UPDATED WITH REACTIONS: The broadcasters and Aereo are getting their day in the top court in the land after all. The Supreme Court agreed today to hear arguments on the petition that ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and several other broadcasters submitted on October 11. “The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. Justice Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition,” said the Court in its order today. No word yet on when SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in the case — with the Court’s already full schedule, at this point it could only come during the two weeks they hear arguments in April or next term. “We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court and we have every confidence that the Court will validate and preserve a consumer’s right to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice,” Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said after the order was revealed. The petitioning broadcasters also responded. “We are pleased the Court has agreed to hear this important case. We are confident the Court will recognize that this has never been about stifling new video distribution technologies, but has always been about stopping a copyright violator who redistributes television programming without permission or compensation,” said Fox, Univision and PBS in a joint statement. Added CBS: “We believe that Aereo’s business model, and similar offerings that operate on the same principle, are built on stealing the creative content of others. We are pleased that our case will be heard and we look forward to having our day in court.” Said ABC and NBC together: “We are gratified that the Supreme Court has granted our petition to review issues that both sides recognize as significant, and we look forward to making our case to the Court.”
The broadcasters want the High Court to review an April 1, 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York that confirmed a District Court decision and rejected their request for a preliminary injunction against the Barry Diller-backed streaming service. At its core, this case puts the future of the airwaves and the TV industry itself in play. In its December 11 response brief to the broadcasters’ petition, Aereo said it welcomed the move to the SCOTUS as a way of settling the various suits in various jurisdictions and markets that the broadcasters have instigated over the past two years since the service first launched in NYC. The broadcasters claim that Aereo infringes on their copyrights by streaming their over-the-air signals without licenses or compensation. Aereo says that it simply leases out antennas and technology that consumers can already use to watch broadcast TV for free. The decision by the Supreme Court in its scheduled Conference today to hear the case is some what of a surprise as it commonly does not take on actions that are still before lower courts. However, with all parties wanting to see the matter decided one way or another, the Court’s call to take this one on means a tectonic shift could be coming to the very basis of the TV industry this year. Keep watching!