NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Aereo's battle with network TV is going to the Supreme Court, and CEO Chet Kanojia says he welcomes the opportunity to counter efforts by the country's largest media companies, including Walt Disney (DIS), 21st Century Fox (FOXA) and CBS (CBS), to shut down the online video provider.
The court Friday said it has agreed to hear an appeal by Disney, Fox, CBS and Comcast's (CMCSA) NBCUniversal to overturn a lower court ruling that supported Aereo's claim that it can legally rebroadcast the networks' free over-the-air signal through its Internet site. Aereo, which is available in 10 markets, including New York, Miami and Houston, argues that it's simply repackaging the networks' live programming to laptops and mobile devices.
The networks counter that Aereo, which is owned in part by Barry Diller's IAC/Interactive (IACI), is stealing their signals, avoiding the "retransmission" fees that pay-TV operators such as Time Warner Cable (TWC) pay the media companies for their programming.
In a statement, Kanojia said "We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court and we have every confidence that the Court will validate and preserve a consumer's right to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice."
At stake is the very framework of the pay-television model. The networks fear that a victory by Aereo could allow cable and satellite providers to avoid paying those fees -- often in the form of multi-billion dollar multi-year contracts -- to carry their programming. Broadcasters have warned that if they were to lose to Aereo, they could remove some of their programming, such as live sports, from free over-the-air signals.
-- Written by Leon Lazaroff in New York.