Comcast's CEO: As Long As I Keep Saying Aereo Is Illegal, Sooner Or Later Someone Will Believe Me, Right?

from the right? dept

Aereo, makers of a system to let people stream network TV to their computer by setting up individual antennas for each customer (a process that is technologically insane, but legally required to stay legal), has come out on the winning side of both court rulings to date, including the one at the appelate level. While the various cases are still ongoing, you'd think that the TV networks would at least acknowledge this fact. But, of course, they don't.

In an interview, Comcast (owner of NBC Universal) is still adamant that it's plain as day that Aereo must be illegal.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told PBS in an interview this week that broadband live TV streaming company Aereo is breaking the law by refusing to pay retransmission-consent fees. "Here comes a company that says, 'I don't want to pay that fee.' Well, I understand that, but I don't think that's the law of the land," Roberts told PBS NewsHour in a segment about the future of television.
It's funny, of course, because while he doesn't think that's the law of the land, it appears that both the district and appelate courts in the 2nd circuit actually do think it's the law of the land, and they're the ones that count. Of course, the problem is that Roberts is pretending this is about refusing to pay retransmission-consent fees. It's not. It's a question of whether or not the copyright situation changes based on the length of your cable. Everything that Aereo does for a consumer is perfectly legal if they were to setup the same basic contraption in their home (get an antenna, receive over-the-air network TV, connect a Slingbox or similar device to the feed, then access the feed via the internet). The only difference is that Aereo is setting this stuff up itself on its own property. That means, the real difference is the length of the cord between the antenna and the TV. If you set it up at home, it's short. If Aereo sets it up, it's long. The networks want you to believe that this longer cable suddenly means that retransmission fees need to be paid. Most people seem to recognize that this is ridiculous.

But not Roberts. To him, it's obviously illegal, despite the fact that two courts have already ruled otherwise.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    michael, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 2:24pm

    Aereo should sue ...

    These blatantly false statements could possibly be cutting into their bottom line.

    I suppose the weaselly "I don't think ..." might get Roberts off, but there's only one way to find out.

     

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  2.  
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    DMC, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 2:32pm

    Wasn't the cable industry created entirely on the basis of running really long cables to pipe in content it didn't pay for?

     

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  3.  
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    limbodog (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 2:34pm

    You know it's not the length of a man's cable that matters, it's what he does with it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 2:42pm

    TIL out_of_the_blue is Comcast's CEO

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 2:45pm

    Hear that?

    It is the desperate cry of the dying dinosaur who is trying to claw back his monopoly.

    Where is Sir Richard Attenborough to commentate on this natural phenomenon?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 2:59pm

    He knows it is illegal because he knows what new laws he has paid politicians to pass. After all, Citizens United made bribery perfectly legal.

     

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  7.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:02pm

    Usually companies let their lawyers do their lying.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:05pm

    Age old saying...

    If you do something the wrong way long enough, people will end up thinking you have been doing it the right way all along.

     

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  9.  
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    jameshogg (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:17pm

    For your interest:

    Slate recently put out an article on how Luddites get it wrong just about every time. I thought it would be relevant here:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/09/30/technology_isn_t_taking_all_of_our_jobs. html

    The only thing the Luddites ARE right about is how there can be temporary unemployment effects as a result of workers having to learn new trades.

    And I posted this comment to go with:

    "So donít blame technology for persistent unemployment."

    Tell that to the bloody MPAA. Copyright philosophy is one of the greatest unspoken Luddisms in economics. It makes the utopian claim that a service with a free-rider problem is in need of property distortion into goods instead, as if second-hand copies somehow do not create a free-rider problem. Assurance contracts, the real answer to the creator's free-rider problem, suffers from no kind of Luddism whatsoever because it treats the property correctly as a service, not goods. In fact, IndieGoGo and Kickstarter can cheer for joy when the internet becomes 10,000 times faster and more anonymous as it allows more virtual "tickets" to be booked much faster, while the deluded "pirate hunters" with their negativity towards any kind of communications technology can only throw a Luddite tantrum at such a technological advancement.

