North America’s Major League Baseball and NFL American football leagues have threatened to move all their broadcast rights to pay-television if streaming service Aereo is deemed legal, according to a filing by the two organisations.
The Reuters news agency said that the leagues had offered their support to US broadcasters engaged in a legal dispute with Aereo through a “friend of the court” filing with the US Supreme Court dated November 12.
Aereo was established in 2012 and utilises personal television antennas to give subscribers access to free-to-air broadcast channels for a small fee.
In October, US networks ABC, CBS, NBC Universal and Fox requested the Supreme Court hear their case on the basis that the online service allegedly steals copyrighted television content.
The broadcasters are appealing an April decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals that denied their request to shut down Aereo while the case moved forward.
The NFL and MLB have urged the Supreme Court to take the case, arguing that Aereo is illegally rebroadcasting signals without licensing the content. Fox, CBS and NBC have broadcast rights to both NFL and MLB games.
“This judicially created loophole allows such services to avoid the force of the Leagues' copyrights in broadcasts of their games, eroding the value of one of the Leagues' most important assets,” the leagues said about Aereo. “The option for copyright holders will be to move that content to paid cable networks (such as ESPN and TNT) where Aereo-like services cannot hijack and exploit their programming without authorisation.”
The NFL and MLB have also claimed that Aereo threatens its sports packages that offer out-of-market games to fans, adding that these services provide “an important source of income.”