Aereo. which is backed by media mogul Barry Diller, charges around $8 to $12 a month—a fraction of the cost of a typical monthly cable subscription. The service is available in about 11 cities, including New York, Miami, Boston, Atlanta and Houston, with more on the way.
Speaking to CNBC this earlier this month, Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanoji said his company charges for technology, not TV content, and therefore is not infringing on copyrights.
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But Aereo does not pay the broadcasters retransmission fees, and that has the NFL and other major sports leagues, along with TV broadcasters, including CNBC's parent network NBC Universal, crying foul.
Those fees are hugely important for broadcasters. According to research firm SNL Kagan, retransmission fees paid by cable and other pay-TV services to broadcasters totaled $2.36 billion in 2012. That number is expected to nearly triple by 2018, accounting for 23 percent of total TV station revenue.
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At jeopardy for the NFL are the billions it's paid for broadcasting rights. If Aereo wins before the court, the thought is that this would help fans bypass the broadcasters and devalue those expensive contracts with the NFL.
Fordham's Conrad said any victory by Aereo would be surprising. Kanoji refused to say what would happen if Aereo lost the case.