meters, or almost 18 feet.

In order for our antenna to resonate—i.e., have gain at the desired frequency—it needs to have some fractional relationship to the wavelength. So, a full-wave loop for Ch. 2 would measure 18 feet. A  ½-wave dipole would then measure 9 feet, while a ¼-wave whip antenna would measure about 4.5 – about 54 inches.

That’s not to say that our Ch. 2 antenna wouldn’t work at other frequencies. It could also pull in signals at Ch. 3, or 4, or even 5 and 6. But it wouldn’t be as efficient at those frequencies as it would on Ch. 2.

The same principle holds true for high-band VHF Ch. (7-13). To pull in Ch. 7, broadcasting at about 176 MHz, we’d like to have an antenna with a full wavelength of 5.6 feet. A ½- wave antenna would then measure about 2.8 feet, and a ¼-wave whip antenna would measure about 1.4 feet, or 17 inches.

For UHF TV channels, let’s pick 600 MHz (TV Ch. 36) for our example. A full wavelength here is 1/2 meter, or about 19 inches. A ½-wave antenna would then be 9.5 inches and a ¼-wave whip antenna, such as you’d find on wireless microphone systems, would measure slightly less than 5 inches.

Again, that’s not to say the ¼-wave or ½-wave antennas mentioned wouldn’t work on higher or lower UHF TV channels. It’s just that they’re most efficient at 600 MHz. All of this is just basic physics and innate knowledge to anyone who has worked with RF antenna and transmission systems, amateur or professional.

Each individual

Each individual “antenna” in the Aereo system is about the size of a dime.

Here is a cross-sectional view of the tiny antenna elements in place.

Here is a cross-sectional view of the tiny antenna elements in place.

Now, let’s look at the Aereo antenna. It’s about the size of a dime and resembles a small loop antenna. Just looking at it in a photo and keeping in mind the science you just read, it would be impossible for such a small antenna to have any resonance or gain on low-band VHF TV channels, let alone high-band TV channels.

Yet, that is precisely what Aereo seems to be claiming: One subscriber can activate one of these antennas to watch WABC on Ch. 7 in New York, or WNET on Ch. 13. And I don’t see how these tiny little pieces of metal can even work on UHF TV channels: They’re just too small.

Granted, if they were close enough to the transmitting antenna atop the Empire State Building—like a few hundred feet away – the signal levels would be so strong that they would “brute force” their way through the antenna system. But functioning as standalone antennas a few miles away? Not very likely.

Now, here’s where things get tricky and the boundaries between engineering and law become blurred. Aereo installs these tiny antennas in close-spaced arrays on circuit boards. Thanks to the laws of antenna physics, that close spacing guarantees that adjacent antennas interact with each other. That’s due to the principles of inductive and capacitive coupling.

And that means the thousands of smaller, individual antennas couple energy together to act like a larger antenna; one that will approach resonance and have some gain at the desired reception frequencies.

No matter how you switch the antennas, they do interact; it is simple science. And that appears to be the secret sauce behind what Aereo is doing: Creating large “virtual” antenna arrays made up of thousands of tiny, individual antenna elements that, taken together, make up a large, directional antenna array.

According to the patent application, the individual antennas can be switched on the fly to individual receivers, depending on which ones are in use and which aren’t. So the company can claim that each tiny segment of the antenna is actually a stand-alone antenna, assigned to one subscriber.  (Note that, in some earlier Aereo press releases and news stories, they do mention that subscribers can “lease” one or more antennas as needed to pull in a signal. )

Now, if all Aereo was doing was providing thousands of tiny antennas that actually interact to form a large, steerable antenna array, that would be interesting enough. But an Aereo subscription also comes with a “personal” cloud DVR, sitting on a server somewhere on Aereo property.

That means the following must happen for you and me to watch Aereo’s service on our iPhones. (a) A signal must be received from a TV station – say, WABC on Ch. 7 in New York. (b) That RF signal on Ch. 7 must then be demodulated by a receiver and converted from the 8-VSB modulation format to a baseband video signal, or at least an MPEG-2 stream with video, audio, and metadata. (c) The baseband video signal or MPEG-2 stream has to be re-encoded or transcoded to MPEG4 H.264 for transport. (d) The H.264 signal is then encapsulated with IP headers and travels to your home network and device.