     

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    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:34pm

    The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    It's only a middleman between producers and consumers, has no products of its own. That's grifting. You can't actually make what Aereo is doing legal, it's just by bad analogy not illegal. But it should be illegal: rights of producers must always come first.

    Usually, Mike pretends to be against middlemen, but when they can "monetize" someone else's content in "innovative" ways: as with file hosts or this small scale grifting, then he's fine with middlemen.

    Actual user testimonial: Techdirt helps me think clearly because provides an obviously wrong reference point.

     

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  11. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Vapid little AC embiggens out_of_the_blue!

    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 2:42pm
    TIL out_of_the_blue is Comcast's CEO


    ^^^ This comment has been flagged by the NON-community.

    For Violation of TOS (Truly Overweening Stupidity)

    BARKING RAT: Basically A Rat Kept Inbred Nine Generations, Results Are Terrible



    Snarky Necessary Against Random Kids Yapping; self-defense by out_of_the_blue, fighting yapping with innovation!

     

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  12.  
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    jameshogg (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:41pm

    Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    You are going to be getting a lot of this as technology increases ten-fold over the next few decades. You may as well get over it and stop being so utopian about copyright.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:46pm

    Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    Middlemen, another word you don't understand. If the producers made their stuff available in legal ways that was easy to access then there would be no need to use an alternative service.

    Mike isn't against middlemen anyways, he's against legacy gatekeepers. Middlemen have a place, legacy gatekeepers just try to abuse the law in order to maintain status quo.

     

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  14.  
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    PopeRatzo (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:56pm

    Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    It's only a middleman between producers and consumers, has no products of its own. That's grifting.
    That's exactly what Comcast was for years. They didn't produce anything, just rebroadcast.

    Please explain to me why, if I get something on my TV, why I shouldn't be able to watch it on my computer?

    If we want to start a list of everything that "should be illegal" we're going to have a very long list, including charging >$100/month for television content. Including having a duopoly in almost all markets. Including having awful customer service when there really aren't any options.

    Cable television is the ultimate grift. And it's been going on for decades. Maybe you're not old enough to remember the promises the cable industry was making when they were originally chartered by the government to use public land: "No commercials!" "Public Access!" "Interactive TV!" "Local programming!" "Accountability!" "Reasonable rates!"

    Cable television was supposed to be the network that was going to tie us all together, in the way the Internet (government) actually did. In most of those cases, cable television ended up doing exactly the opposite of what they promised. They actually killed a lot of local programming, public access, etc. What could possibly be less interactive than cable television 2013? Who would describe cable rates as "reasonable"?

    Any conversation involving "grifting" that involves cable television, needs to put cable television right at the top.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:59pm

    Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    You do recognize that you are calling a disturbingly large propertion of the people in the world grifters here? Furthermore, what constitutes "a product of its own"? Comcast has some equipment and some contact to channels and provides leasing deals. Since the customers could have bought the equipment and contacted the TV-stations themself, it seems rather close to what you define as a grift in that end too.

     

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  16.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 4:34pm

    Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    It's only a middleman between producers and consumers, has no products of its own. That's grifting.


    By that definition, Comcast is also a grifter. So is almost every cable channel in existence. So are the major TV networks and most of radio. So is any news outlet who reports stories from the wire services.

    That's a pretty motley crew of grifters. I would think you'd condemn them all out of hand. Why are you favoring one grifter (Comcast) over another (Aereo)?

     

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  17.  
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    Peter Voveris (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 5:04pm

    Retransmission fees for over the air broadcast television is a stupid idea in the first place, the network is making its money from the advertising. I am not sure when this fee got approved, but I seem to recall at the start of cable television they were begging to be included and at one time cable operators had to include all signals in an area.

