March 12, 2012 / 7:10 PM / in 7 years

Diller-backed Aereo countersues broadcasters

(Reuters) - Aereo Inc, an online television service backed by billionaire Barry Diller that is preparing to launch on Wednesday, filed a countersuit against broadcasters seeking to stop the retransmission of their programming.

CEO of of IAC/InterActiveCorp, Barry Diller, speaks at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York in this file photo taken December 2, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

The company filed its countersuit 11 days after broadcasters and local TV stations filed lawsuits seeking an injunction to stop Aereo from retransmitting their programs to phones, tablet computers and other devices. Some of the broadcasters also sought financial damages.

Aereo said its technology lets viewers “do no more than what they are entitled to do.” Subscribers, it said, can watch broadcast TV programs by using individual antennas and record and play back those programs for their own personal use.

The countersuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Monday, in a case brought by Walt Disney Co’s ABC, CBS Corp, Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal and Telemundo, and others.

Aereo did not file a counterclaim in a second lawsuit, which was brought by broadcasters, including News Corp’s Fox, Univision Communications Inc and the Public Broadcasting Service. But an Aereo spokesman said “the second filing will happen in due course.”

ABC spokeswoman Julie Hoover said Aereo “is based on the illegal use of our content. Beyond that, we believe the complaint speaks for itself.”

CBS and NBCUniversal had no immediate comment.

Aereo plans to roll out its service in the New York metropolitan area and said it has not received any formal notice from broadcasters that it should abandon the launch.

The New York-based company said in a statement it hopes to promptly resolve the broadcasters’ “meritless lawsuits.”

Aereo was announced on February 14, with $20.5 million of financing led by IAC/InterActiveCorp, an entertainment and technology company whose businesses include and Citysearch.

It advertises itself as a “potentially transformative” service that would complement Google Inc’s YouTube, Netflix Inc and other services that let viewers watch programming online.

Broadcasters, however, counter that Aereo’s planned “antenna farms” deprive them of their right to retransmission fees from cable and other companies that rebroadcast their programs.

When it announced the service, Aereo said members would get a 30-day free trial and pay a monthly membership fee of $12.

Diller is a self-made media mogul worth $1.6 billion, Forbes magazine said last week.

The cases are American Broadcasting Cos. et al v. Aereo Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-01540; and WNET et al v. Aereo Inc in the same court, No. 12-01543.

Reporting By Jonathan Stempel; editing by Martha Graybow, Gerald E. McCormick, Mark Porter, Steve Orlofsky and Andre Grenon

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