That takes a lot of hardware. In a conventional master antenna TV system (MATV), one or more antennas are installed on an apartment building or office and one or more amplifiers go with it to distribute the RF signals from the antenna to multiple users. Is this a public performance? From my perspective, no, as the antenna system is merely passing along whatever channels can be received with it. The end-user determines what channels to watch and when. This is a perfect example of a “rented” or “leased” antenna system.

In contrast, a community antenna TV system (CATV, or cable TV) uses large antennas to capture broadcast signals and subsequently demodulates then to baseband video or MPEG, then re-broadcasts them on the same or different channels with a new program guide. In today’s digital world, your cable TV provider has encrypted these local channels, meaning you must lease or buy a compatible set-top box to watch them.

That is indeed a retransmission and a “public performance” in the eyes of copyright law. The CATV company charges for its service and sometimes inserts local ads on those channels. So they provide not only a remote antenna system, they also add in a DVR service, their own program guide, and encryption.

This is why broadcast TV stations and networks have largely given up on the old FCC “must carry” rules and now demand a retransmission fee for their content, just the same way HBO, Showtime, and ESPN do. It’s today’s business model, and it is threatened by what Aereo is doing.

For Aereo to have a 100 percent, true-blue, subscriber-controlled “antenna system,” they would need individual antennas, receiver/decoders, and encoders for every subscriber. That would amount to thousands of discrete pieces of hardware and an enormous capital outlay they’d never hope to recover at $8 per month. Their patent describes a way to assign each antenna to a separate tuner to demodulate the video stream to MPEG2. That might work fine for a handful of viewers. But what if 10,000, 20,000, or 100,000 subscribers are watching at once?

There’s a reason why cable TV companies use single receivers for each channel at their head ends: It’s the only cost-effective way to provide service. And they use multiplexers to route more than one IP video stream to customers for the same reason. It is a classic “one serving many” model and  a cash cow for the likes of Comcast, Time Warner and Cablevision.

This diagram from the Aereo patent filinhg clearly shows that, at some point, multiple streams of decoded MPEG2 video programs are mixed together and transmitted from the rooftop antenna systems to the MPEG4 transcoders in the basement.

This diagram from the Aereo patent filing clearly shows that, at some point, multiple streams of decoded MPEG-2 video programs are mixed together and transmitted from the rooftop antenna systems to the MPEG-4 transcoders in the basement.

OK, so let’s buy the argument that Aereo uses a few receivers as needed for each subscriber to pull in TV channels and perform the usual RF-to-video-MPEG conversion. But then, according to their patent application, they combine multiple MPEG-2 streams into a multiplex (or “mux”) to send them from the roof of the building to the basement for transcoding to MPEG4 H.264 and ultimately, transmission to each subscriber over an Internet connection.

Combining those MPEG-2 streams is really no different than multiplexing TV channels in a piece of coaxial cable delivered to your home. Note that, unlike our MATV example, the TV channels don’t exist in their original 8-VSB format. They’ve been converted (altered) to another format for delivery to the viewer.

Note also, in the area between the MPEG-2 Mux and Demux, the words “Antenna Transport (N x 10GBase).” Here is where Aereo’s entire argument falls apart: You can’t receive an MPEG-2 stream with an antenna; only a modulated RF channel. Calling a 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection that streams MPEG-2 digital video an “antenna transport” is disingenuous. The signal has to be converted to a new format to travel over this part of the network, and as I just pointed out, it is now a bunch of MPEG-2 video programs combined together in one stream for efficiency…just like a CATV or DBS service provider would do at their head end.

In contrast, an MATV system simply receives, amplifies, and distributes RF channels intact to two or more viewers. Those RF signals aren’t demodulated or transcoded – they are delivered in their original state to the viewer. The actual demodulation and decoding happens in each individual TV set.

