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If Aereo Wins, Major Broadcasters May Head to Pay-TV

The move is being dubbed the "nuclear option"


51-inch Samsung Plasma TelevisionAfter a series over victories in lower courts, a lawsuit against streaming TV service startup Aereo will be argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court later this year.

In advance of the high court’s hearing of the case, which is scheduled for June, broadcasters are stepping up talk that they could use a “nuclear option” if the court rules in Aereo’s favor. Should Aereo prevail, the broadcasters might end their free, over-the-air TV transmissions and switch to a subscription model. The NFL and MLB have also threatened to take similar action, Forbes notes.

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CBS (CBS), Fox (FOXA), Comcast’s (CMCSA) NBC and Disney’s (DIS) ABC continue to pursue legal action against Aereo, which doesn’t pay carriage fees to broadcast their programming to subscribers.

Moving to a subscription model would allow broadcast networks to charger higher fees to watch live sports events. It would also free them from FCC content restrictions, allowing them to add racy content to TV shows and better compete with cable TV programming. Networks executives have warned that Aereo’s success could force them to switch to a subscription model since last year.

On Friday, Aereo announced that it would extend its service into Cincinnati on Jan. 21, its eleventh U.S. city.

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