Want to see Aereo survive? This senate bill does too

If courts decide the streamer of over-the-air TV isn't breaching copyright, proposed legislation would keep hefty content fees out of Aereo's costs. It's one facet of a bill Sen. Jay Rockefeller says will make online video more competitive.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
An array of Aereo antennae
Aereo's arrays of tiny antennae let consumers watch live, local television broadcasts online. Aereo

West Virginia Democrat Sen. Jay Rockefeller plans to introduce a bill Tuesday he said will foster online video, decrease consumer costs, and increase video content choice and quality.

It will also help Aereo to survive if the company, which streams over-the-air local broadcasts to subscribers, fends off copyright allegations in court.

Rockefeller is set to introduce his Consumer Choice in Online Video Act at 11 a.m. PT. It will clarify that antenna-rental services like Aereo, if found to be copyright legal, wouldn't be subject to the same retransmission fees broadcast networks have been extracting from pay-TV operators, according to Senate Commerce Committee aides. Rockefeller is chairman of the committee.

Television giants including Disney's ABC, CBS (the parent of CNET), Fox, and Comcast's NBCUniversal are among those suing Aereo, alleging copyright violations.

If the bill becomes law, it also would improve itemization on broadband customers' bills, prevent broadband operators from degrading online video services that compete with their own, and limit provisions in media companies' carriage contract with TV distributors from harming growth of online video, according to a release from the senator and aides. It would set up a system for online video providers to negotiate with local broadcast stations and the networks to get their programming.

The wide-ranging bill touches on a number of pressure points in the television industry today -- a la carte pricing of channels, Net neutrality, Aereo -- but such a bill also faces challenges on its path to becoming law. Legislation was proposed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) earlier this year to force cable operators to offer their channels piecemeal rather than in bundles, but little progress has been heard about the effort in months.