4 Companies That Could Be Affected by the Aereo Ruling

Aereo's downfall could have major implications for cloud tech and more, but cable companies continue to thrive.

Jun 30, 2014 at 7:00PM

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Comcast is the parent company of CBS. The reference to CBS has been removed and the Fool regrets the error.

The Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling against Aereo essentially makes the service illegal and has analysts busy studying the fallout from the decision. Aereo had a growing business, leasing antennae connected to cloud DVR services to access free broadcast television channels. While the Court could not technically call Aereo a cable company (and thus, bound by the Copyright Act), it ruled that the Aereo looked enough like a cable company to qualify. Cable companies themselves were relieved.

The "like a cable company" ruling was vague enough to create worries about the future of cord-cutting projects and cloud entertainment as whole. Among the companies affected by the decision, for better or worse, are Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL), Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), and Cablevision Systems (NYSE:CVC).

Cable companies continue on
Quite a few cable companies and network owners stand to benefit from Aereo's downfall, but Comcast, one of the largest cable providers and the parent of NBC, had a very large stake in the outcome. Comcast saw a nearly 1% rise on the news to hover around $53.50.

Had Aereo won the case, Comcast's business model would have suddenly looked a bit obsolete. Cord cutters could have used the Aereo model to stream their desired shows and avoid paying Comcast for unnecessary channel bundles. That would have likely forced a shift in strategy and undoubtedly led to future revenue losses. Needless to say, Comcast investors are pleased that business can continue as usual.

Cloud technology and TV woes
The ramifications of the Aereo decision on cloud technology could spell trouble in the future, especially regarding shared copyrighted information. Companies like Dropbox may be able to find ways around this by focusing more on enterprise solutions, but companies like Google already have a serious investment in cloud entertainment.

Google products may also lose potential. Chromecast, Google's music and video streamer, could have gotten a big boost by mimicking Aereo services and adding cable-less TV to its package. Even Google's latest software project, Android TV, tries to connect multiple apps and features with the average TV.

Google's diversification strategy and stock potential remain strong, but this seems to be a case of "what might have been." If the ruling paves the way for future attacks on cloud services, Google's position will grow more difficult.

The impact on video services
and Amazon are both making a play for the living room with cloud services, plethoras of content channels, and set-top boxes. But Amazon, with its still-new Fire TV, cloud tech, and focus on unique channels, appears particularly invested in next-generation TV services. However, as cable services seem secure for the foreseeable future, fewer people will have reason to turn to the services on which Amazon is betting.

Also on Amazon's plate are concerns about new competition following Google's Android TV announcement.

Past precedents and future concerns
Cablevision is in an interesting position now. The company won its own major court case several years ago regarding its remote storage system that allowed users to record live content and watch it via Cablevision's remote servers. The ruling set an important precedent: When customers make their own choices about content, copyright issues apply to the customer, not the enabling company.

The Cablevision ruling was a cornerstone of the Aereo defense. When the Supreme Court ruled against Aereo, it also endangered the Cablevision precedent. Now, Cablevision may be open to attack from networks once again. On the other hand, the word "cable" is right there in the name, and the company stands to benefit from the Aereo ruling in other ways.

Cablevision has seen recent growth following its slump in late 2013, but the company has other issues, including insider selling that saw CFO Gregg G. Seibert sell nearly $1.5 million worth of Cablevision shares. The company does not need the threat of more copyright infringement trouble, but it does need to hold onto customers. The Supreme Court is both foe and friend in this regard.

Waiting for the fallout
At this point, the full impact of the Aereo ruling is uncertain. Will worries transform into real numbers or new lawsuits? The coming months will hopefully provide valuable clues, especially for the long-term effect on cloud services. Right now, this looks like a win for cable company stocks and a potential roadblock for others.

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Tyler Lacoma has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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