Is the future of TV in the hands of the Supreme Court?

  • Supreme Court hears case on streaming broadcast TV service Aereo
  • Broadcasters argue it violates the Copyright Act
  • Aereo supplants cable companies for over-the-air channels
Is the future of TV in the hands of the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the Aereo case. Not like there's all that much hanging in the balance here... just the entire future of television.

Here's the thing with Aereo: It's a streaming service that lets you watch broadcast TV (NBC, CBS, etc.) without a cable contract. It basically seeks to supplant the Comcasts and Time Warners of the world in delivering over-the-air broadcasts. Think of it as a more modern delivery system for the stations you used to pick up on your dial tuner TVs. It does not include cable channels.

So for your $8 per month subscription, you can stream "Scandal" or any other broadcast show live to any device and avoid the the monthly charges of 10 times that amount (or much more) for you standard cable subscription.

Unless all of this is illegal, as all of the nation's broadcasters allege.

That's why the two sides were at the Supreme Court Tuesday. The broadcasters argue Aereo is violating copyright law by providing a "public performance" of the shows they distribute, by means of allowing viewers access to those shows without paying for them.

The NBCs and Telemundos of the world make a significant amount of their profits through their transmission deals with those cable companies Aereo aims to circumvent. They fear that, if Aereo is allowed to -- in their view -- steal their content, it will undermine their business. Among the possible casualties? Local news, which relies heavily on the support of the network with which it's affiliated.

But that's just the beginning.

Take a look at this great FAQ from CNN Money covering the basics of the Aereo battle and how it could completely upend the way we watch TV.

Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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