Monday, August 5, 2013, 8:16 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
A fortuitous confluence of events could give Aereo a nice bump in visibility and adoption in New York City this week. First, CBS went dark for hundreds of thousands of NYC subscribers last Friday afternoon, as the broadcaster and Time Warner Cable were unable to agree on retransmission consent compensation. Then over the weekend, Tiger Woods - by far golf's biggest TV draw - smoked the field to win the WGC-Bridgestone golf tournament, which was televised by CBS (though not seen by New Yorkers). The win makes Tiger the odds-on favorite to win the fourth and final major golf event of the year - the PGA Championship, being played in upstate New York starting Thursday.
CBS has the weekend afternoon TV rights to the PGA, following TNT's Thursday/Friday and weekend morning coverage. Tiger is gunning for his first major win in 5+ years, since his infamous infidelity scandal knocked him off his game. If Tiger is leading or among the leaders going into the weekend, it would set up intense interest and very strong CBS viewership. But with CBS blacked out - and the network blocking TWC New York subscribers' access to online programming - New Yorkers wouldn't get to see Tiger in action.
As a result, having an antenna would be the only alternative to see Tiger. But an antenna doesn't work too well given New York's proliferation of skyscrapers, so not many people have one. And that's where Aereo comes in. It would be the only way to get CBS over the weekend.
If I were at Aereo, I'd be using every possible online and offline marketing lever in NYC this week to capitalize on the situation. Social media in particular should be a focus, to help fuel word of mouth. Since Aereo only costs $8/month, it's a no-brainer for golf fans in NYC to sign up in order to follow the action.
A bigger message that Aereo should be driving home this week is that the company gives consumers back control over their TV viewing experience. As with all prior retransmission consent disputes, it is the consumer who loses when big companies battle over millions in fees that are eventually passed along anyway. Aereo has always had an anti-cable marketing message, and this week in particular it should emphasize how it stands with the little guy and leverages technology to deliver a better experience. In other words, subscribing to Aereo isn't just about watching Tiger this weekend, it's about "sticking it to the man." I'd bet that's a message that would resonate.
While CBS and Time Warner Cable duke it out with negative messages about each other, Aereo is in a prime position to gain thousands of new subscribers this week and dramatically raise its profile. Let's see if it does.
By the way, if you want to know everything about retransmission consent and what's at the core of the CBS-Time Warner Cable dispute, have a look at my colleague Howard Homonoff's excellent piece from a couple months ago.