Aereo Asks FCC to Change Definition of Video Distributor

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

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Aereo’s digital streaming service violated broadcasters’ copyrights, Aereo is now seeking permission to operate like a cable-TV provider. Aereo Chief Executive Officer 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,” 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.”

After the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo violated copyrights by transmitting live and recorded broadcast programming from an antenna via the Internet, the company paused operations and said it could instead operate like a cable-TV provider. 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.

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.

The cases are Aereo v. CBS Broadcasting Inc., 13-cv-03013, and American Broadcasting Cos. Inc. v. Aereo Inc., 12-cv-01540, U.S. District, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).