BREAKING…This would be a nuclear option for News Corp, which owns 27 TV stations and serves dozens of affiliates. But the company COO’s threat to take Fox off the public airwaves — made today at the NAB annual confab in Las Vegas — suggests how deeply concerned broadcast moguls are about the possibility that they might lose their legal battle against Aereo, and how much that could undermine their ability to extract retransmission consent fees from cable and satellite providers. Aereo uses tiny antennas to capture broadcasters’ over-the-air signals which it then streams to local subscribers. It does so without TV stations’ permission, and without paying them a dime. Broadcasters say that violates their copyrights. But last week a U.S. Appeals Court rejected the industry’s plea to shutter Aereo during the trial over that claim. What’s more, it seemed to favor Aereo’s counterargument that it simply rents antennas, enabling customers to watch transmissions already available to them for free.
If Aereo prevails — and cable and satellite companies decide that they, too, can retransmit broadcast signals for free — then Carey says “We have no choice but to develop business solutions that ensure we continue to remain in the driver’s seat of our own destiny. One option could be converting the Fox broadcast network to a pay channel, which we would do in collaboration with both our content partners and affiliates.” News Corp-owned stations collected about $308M in retransmission consent fees last year, SNL Kagan estimates. That’s up 20% vs 2011 and accounted for about 19% of their total revenues. (more…)