Aereo Asks FCC to Help It Join Race to Provide Over-the-Top TV Service

Sony and Dish Already Have First Deals in Place

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Aereo's mini antennas.
Aereo's mini antennas.

Aereo has asked the Federal Communications Commission to change the definition of a provider of video services to help the startup find a way to resume operations.

After the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo violated copyrights by transmitting live and recorded broadcast programming from an antenna via the internet, without paying the networks whose programming it pulled from the air, the company paused operations and said it could instead operate like a cable-TV provider. But the U.S. Copyright Office in July said it will hold off on taking action on granting the license needed to stream video online until the company's status is clarified by the courts.

Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia met with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and other officials on Oct. 8 to advocate for online programming to be added to the definition of a so-called multichannel video program distributor, or MVPD, according to a filing with the regulator.

Changing the definition of an MVPD would help online services like Aereo be able to seek out licenses and negotiate for the rights to retransmit channels, Aereo said. The startup had said in August that the company was unlikely to survive unless it's allowed to operate like a cable-TV service and resume operations soon.

"We believe that clarifying the MVPD definition to narrowly include linear online video services like Aereo's would have clear benefits to consumers, creators and distributors alike," Mr. Kanojia said in a blog post. "Should the FCC move on this issue, it would be a meaningful and important step forward for competition in the video marketplace."

The FCC is considering steps that would give new internet video services access to cable and broadcast shows, a person briefed on the plan said in September.

Other companies are racing to line up the rights to stream programming to consumers over the web (a tactic called "over the top") instead of through coaxial cables or satellite signals. Dish Network this year signed a deal with Walt Disney Co. that would let it offer the Disney Channel, ABC and ESPN online. Sony struck a similar deal with MTV owner Viacom giving it streaming rights to "at least" 22 Viacom networks.

~ Bloomberg News with Ad Age staff ~

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