ABC chief Anne Sweeney slammed Barry Diller‘s new Aereo online tv service as “opportunistic piracy,” on Wednesday.
Sweeney made the remarks during an onstage interview at the AllThingsDigital conference on Wednesday, where Diller had appeared earlier in the day.
"It's opportunistic piracy," she said. "With all due respect (to Diller), it’s taking advantage of our content."
The broadcast networks are suing Aereo, which pulls in broadcast channel signals and stream them to its users cheaply, claiming that the service does not compensate them for their content.
But Diller argued that the broadcasters have access to public airwaves in exchange for providing that content to viewers without pay, and that Aereo does the same thing that a traditional antenna used to do. He said at the conference that as the audience grows, the networks can charge advertisers for the increased audience.
Diller said the cutting of cable cords by subscribers was underway, and an inevitability. “The idea of spending thousands of dollars for a package of cable channels you don’t watch doesn’t make sense,” he said.
In a not-very-subtle dig at Disney, Diller said that 90 percent of cable subscribers pay for ESPN, for example, but only 10 percent of them watch the sports channel, a source of massive revenue to the media company.
But Sweeney countered that by saying that their research suggests that the cost of a la carte cable would be prohibitively expensive.
"Our research says it is not a better prospect for a consumer," she said. Comparing it to a newspaper, she said that "when I only get the front page, don’t get sports… the cost changes very dramatically for the consumer."