Broadcast TV stocks up strongly after Supreme Court says Aereo infringing copyrights

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Shares of broadcast TV companies rose strongly Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that online TV service Aereo is violating their copyrights.

The court rejected Aereo’s argument that it is merely an equipment provider because it gives subscribers Internet access to free-to-air TV signals captured by thousands of tiny antennas. It found the service still amounts to a public performance of copyrighted works, which is the exclusive right of copyright holders.

The ruling could shut Aereo down or force it to enter licensing deals with content owners, potentially increasing what it must charge customers for the service.

CBS Corp. shares rose $3.64, or 6.2 per cent, to close at $62.48; Gannett Co. Inc. shares rose $1.48, or 5.1 per cent, to $30.67; Lin Media LLC shares rose $1.48, or 5.7 per cent, to $27.25; and Journal Communications Inc. shares rose 63 cents, or 7.8 per cent, to $8.74.

Analysts said the ruling preserves the market for retransmission rights — in which cable and satellite TV companies pay broadcasters billions of dollars annually for the right to relay their TV signals to customers.

Research firm SNL Kagan expects those payments to hit $7.6 billion industrywide by 2019, up from $3.3 billion last year.

The ruling has the effect of “lifting the overhang that had weighed on CBS for the past 15 months,” Nomura analyst Anthony DiClemente wrote in a research note.

Fitch Ratings agreed.

“A ruling against Aereo is positive for broadcasters as the need to protect their high-margin retransmission consent revenues is a key factor in their operations,” the ratings agency said.

Needham & Co. analyst Laura Martin said the ruling will dissuade other technology startups from creating business models that will rely on getting the content for free.

“This decision dramatically lowers the risk that new entrants will perceive they can steal video copyrights,” she wrote in a research note.

As of late Wednesday, New York-based Aereo was still functioning. The lower court, whose ruling was overturned Wednesday, will still have to review factual elements of the case in light of the higher court’s decision.

Spokesman Mike Schroeder said in a statement, “Aereo is still evaluating its options.”

Shares of larger media conglomerates that are not as heavily reliant on broadcast TV revenue rose more modestly.

Fox network owner Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. saw its shares rise 67 cents, or 2 per cent, to close at $34.88; ABC owner The Walt Disney Co. saw shares gain $1.22, or 1.5 per cent, at $83.90; NBC owner Comcast Corp. saw its shares rise 57 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $53.21.