It’s time to relax about the warnings that television station companies might lose billions in pay TV retransmission consent revenues if Aereo and others prevail in their efforts to stream over-the-air programming without paying broadcasters a dime, Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker concludes in a deep dive report this morning. Broadcasters are suing Aereo and another streaming service, FilmOn, alleging that they violate stations’ copyrights. The defendants say they merely lease antennas to help consumers take advantage of their right to watch broadcasts that are already available for free. But station owners should be OK, even if the streaming services win in court, Ryvicker concludes. If cable operators wanted to create their own Aereo-like service (to avoid paying retransmission consent fees) they’d probably have to replace lots of their set top boxes. That would be a big deal because most “are heavily investing in new [boxes] right NOW” to provide cloud-based guides and services, Ryvicker says. “So, why invest in these boxes today if there is a real likelihood of incorporating Aereo-type technology in set top boxes ‘tomorrow’?” And if many consumers decide to use Aereo or FilmOn’s services, then broadcasters could create their own free, streaming alternatives. A mobile product “would become the utmost priority should Aereo be legal on a nationwide basis,” she says. Stations could collect $5.8B in retransmission consent payments in 2018, the analyst says, up from about $1.9B last year. Ryvicker makes her case at a time when broadcast stocks are red hot. Shares in pure play television companies are up 151% so far this year while the Standard & Poor’s 500 is +11%. 

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