     

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  18.  
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    Loki, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 5:15pm

    Re: Aereo should sue ...

    Actually that's the whole point of the process really. Since Aereo clearly violates the concept of what Roberts thinks is the proper way thing should be run (legal be damned) the hope is if they can keep the company tied up in litigation long enough that it'll go under the same way Veoh did.

     

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  19. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 5:47pm

    LOL @ the Techdirt stylings of Pirate Mike.

    Mike pretends like the two district court cases didn't happen that found legally-analogous Aereokiller infringing. Mike pretends like the idiotic length-of-the-court argument both makes sense and reflects the actual law that actually applies.

    Another brain-dead puff piece by the internet's biggest anti-copyright-crusading-but-too-ashamed-to-admit-it scaredy cat.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 7:20pm

    Re:

    Cable compaines were built on this exact concept, run cable from antennas on their property to the home of people out of the range of broadcast. The Over-The-Air broadcasters fought it with the same reasoning and lost, hence cable companies got to compete with OTA. Then came ads from OTA companies calling cable "Pay TV."

    I suppose a "Pot, meet kettle" is obligatory by now right?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 7:28pm

    Re: Re:

    Replying to myself with a wiki article on the beginnings of cable TV.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cable_television_in_the_United_States#Early_history

    It basically started when Hollywood execs realized it'd be profitable to charge for viewing TV since free TV had cut into their profits by the mid '50's.

     

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  22.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 7:43pm

    Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    Yeah all those trucking companies are grifters, I mean they don't make the products, they just move them from the storage to the customer. Grifterrrs!

     

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  23.  
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    James Burkhardt (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 8:29pm

    Re:

    Except it actually isn't legally analogous. Aereokiller does things differently, not ensuring they hold to Cablevision. Moreover, fucknuttery on the part of Aerokiller's owner both hurts its case and suggsts the entire point is to set bad precident.

    Oh, and Aerokiller lost in courts that disagree with cablevision. Specifically, Aero Lost in courts who believe that the Location of the DVR changes the legality of the offering. Given previous SCOTUS rulings, this is not likely to go well in the long run.

    Oh, and the logic for overturning Remote DVRs also outlaws the slingbox, whose use fails to meet the standards for a 'public broadcast'.

     

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  24.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 8:34pm

    Re: Hear that?

    I think you mean David Attenborough.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Dave, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 9:41pm

    You know what they always say... "If a lie is repeated often enough, it's still a lie."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Bergman (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 10:10pm

    Re:

    Under the definition of bribery you're using, it was already legal BEFORE Citizen's United. They just called it campaign contributions then.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Bergman (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 10:13pm

    Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    By that logic, every individual house with a TV antenna on the roof is also stealing content. The fact that they're receiving and using the content as intended by the content producer would be irrelevant.

    In a business that sells advertising space to make a profit, you'd think that having MORE eyeballs watching would be a GOOD thing.

     

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  28.  
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    Bergman (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 10:14pm

    Re: Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    So are grocery stores. They buy their goods from a wholesaler, not from the manufacturer.

     

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  29.  
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    Bergman (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 10:15pm

    Re:

    If I owned a cable company and was charged a re-transmission fee, I'd be sorely tempted to strip out any commercials from the feed.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 1:19am

    Re: Re:

    Don't beat AJ down with facts, he prefers lies and ad hominem.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:01am

    Re:

    Are you auditioning to be a case study for projection?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Wolfy, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:04am

    In my opinion, the broadcasters are "throwing away" their signals. They are transmitting them out into the "ether", with no expectation of payment... (that's already been done by the advertisers.)

    If someone were to collect, and deliver them to a third interested party, that's no concern of the one who is throwing away the signal to begin with.