What’s even stranger is that Aereo is now calling everything ahead of the mux an “antenna.” Horsefeathers! Antennas are antennas; receivers and demodulators are receivers and demodulators. Separate and distinct. That’s as absurd as calling a car an “engine,” or a house a “roof.”

For Aereo to truly provide the service they claim they do, they’d need individual hardware and software processing for every subscriber. No more than one TV channel could travel at the same time to a tuner, and no more than one video program at a time could pass to an encoder, especially not in a multiplexed stream. That improbable and wildly expensive set-up would be a true “leased” antenna and reception system, controlled by the subscriber.

If at any time TV channels, baseband video, or MPEG streams are combined together during the process, then it’s a a CATV system. Pure and simple.

Again, let me say that I don’t want to delve into the copyright and business model issues with regards to Aereo. I’ll leave that to the lawyers. Instead, I’m solely focusing on the science of what Aereo does, and to me, it’s overly clever engineering, attempting to re-define the term “antenna” and parse legal terminology.

Their entire argument for getting away with retransmitting broadcast TV content rests on those thousands of individual antennas, which as we’ve learned, unquestionably interact with each other and are separate antennas in name only. The rest of the system appears to be more conventional, with receivers, MPEG streams mixed together, and MPEG transcoding – just like a cable TV does, or even an IPTV multichannel provider, like AT&Ts U-Verse.

The puzzler is why the plaintiffs—TV stations and networks—didn’t pursue this technical angle more aggressively in the first place. In the first court case, at least one judge— Denny Chin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit—called Aereo’s system a “Rube Goldberg” approach, cleverly designed to circumvent copyright law. He hit the nail on the head. There was some testimony from an RF expert at the first hearing, but either the testimony wasn’t presented correctly or contained technical flaws. So the copyright violation angle has been pursued exclusively  by plaintiffs since then.

The judge for the 10th Circuit in Salt Lake City, Dale Kimball, stated in his February decision that “Aereo’s retransmission of plaintiffs’ copyrighted programs is indistinguishable from a cable company.” Kimball got it right as well, as did the three-judge panel that subsequently upheld Kimball’s injunction.

See Pete’s original post, including his pedigree, at
See Aereo’s patent application.

