Sold for scrap

TiVo buys Aereo name, auction fetches under $2M

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Aereo, the streaming start-up that was poised to upend the TV industry until the Supreme Court shut it down, has been sold for scraps.

Aereo’s assets fetched under $2 million at auction, according to a person familiar with the sale. The figure is a far cry from the $90-$100 million that media mogul Barry Diller and other investors put in the company as part of high stakes gamble on copyright law.

“We are very disappointed with the results of the auction. This has been a very difficult sales process and the results reflect that,” said William Baldiga, counsel for Aereo and partner at Brown Rudnick, in a statement.

This outcome likely reflects the legal sword that continued to hang over Aereo even in bankruptcy, as broadcasters pressed their claims for huge copyright damages. As a result, Aereo was sold off in pieces rather than as a company.

The primary winner of the auction appears to be TV recording service TiVo, which acquired Aereo’s trademark along with customer lists and unspecified other assets.

Meanwhile, the holding company RPX, which is a patent troll of sorts, has acquired Aereo’s patents.

The person familiar with Aereo said the company has yet to sell certain other assets, and that it is still looking for other opportunities. (It’s unclear what other assets could be left, one guess is trade secrets and other know-how from the company’s engineering team.)

The person also suggested that the broadcasters, including ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, were determined to bury Aereo’s technology rather than see it emerge under a new business model.

Until it was shut down last fall, Aereo offered consumers a means of watching and recording TV on mobile devices. While some Aereo content came via partnerships with stations like Bloomberg TV, most of the shows came via over-the-air TV.

Aereo, which provided subscribers with a remote antenna and DVR, claimed it was simply offering consumers a technology akin to a VCR, which is legal under copyright law.

An appeals court judge in New York initially agreed with Aereo’s position, noting that the service was akin to cloud-based DVR’s which courts have found to be legal. The broadcasters prevailed at the Supreme Court, however, in a controversial decision that appears set to sow further confusion over copyright.

Aereo Sale Doc by jeff_roberts881

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An earlier version of this story referring to RPX linked to an unrelated story. The link has been updated.

5 Responses to “TiVo buys Aereo name, auction fetches under $2M”

  1. Verrry eenteresting…. I once had a vintage SS automobile, it wasn’t flashy- but it was highly coveted. I drove it like a grandma & never had a ticket in my life. Once I moved to Arizona, I kept getting pulled over. The police managed a rather tricky scam to impound my car (they weren’t counting on my actually having enough cash to get it out of impound) the Maricopa Cty attorney managed to cook up a legal doc. that stated if I were ever to be caught driving that car again in their county that the car was “theirs” to keep. When I had bailed the car OUT of the impound lot, coincidentally I had bumped into a crowd of officers that were hovering around my car, and it appeared to me they were arguing over who was entitled to “first pick”.

  2. Mark Wusinich

    Mr. Roberts, You mention RPX as a patten troll, and then link to an article about Rockstar being a patten troll. Are there any examples of RPX trolling with its patten assets? The only mention of RPX in the linked story is that they took the pattens AFTER Apple decided patten trolls were bad for the industry. Why would Apple allow RPX to buy them, if PRX is a troll and Apple is trying to preven trolling? (I hold RPX stock)

    • Hi Mark, thanks for flagging that. As noted above I put in an incorrect link, and have now replaced it with a relevant one. The role of RPX in the patent system is up for debate since it is a “defensive” aggregator and not a classic troll. But critics, including me, argue that RPX simply enables trolls (various general counsel have complained to me that they believe RPX works hand-in-glove with class trolls – ie “better buy a membership or you don’t know who’s going to come calling..”)

      • Philip Durell

        RPX operates much like an insurance company at very reasonable and predictable rates for its patent portfolio. A far cheaper option than litigation.

        Insurance protects against risk as does RPX and for that there is a premium. RPX does not go around suing for patent infringement – that’s what patent trolls do.