Fight over TV streaming heats up as broadcasters file new lawsuit in Washington DC

Major broadcasters filed a new lawsuit this week as part of an ongoing efforts to shut down services like Aereo that stream over-the-air TV to computer and mobile devices.

In a complaint filed Thursday, the broadcasters — ABC(s dis), Fox, NBC(s cmcsa), Allbritton Communications and Telemundo — asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to issue an injunction to stop the service known as Aereokiller from streaming their shows.

Aereokiller, which is available from the website FilmOn, is operated by Alki David, a billionaire who chose the name to tweak Aereo, thehigh profile streaming service backed by media mogul Barry Diller. Here’s a closer look at Aereokiller streaming a live show on NBC:

Screen Shot of Aereokiller

“It’s nonsense,” David said by phone of the lawsuit. “Since 2010, we’ve been arguing that FilmOn is a virtual cable platform and that we want to pay retransmission fees.”

The new lawsuit is important because it’s part of a great game between the broadcast TV industry and Diller over how and when consumers can watch TV. Aereo won a major victory in April when an appeals court in New York ruled that the service did not infringe copyright because its tiny antenna technology delivers a private stream — rather than a public broadcast — to each subscriber.

Aereo’s victory, however, only carries force in New York, Connecticut and Vermont. And its prospects for expansion have been seriously undercut as a result of a California judge’s decision to shut down Aereokiller on the entire west coast.

The latest lawsuit, then, is part of the TV industry’s effort to gain more ammunition ahead of a likely Supreme Court challenge. The Hollywood Reporter, which first reported the story, suggests that the broadcasters likely chose to go after Aereokiller because it is an easier target than Aereo.

Aereo, meanwhile, is going live in Boston this month. CBS has threatened to sue it there too but has yet to make good on the promise. You can read the DC complaint for yourself here:

DC complaint against Aereokiller

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