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Posted by: Larry Lozuk
Thu, 04-24-2014 10:45 AM Report Comment
I don't see where the transmission mechanism between the antenna I rent and the TV where I display the content is at all relevant. Aereo is just taking advantage of a new wire - the internet - to get my channel to me. My discrete signal makes its way from my rented antenna to my TV, and I don't share with anyone else. All I do is rent an antenna from Aereo. They don't muck with the content at all by adding their own banners or ads. I don't think the broadcasters have a leg to stand on.
Posted by: Paul Carey
Thu, 04-24-2014 01:15 PM Report Comment
Pete, Your analysis seems reasonable on the surface, relying on classical models. I'm going to withhold judgement until Aereo can demonstrate that their single, dime sized antenna and attendant processing circuitry is capable of discriminating and demodulating the UHF TV spectrum. Has anyone called for such a demo?
Posted by: Steve Strong
Thu, 04-24-2014 01:17 PM Report Comment
I'll admit I've not taken the time to read the entire patent, and I agree that it seems cost prohibitive to truly have a 1 to 1, but I see one important question that perhaps someone can answer. The diagram indicates a Mux of 1-n but I'm not clear on n. Is n one per customer as it seems Aereo claims? If n is one per customer then, given the logic here which sounds reasonable, then it would be OK because the Mux is combining the individual signals not combining for example one copy of ABC to then be split later. So, each person's copy of ABC would be sent over that one "wire" to then get split apart in the basement to then get transcoded. If however, the Mux is only sending in that example one copy of ABC, then I think this is correct that it's no different than a cable company. Now, all that being said, I do agree then antenna part seems to be a real stretch to me. Also, I agree, despite what the answer to my patent question is, can they really afford to implement with one completely separate chain for each customer? I too am just trying to look at the technology and not trying to get into the merits of the law here.
Posted by: Mike Leonard
Thu, 04-24-2014 03:43 PM Report Comment
I got a kick out of this one comment... "Its because broadcasters (and partner MVPD companies) do not benefit from Aero's business model" If I was an advertiser I would want my message [that I am paying for] to be seen by the maximum number of potential customers. I would not be in support of any entity that takes away viewers of my ad - and if the TV station contributed to the audience reduction I would be looking for a discount on that ad rate. It's time for the Ad sales folks to step up here and see the light - and added revenue for their pockets. And I will still maintain if the content providers are so concerned about their copyrights need I remind them that maybe it is not in their interest to hand that content over to an entity that will freely cast their content into the air - literally - disseminating it to the public at large for free? If this was a paid subscription model or a theater then I can get the copyright argument - but when it is spewed into the air we breathe for free then what are they thinking??
Posted by: David Hoffman
Thu, 05-01-2014 03:42 PM Report Comment
I see a missing of the viewpoint of the end user. Hypothetical scenario: I own a lot of land, but reside in a deep valley. There is no way for OTA television signals to reach me unless I build a tower high enough to attract FAA attention over the intrusion into the national airspace. My land ownership extends up to the top of the surrounding mountain ridges. I put the antenna on top of the ridge. In the same enclosed antenna tower I place a tuner equipped DVR that is connected to the antenna. I then use a fiber optic cable to send the signal from the DVR to my residence in the valley. Inside my residence the fiber signal is transformed into an copper Ethernet feed that goes into the Ethernet port on the television set. I can control the tuner and DVR using this connection. I have converted the transport form of the original signal many times, but have not altered the content. There is nothing illegal about me doing this. The Aereo model involves me leasing the antenna, tuner, and DVR instead of owning them. Leasing equipment is not illegal. Using an internet connection to access leased equipment is not illegal. The internet transport is just another signal conversion. So the Aereo model seems fine up to that point. I do find the dime sized antenna to be illogical. If that thing can truly tune in all existing VHF and UHF OTA signals, then Aereo needed to go into the antenna business. They would have dominated the market.
Posted by: Anonymous
Wed, 04-23-2014 04:23 PM Report Comment
"... cleverly designed to circumvent copyright law." Similar to parking corporate assets offshore, "cleverly designed to circumvent" US tax law. And that's legal, everyone seems to say. So it's less a case of "circumvent" than "carefully adhere to", depending upon whether broadcasting or taxes are your particular interest. Still can't understand why having thousands more mobile eyeballs trained on your signal -- commercials and all -- is such an odious prospect for broadcasters.
Posted by: Anonymous
Wed, 04-23-2014 05:55 PM Report Comment