    They should be happy, because their signal is being put before even more eyeballs, which is what the advertisers are paying for to begin with.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Wolfy, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:06am

    Re: stripping out ads

    Cable companies have been running their own ads over embedded commercials for years, now.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:00am

    i have to admit that i am aghast at the way the courts have sided with Aereo. normally, they would have shot down a company like this, if for no illegal reason, than having the audacity of putting in a challenge against the norm! as for this CEO, his stance is going to be one whereby he keeps going back to court until, like he says, someone agrees with him. the number that disagree with him will be irrelevant. it's the same with all sections of the entertainment industries. when they get a defeat, they just keep going back to court, refusing to accept that they lost and never doubting that they can appeal, until they get a win. as soon as that happens, they kick up joe fuck when the company that has had multiple wins up to that point, wants to go back to court again, having lost just once!

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:01am

    Re:

    average_joe just hates it when due process is enforced.

     

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  36.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:35am

    Hopefully this denial will set an important precedent. You know, just give them enough cable so they can hang themselves. Oh wait..

    The insanity won't go away though. As the article itself notes, they could do their jobs simply installing a single antenna and replicating the signals but a utterly broken copyright law has them setting up an insane system. Of course in a world where douchebags didn't run the copyright show they would be providing that content via streaming themselves.

     

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  37.  
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    Rocco Maglio (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 5:06am

    Welcome to a new America

    Brian Roberts does not need to care about what the laws are since he politically connected. Obama has stopped by his house on several occasions when he was in Martha's Vineyard, he controls NBC, and he is a major political fund raiser. America is becoming a country where political connections are more important than accumulated earnings or the law.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 6:01am

    Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    In much the same way that the guy that sells you your antenna is a middleman...

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 6:05am

    Re:

    The article is actually about how the length of the cable 'argument' (more accurately a literal reality) actually applies regardless of if it applies legally which is just another sad commentary on the state of copyright law.

     

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  40.  
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    JMT (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 12:43pm

    Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

    "It's only a middleman between producers and consumers, has no products of its own. That's grifting."

    The fact that you could type that out and not even realise you've just described the THE ENTIRE RETAIL INDUSTRY shows what a complete fool you are.

     

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  41.  
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    Karl (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:56pm

    Re:

    Mike pretends like the two district court cases didn't happen that found legally-analogous Aereokiller infringing.

    Yeah, he "pretends like they didn't happen" so much, that he wrote a story about it:
    As Expected, TV Networks Win Copyright Ruling Against Alki David's Name-Changing TV Streaming Service

     

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  42.  
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    Niall (profile), Oct 2nd, 2013 @ 2:45am

    Re: Re: Hear that?

    I think Sir Richard Attenborough would be more appropriate, given the dinosaur wreck of Jurassic Park...

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Ben, Oct 2nd, 2013 @ 9:06am

    Oh the irony

    I had to laugh during the PBS interview. The entire cable industry (Comcast included) got their start pirating OTA signals for retransmission; now that they've got the market cornered of course they don't want any new competition.

    Along comes Aereo, and the pot starts calling the kettle black. Too bad for Roberts this isn't some upstart that they can just swat with lawyers. So long as Aereo has backing from major capitalists like Barry Diller, they're not going anywhere but up.

     

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  44.  
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    Mike Raffety (profile), Oct 4th, 2013 @ 11:18am

    Why do we have retransmission fees anyway?

    Cable companies are picking up an unencrypted signal on public airwaves, and relaying it to viewers that could get it anyway. Why do cable companies (let alone Aereo) have to pay a single penny to the networks?

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    MikeW_CA, Oct 6th, 2013 @ 10:02am

    Re: Why do we have retransmission fees anyway?

    Indeed. Maybe we should concentrate on going back to the old must-carry rules that worked that way and, in my opinion, worked fine for the first 40 years or so of Cable TV.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Tom, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 6:31pm

    Re:

    No, Comcast set up contracts for and pays every individual channel they broadcast. ESP for instance cost about $4 per household. Local channels are about $0.20 per household.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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