Media mogul Diller defends Aereo

Media executive Barry Diller feels optimistic about the chances for the upstart Internet TV service Aereo, which he compared on Sunday to the early days of video cassettes or the telephone.

It could be as damaging to shut down Aereo over broadcasters’ concerns as it would be to end those technologies before they ever really got off the ground, he said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

“What would our television and communications be like without the videotape recorder,” he asked. “I mean, what if there was no telephone? What if they never did that thing?.... You just can’t conceive it.”

“I believe that Aereo is the same thing.”

Aereo, which is backed by Diller’s IAC media empire, relies on farms of tiny dime-sized antennas to pick up free over-the-air broadcast signals and relay them to subscribers’ computers, tablets and phones via the Internet. Broadcasters say that’s a violation of their copyright licenses, and the company needs to either pay them a fee or shut down its operations. 

The Supreme Court heard arguments about the case last week. Justices seemed wary of supporting the upstart TV service, but also expressed concern that a broad ruling could endanger other cloud-based storage services like Google and Dropbox.

The fate of television could hang in the balance.

If Aereo wins, it could prompt some broadcast companies to halt their over-the-air service, but a loss could enshrine the existing way that people watch their favorite shows.

Diller on Sunday said that a victory “will not hurt the broadcasters for sure.”

“They’ll find other things to go direct to the consumer based upon the consumers’ right to receive free broadcast television without paying the toll, which is their right,” he said.

The mogul was present for the high court arguments and said on Sunday that he felt more confident in his case on his way out.