Anonymous said "Still can't understand why having thousands more mobile eyeballs trained on your signal -- commercials and all -- is such an odious prospect for broadcasters." And neither can I. I refuse to purchase cable as I can only get Comcast and they are absolutely the worst company I have ever had to deal with. I rely on my antenna, but I am pretty far away from the tower farm, and I get drop-outs fairly often. I had hoped that Aereo would ameliorate the problem, but I don't see how it's going to continue after the SCOTUS clamps down on it this summer. What I get from that is, my local stations and Broadcast Networks would much prefer that I used cable, especially since Comcast has to pay them for their signals; so they are not so much acting as license-holders-in-the-public-interest as they are becoming shills for cable networks.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 10:20 AM Report Comment
Great article, Pete, one the clearest explanations I've seen! Too bad they didn't bring you to testify at the Supreme Court.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 10:53 AM Report Comment
1. This is very useful primer on antennae. 2. The comparison to CATV and MATV seems right on. 3. I agree, consumers can't identify with broadcasters who are foresaking "more eyeballs." 4. Comcast is shameless. Comcast either reduces the channels in plans (essentially a price hike) or raises rates without new services offered. I cut the cord with Comcast's latest price hike. I can make do with over the air, Netflex, Hulu, Amazon Prime and/or other (many free) streaming services. 5. Traditional TV is becoming so obsolete in so many ways so very fast. Some day soon the advertisers will catch on and pull the plug.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 11:20 AM Report Comment
Larry L - Reread the article. Your "discrete signal" is not that, it is combined with everyone else's and transcoded as one in order to be sent to you or anybody else. And, your antenna by itself picks up nothing, it's simply a conduit that sends the one signal (picked by the array) to the transcoder.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 11:29 AM Report Comment
Your entire argument falls on single irrelevant point. Transporting multiple MPEG streams over a single 1G ethernet link is no different than sending them over 1000 1M links - each stream is still separate. Instead of puzzling, I think it's rather telling that this argument wasn't put forth. The plaintiffs know that logic is flawed and would never stand up to strict scrutiny.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 11:34 AM Report Comment
The problem is that even if the antenna is individualized per subscriber (debatable), they are not sending the customer the "broadcast signal". That would be a vastly different technology & investment level required. Hence why nobody else does this. I'm not a fan of broadcasters in any way, and to be clear I think they benefit privately from public airwaves and its not right, but the Aero model won't stand. Why? Sadly, not because of copyright infringement (which it may be), or in some way unfair to content owners (which it may be), or because it is a catv service instead of a matvservice (which it may be). Its because broadcasters (and partner MVPD companies) do not benefit from Aero's business model and have more power and influence with lawmakers to squash Aero.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 11:50 AM Report Comment
Someone should take one of those antennas and hook it up to a receiver and see what they get.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 12:21 PM Report Comment
Excellent article, and a basis for follow up discussion. I don't believe the Supreme Court decision will settle the issue; I think that the final answer will be an updating of the Copyright Act, and a follow-up update of the re-transmission consent rights of broadcasters, to incorporate changes in delivery technology. Some of this could be included in the upcoming renewal of the Satellite direct-to-home legislation. The major networks have been on course to move to cable-only broadcast for a long time; this would simply be the triggering event if ABC loses, and local stations would carry the second-tier, low-programming cost networks instead. After all, the major nets stopped paying the local stations long ago; they now demand that part of the retransmission money be paid to them instead. What is at risk, is having multiple sources of local news, as supplied by the local broadcaster. Do you really want to have to depend on a cable-produced local newscast to replace the several choices of local news you now have over the air, and on cable, from local stations? Most local stations now rely on both local advertising and the re-transmission consent money to keep afloat. Do you want to have only one, or none, choice of local TV news, the way that most places now have only one, or have lost, their local daily newspaper? This service is simply another try to take broadcast content, deliver it to consumers for a fee, and get around paying a fair share to the content provider. Sid Shumate
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 02:11 PM Report Comment
This needs to be in an amicus brief to the supremes. Reading yesterday's transcript, it's clear that they'd love to find a way to decide this without touching the intellectual property apple cart. It's kinda like expecting nine Amish farmers to land a jumbo jet.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 02:37 PM Report Comment
