Aereo may be able to recoup investment by selling its technology — but to who?
With its loss before the Supreme Court, Aereo suddenly finds itself in salvage mode.
The company's chief investor, Barry Diller, seemed at odds with founder and CEO Chet Kanojia in their first responses to the ruling. Diller, who has has spent millions on Aereo, told CNBC the company is “over.” But founder Kanojia pledged that Aereo's “work is not done.”
If there is to be a new Aereo, it will have to look very different from the one the Supreme Court just toppled.
The court ruled Wednesday that the company — which uses tiny antennas to beam broadcast TV signals to subscribers’ devices — had violated broadcasters’ copyrights. The ruling killed Aereo's business model in the midst of what had been a speedy rollout of the technology across the United States.
It was a victory for traditional TV, and a setback for companies that hope to circumvent it by bringing TV online without paying broadcasters to do so.
Even before the court heard the case in April, Diller said the company was likely “finished” if it lost. But he also raised the possibility that the there would be “some salvage.”
“If we lose, we're finished… it's very possible that there's some salvage,” Diller told Bloomberg Television in April. “But Aereo would probably, as I say probably just because I can't — I can't see any path forward. It probably would not be able to continue in business.”
After its debut in New York City in February 2012, Diller's IAC led a $20.5 million venture investment in Aereo. IAC and other investors provided another $34 million in financing in January, as Aereo prepared to go to the Supreme Court.
Now Diller and other investors must find some way to recoup their money.
In an interview with TheWrap around the same time Diller spoke to Bloomberg, Kanojia (pictured) raised one way Aereo could recoup some of its expenses.
He told TheWrap the company's technology was “immensely valuable” and said he was “sure somebody will want it” if the company lost.
Who might that somebody be? Aereo did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.
Though broadcast networks are increasingly interested in offering their content online, even at the same time they air on traditional TV, they aren't likely to go into a business they just went to the Supreme Court in hopes of exterminating.
And the list of other business that might be able to use Aereo's technology would seem to be limited: The same Supreme Court ruling that shut down Aereo's current business model would also handcuff anyone else who tried to adopt it.
That still leaves Aereo the option of developing some completely new innovation. But judging from Diller's comments Wednesday, it might have to do it without its chief investor.