A ruling is expected this afternoon in a lawsuit against Aereo, a potentially disruptive service that allows customers to stream broadcast television content without anyone, customers or Aereo, paying fees to broadcasters. The company is backed by more than $20 million from investors, including Barry Diller of IAC, who may be getting a little nervous: Today a Fox executive basically accused Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia of lying in court.
Mr. Kanojia had testified that no one in the industry told him there would be a problem with his business, which gets around paying fees by letting customers rent an antenna stored in a remote warehouse—the 2012 version of rabbit ears, which boosted analog signals and allowed customers to pick up more channels for free.
Not so, Fox’s Sherry Brennan said in court today, according to the Wall Street Journal. She testified that she told Mr. Kanojia that she was concerned about copyright before the service launched, and that he had sounded “angry” at the time. She also expressed concerns at the time that Aereo’s customers wouldn’t be counted in Nielsen ratings, she said.
Here’s Betabeat’s imagined version of the exchange:
Sherry Brennan, a longtime television executive, leans over her desk phone. Chet Kanojia, a longtime entrepreneur, is on speakerphone.
SH (in the no-nonsense manner of a mother or perhaps a West Wing staffer): You’re going to stream our content and not pay us retransmission fees because of some crappy loophole? Are you nuts?
CK (darkly): They thought Steve Jobs was nuts too.
SH (sighs, fiddles with her pencil): Well, are these fake antennas at least going to count as views with Nielsen so we can tell our advertisers?
CK (agitated): Nielsen? Nielsen? Are you serious? You know Nielsen isn’t going to exist in two years, right?
SB (throws pencil): No! Don’t say that to me! Who do you think you are? Twenty-one million people watched American Idol last week!
Chet Kanojia: (angrily) This conversation is over.
There are some minds that may never meet. Fox is joined by Comcast Corp.’s, NBC, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, CBS Corp., and a unit of Univision Communications Inc. in the lawsuit.