To answer a few questions posed below: (1) Is there a unique MPEG-2 stream for every subscriber? That would imply that there are unique DTV receivers for every subscriber - upwards of 10,000. Likely? No. That would be an enormous capital investment. (2) Look up the definition of an "antenna" on Merriam-Webster. Better yet; read through old IEEE articles, IRE magazines, or even the ARRl antenna handbook. Antennas are "passive" devices. They do not process the signal or alter it from its original format. RF in; RF out. What Aereo is doing is using a small antenna (that can't possibly work anyway, unless part of a larger array), sending the signal to a receiver/decoder and then taking the MPEG-2 stream and converting it to MPEG4 H.264 for IP encapsulation and streaming. In their patent, they label the antenna/receiver/decoder as an "antenna" and the MPEG-2 mux as "an antenna transport." If you believe that, I have oceanfront property in Arizona you may be interested in. And if what Aereo is doing is determined to be legal, then what's to stop Comcast, DirecTV, and FiOS from doing the exact same thing, and avoiding retransmission fees as well?
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 03:38 PM Report Comment
Excellent article Pete. Yes the individual antennas would interact with each other just as multiple bays of a TV or FM transmitting antenna would. Now I am interested in is how would the inner Aereo antenna elements even work do to the effective Faraday shield that the surrounding elements create. Then there is the issue of how the signals are then taken from the antenna elements and sent to the demod. It looks like the back plane that the antennas are mounted to are nothing more than a .062 FR-4 PCB - so you would have tons of traces going along the elements. These traces would create even more of a Faraday shield. How could this work at low band or even high band VHF ?
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 03:59 PM Report Comment
Mike...respectfully, your point on advertisers doesn't track the money trail. The Aero eyeball (which provides no direct revenue to broadcasters) comes from the MVPD eyeballs (which pays hefty fees direct to broadcasters). The more eyeballs that shift from the MVPD to an Aero delivery model, the more revenue loss broadcasters would then charge to the advertisers to compensate for the loss of fees. The most succinct way to word things is "the pay tv model is fundamentally unsustainable relative to the rest of the economy". The question to ask, in my view, is why are the broadcaster fees going up at a rate thats substantially higher than the rate of inflation?
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 04:36 PM Report Comment
Maybe they're afraid that if they lose the argument on the technical front, the cable systems will re-architect their systems so that they're exempt as well.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 06:18 PM Report Comment
Pete- As you say, "In a conventional master antenna TV system (MATV), one or more antennas are installed on an apartment building or office and one or more amplifiers go with it to distribute the RF signals from the antenna to multiple users." And, "For Aereo to have a 100 percent, true-blue, subscriber-controlled “antenna system,” they would need individual antennas, receiver/decoders, and encoders for every subscriber." Since personal/mobile technology is rapidly changing, there really isn't a way for a TV consumer to watch television, outside of either using an OTA receiver built into his TV, or via a cable or FiOS provider. So let's say that Aereo is only providing OTA broadcast content, and not paid subscriber content, and their target audience is a smartphone or tablet consumer. Wouldn't they then be simply providing OTA access, but with the twist of replacing the old MATV scenario of master antenna, RF coax, and connectors with a delivery method that is current and compatible with that smartphone or tablet? And from a consumer's standpoint, shouldn't there be some sort of push to develop newer delivery methods to accommodate the mobile user? If the end result for Aereo is that they can still exist, but must pay re-trans fees as a cable operator might, then so be it - that justifies the $8/month subscriber fee. But I'd still like to have free and open access on-the-go on my tablet, for OTA broadcast content. Whether I choose to implement DVR or ad-skipping applications is up to me.
Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 04-24-2014 11:52 PM Report Comment
Couldn't Aero demodulate all of the RF channels and record them on their servers and then play them out individually to subscribers as the subscribers choose? In this case, they wouldn't need transcoding equipment for every subscriber, just one for every channel or stream on an 8VSB channel. A agree, however, that the antenna matrix is BS! Charlie
Posted by: Anonymous
Mon, 04-28-2014 11:32 AM Report Comment
"Let's say that Aereo is only providing OTA broadcast content, and not paid subscriber content, and their target audience is a smartphone or tablet consumer. Wouldn't they then be simply providing OTA access, but with the twist of replacing the old MATV scenario of master antenna, RF coax, and connectors with a delivery method that is current and compatible with that smartphone or tablet?" The problem is that Aereo is converting the signal format from an RF-modulated carrier to an MPEG2 bitstream and then transcoding it to MPEG4 before delivery to a subscriber. That's quite a bit of a stretch from "providing individual antennas to subscribers," as they claim.It is, however, more like a cable company head end in design. In contrast, an MATV system does not alter or convert the signal. It simply amplifies, splits, and distributes a bunch of received RF channels to more than one viewer. After which the tuning, reception, demodulation, and conversion to baseband video and audio all takes place in the viewer's equipment. Two very different processes.
Posted by: Anonymous
Mon, 04-28-2014 05:14 PM Report Comment
