Time Warner Cable Considers Offering Broadcast Channels Over The Internet

While all the network broadcasters are suing Aereo — the startup that captures over-the-air signals then transmits them to subscribers over the Internet for a monthly fee — the CEO of Time Warner Cable is looking that the tech and thinking it may be a pretty good idea for his company.

“What Aereo is doing to bring broadcast signals to its customers is interesting,” TWC CEO Glenn Britt tells the Washington Post. “If it is found legal, we could conceivably use similar technology.”

For those coming late to the Aereo party, the broadcasters allege that the company is breaking the law by retransmitting their over-the-air content without paying for it. Aereo maintains that by using an array of teensy-weensy antennae, each dedicated to an individual customer, it’s not doing anything different than someone who puts an antenna on her roof to improve her reception.

Aereo currently only operates in two markets, but is planning to expand to 22 markets in the coming month. Obviously, the long-term feasibility of this expansion relies on Aereo proving its case in court.

Even if Aereo is the victor in the broadcaster lawsuits, a company like Time Warner Cable, with an existing nationwide customer base of cable and Internet users and more money to throw around, would be in a better position to make this sort of tech available to the largest number of consumers.

Of course, acquiring Aereo or starting a competing service would likely throw a wrench in TWC’s relationships with the networks. CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves recently stated that he’d consider going cable-only if it loses the Aereo lawsuit, a sentiment first voiced by the COO of News Corp, which owns FOX. But what will happen if/when one of the nation’s largest cable providers is offering the very service these networks went off the air to avoid?

That’s a question to be answered down the road. But in the meantime, Britt is repeating his war cry that broadcasters are forcing bundles of channels down the throats of cable and satellite operators, who have no choice but to pass that cost on to customers.

“The structure needs more flexibility,” said Britt, who has been beating this drum for a while now. “There are fellow citizens who are struggling financially and can’t afford large programming packages. We want the ability to offer those customers smaller, more affordable packages.”

A rep for the National Association of Broadcasters says Britt is being hypocritical in pointing the finger at the big content providers.

“Time Warner Cable owns regional sports channels that charge viewers as much as $5 per subscriber per month,” the EVP of the NAB tells the Post. “The notion that Time Warner Cable has suddenly become ‘pro-consumer’ is laughable.”