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As Aereo nears its moment of truth, new data affirms broadcasters’ biggest fears

As Aereo  prepares to do battle with broadcasters for its very existence in the Supreme Court, new evidence shows just how big of a threat the popular streaming service is to the current TV paradigm. According to marketing science firm, Centris, 40 percent of pay-TV households said they would be “likely” to cancel their TV service and replace it with Aereo if it was available in their market. 

Aereo offers users a way to watch broadcast TV on mobile devices and PCs over tiny antennae at their leisure thanks to its cloud DVR services, and a litigious confrontation has ensued between the company and major networks as to whether or not it should pay licensing fees to do so. Still, we’ve long suspected this heated battle was about more than just unpaid fees, and networks have seemed determined to simply shut the service down, rather than negotiate terms. The new Centris data suggests that Aereo represents an ominous threat to the lucrative partnerships networks have with pay-tv operators.

Up until this point, Aereo has maintained modest growth. The service is currently available in fewer than 20 markets in the U.S., but Aereo has always maintained it intends to expand into as many markets as it can. What stands in its way is the Supreme Court decision to be made on April 22.  After a stifling year in and out of lower courts, a decision in Aereo’s favor would surely bring more thorough and expedient expansion and coverage. According to this data, such expansion could put a huge dent in pay-tv subscriptions and, by extension, network profits.

Centris tapped its Evolution of Video Community – a volunteer-based, nationwide research initiative –  as a source for the numbers behinds the firm’s most recent report. The report also determined that the strongest threat to big TV operators is within pay-TV households that currently subscribe to an online video streaming service in addition to their traditional pay-TV content subscriptions. 45 percent of these households said they would be likely to drop pay-TV in favor of Aereo, and 17 percent were undecided. More than half (53 percent) of households without a current pay-TV subscription said they would be likely to adopt Aereo should it become available in their area.

Of course, nothing is set in stone until the Supreme Court makes its decision later this month. Check back with Digital Trends as this ongoing story as it unfolds.