To the one who respectfully countered my point.. Broadcasters should not solely rely on fees by cable and satellite for their bread and butter. I always hear of record sales for commercials in programming and how the audience measuring companies report the number of eyeballs watching a channel to help a station dictates the ad revenue. Think Superbowl if you need an example. When a broadcaster pulls their programming from cable or satellite there is an impact on that stations advertising revenue. A station may not want to openly admit their ‘connected’ audience numbers as it is likely to be more than their OTA viewers. So I just have a hard time warming up to how the 'money trail' is not impacted by viewers. Suggesting that a station effectively penalize a client with higher ad rates to [deliberately] reach fewer potential viewers is on the fringe of lunacy if not business suicide. Ask any advertising agency where the majority of their media buys go and you will see that is highly driven by audience. It would be irresponsible for an ad agency to steer clients to a medium that is not visible – and at a higher price.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 05-16-2014 05:16 PM Report Comment
Pete, lots of RF engineers have argued that Aereo's system cannot possibly function independently. Yet the broadcasters challenged this issue in district court, including having their own expert perform tests on Aereo's antennas. The court found the broadcasters' expert to be unpersuasive, and the broadcasters dropped their challenge, not even bothering to present their expert at hearing. On the other hand, the court found that "In contrast, Aereo presented significant evidence that each antenna functions independently." Part of this was due to the fact that signal levels at Aereo's facility were found to 30 dB above the level required for reliable reception. And just as you acknowledge above, even the broadcasters' expert conceded that sufficient signal level would overcome the disadvantages of a small antenna. As for the rest of your discussion, I'm afraid your lack of understanding of copyright law makes it irrelevant. The issue of codec conversion and multiplexing into multiprogram transport streams is wholly irrelevant. Cable systems were, legally, transmitting public performances long before they adopted any digital technologies. And MATV systems absolutely do transmit public performances. That they don't infringe is simply because, under the right circumstances, they enjoy a specific statutory exemption under 17 USC 111(a)(1). Furthermore, the question of whether Aereo's transmissions are public performances doesn't actually depend on whether they use individual antennas or not. (Read the Second Circuit holding.) The question of whether they use individual antennas would likely go to the question of whether the DVR copies made fall under fair use -- but that issue was not before the Court, because the broadcasters didn't actually challenge the legality of the copies when they moved for preliminary injunction. In short, your analysis of the RF issues may seem compelling to you, but it's not supported by what the plaintiffs -- who were much better positioned to actually evaluate and challenge such -- were able to establish in court. And the remainder of your analysis suffers from a fundamental lack of understanding of what's actually legally relevant.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 06-20-2014 12:36 AM Report Comment
Cable companies have offered cloud DVR services for some time, and I can access my Directv Genie programs from anywhere in the world over the Internet . TIVO sells a DVR that connects to your own antenna, and you can watch your recordings anywhere in the world over the Internet. Amazon sells copyrighted video and music that you "own forever" but don't get a physical CD or stream the content off Amazon's servers. All of this has been considered "accessing" your own content (not retransmission -- although it IS from a technical standpoint) under the "Betamax" decision that made recording TV legal for home use. Obviously the signal coming off a spinning VCR head, or an Internet stream, is completely unlike the RF broadcast signal -- and it's never been challenged as being retranmission. That's why the argument made by the writer -- about how much or how little the signal is changed -- while correct from a technical standpoint -- is not relevant in the case. It's about whether viewing copyrighted programs via the Aereo system is "fair use" or a "public performance."
Posted by: Anonymous
Mon, 06-30-2014 10:24 AM Report Comment
I am an Amateur Extra Class radio guy. When I first read the description of their system provided by Aereo, and then saw the pictures of their antenna, I thought, "These guys are lying." Your analysis of the antenna performance issues is correct. The individual elements are way too small (which could be overcome by very high signal strength). The array of elements pictured by Aereo guarantees a very high level of interaction between the elements. There is absolutely no way the elements are independent (theory, practice, and any rudimentary finite difference antenna modeling tool will confirm that). Moreover, managing the signals coming from the antennas must be done with tuners that contain some sort of filtering, especially if the signals are strong. The patent figure confirms this, but it also shows a shared RF channel AFTER the tuners, which makes no sense whatsoever. One does not separate signals carefully, only to combine them right back together. Like you, I don't understand the legal issues well enough to comment on that aspect. With respect to Aereo's public communication about their system, especially on the RF end, some of it is nonsense.

Thursday 11:07 AM
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