Aereo’s Last Minute Moves Before the Legal Fight of Its Life

Launches consumer website explaining Supreme Court defense

Aereo is trying some last-minute moves to rally consumers behind its streaming TV technology just days before it defends its system before the Supreme Court next week.

The pay-TV upstart today launched, an education and advocacy site where Aereo's subscribers and consumers can learn about Aereo's legal defense and access all its legal briefs.

The site popped up hours after Aereo's financial backer, Barry Diller, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed blasting his former broadcast cronies. Aereo's founder and CEO Chet Kanojia, has also been busy, showing off one of its rooftop antenna farms to Tech Crunch and sitting down to an interview with Yahoo's Katie Couric. 

Aereo's entire business model is on the line, resting in the hands of nine Supreme Court justices who aren't likely to visit the website.

The site and Diller's argument are designed to win allies in the hot Internet category of cloud-based services.

"What is at stake in this case is much bigger than Aereo," wrote Chet Kanojia in an email to subscribers and opted-in consumers. "We believe that consumers are entitled to use a modern, cloud-based version of an antenna and DVR and that consumers should not be constrained to 1950s-era technology to watch free-to-air broadcast television."

If Aereo loses, Kanojia wrote, it would "impair cloud innovation."

All along, Aereo has said that it is merely providing a cloud-based antenna technology solution for what consumers have had the right to do for decades: pick up broadcast signals with a "personal" antenna.

In addressing the claim that its system violates the broadcast copyright, Aereo argues that the law "provides no justification to curtail those rights simply because the consumer is using modern, cloud-based equipment."

While Aereo relies on a technology defense against the copyright claim, Diller chalks up the broadcast copyright infringement to a business defense, playing up the fact that broadcasters stand to lose millions in carriage fees.

"Broadcasters make more money when consumers are steered away from over-the-air program delivery and toward cable and satellite systems that pay the broadcasters retransmission fees. There's nothing wrong with that. But it seems rich for them to forget the agreement they made to provide television to the consumer in return for the spectrum that enables their business," wrote Diller in the Wall Street Journal.

Diller also had a few choice words for the Obama administration, which filed a "friend of the court" brief defending the broadcasters.

"In siding with the broadcasters, the administration has signaled that the preservation of legacy business models takes precedence over lawful technological innovation," Diller said. "It is unfortunate that the broadcasters and the administration have aligned themselves against competition, choice and the consumer. The Supreme Court should set them straight."

The cards may be stacked against Aereo. Even Diller told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview that Aereo had a "50-50 chance at best" of prevailing.