Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Barry Diller Gets Into the “Cord-Cutting” Business

When last we heard from Bamboom, it was an interesting and also sort of confusing service that promised to let you watch TV — but only some TV — on your iPad or any other Web-connected device.

Now Bamboom is called Aereo, and it is backed by Barry Diller and/or his IAC Web holding company. But the concept appears to be the same: The service will let users stream broadcast TV stations to their Internet-connected devices, wherever they are.

We’ll know more Tuesday, when the service hosts a press event at Diller’s IAC headquarters in Manhattan. Press materials promoting the event describe Diller as a “minority investor” in Aereo, but don’t say whether he’s backing the company personally, or if he has put IAC’s money into the service. I asked IAC for clarification, but they referred me back to Aereo.

Financing aside, a more fundamental question about Aereo would be: Who is the market for this thing?

Aereo uses a Rube Goldberg-like system involving huge arrays of teeny-tiny broadcast TV antennas to give each user their own personal live TV stream. That’s a system created to take advantage of the legal umbrella that Cablevision’s remote DVR has earned — and one that Google and Amazon used to create their music locker services without approval from the big labels last year, too.

That’s clever, but it won’t do anything to help someone who wants to watch Monday Night Football on their iPad. Because Monday Night Football airs on Disney’s ESPN cable channel.

I assume that Aereo CEO Chaitanya Kanojia will explain tomorrow that a large percentage of TV viewing is confined to the broadcast networks like ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC, and I’m sure he’s right. But that explanation won’t satisfy someone who thought they could use the service to watch CNN or Bravo or Lifetime or whatever, and then finds out it won’t work.

So, yes, you could describe Aereo as “cord-cutting” technology — which is the way the service’s PR folks are describing it in their invitations — because it will help you watch TV without a cable subscription.

But it won’t help you watch shows you used to watch on cable, which I think is what most people expect from a service with that description. A better description would be: “A service that’s interesting but limited by itself, but if coupled with other things — say, an ‘over the top’ Web video subscription service — could get more interesting.”

More later. For now, here’s the old Bamboom explainer video, which isn’t as slick as the new Aereo video, and which touts an integration with Netflix that the new video doesn’t mention. But it is embeddable:


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work