By William Launder
Online TV startup Aereo Inc. won a major legal victory Wednesday in its efforts to deliver broadcast television over the Internet, after a U.S. district judge denied big media companies' request for a preliminary injunction to shut down the service.
The broadcasters had argued that Aereo represents an irreparable harm to their business, which earns money from advertising revenue and so-called retransmission fees that distributors pay networks to carry their content.
U.S. District Judge Allison Nathan ruled that the broadcasters hadn't demonstrated that "the balance of hardships decidedly tips in their favor" in the case. The broadcasters, though, did demonstrate that the Aereo service represents an irreparable harm to their business models, the judge said, but that's not enough to grant an injunction.
The broadcasters include News Corp.'s (NWS, NWSA) Fox Broadcasting, Comcast Corp.'s (CMCSA, CMCSK) NBC, Walt Disney Co.'s (DIS) ABC, CBS Corp. (CBS), and a unit of Univision Communications Inc. News Corp. also owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.
The group had sued Aereo in March on grounds that it violates copyright laws by transmitting proprietary broadcast signals to viewers' different devices through a network of tiny antennas.
Aereo, backed by Barry Diller's IAC Interactive Corp. (IACI) plans to expand the service past its initial New York City test market if the legal ruling is favorable. Chief Executive Chet Kanojia has said he envisions using Aereo's broadcast service as a platform for selling other forms of media content to viewers.
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