Aereo backer urges Congress to protect online video distributors

Barry Diller, chairman of IAC, which is backing Aereo, a pay-TV subscription service delivering live and recorded OTA HDTV programming to Internet-connected devices, said Tuesday that Congress must favor new entries and innovation in online content delivery.

Speaking at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the emergence of online video, Diller urged lawmakers to guard against efforts by existing video program distributors to hold back Internet video distributors as they grow their businesses.

"Incumbents have the means and incentive to engage in economic and/or technical discrimination against online video distributors," Diller said.

Diller, whose long career in media includes stints as chairman and CEO of Paramount, chairman and CEO of Fox and owner of USA Broadcasting, said during his testimony that consumers have "the lawful right to watch the content they want, when they want."

Aereo, which launched last month in New York City, is the target of a pair of lawsuits, including one brought by Univision, PBS, Fox and CW affiliates, and the other by ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates.

In his testimony, Diller built the case that history of television has been a steady technological evolution giving viewers greater choice and control over what they watch. Referencing the U.S. Supreme Court's Betamax ruling that opened the door to the video rental market, Diller explained that successive technology developments, such as cable VOD service, have enhanced consumer choice and "benefited every participant in the video programming ecosystem."

The availability of broadband Internet service and new consumer devices like the Apple iPad are simply the latest step in giving consumers access to the content they seek. "These innovations exponentially increase consumer choice and competition and are consistent with public-policy aspirations for a dynamic, consumer-driven marketplace for video programming, as well as preserving the essential consumer right to broadcast television access," he said.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.