LOS ANGELES - The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case brought by broadcasters including Comcast-owned NBC, shot down Aereo's business model last week, but that doesn't mean customers' desire for a better TV experience is gone.
Americans are still fed up with huge channel bundles, high prices, poor service, and the lack of ability to watch all their shows on all their devices. That's part of why Aereo was attractive: It offered a few dozen local broadcast channels and the Bloomberg TV financial channel on multiple devices for just $8 a month.
Industry-watchers say the pay-TV business must continue to evolve to win over unhappy customers, even if the nation's top court said grabbing signals from the airwaves and distributing them online without content-owner permission isn't the way.
"Even without Aereo, the reason people were cutting the cord, for cost reasons and so on, those don't go away," said Robin Flynn, an analyst with the market research firm SNL Kagan.
Last year, the number of pay-TV subscribers in the United States fell for the first time, dipping 0.1 percent to 94.6 million, according to Leichtman Research Group.
Into that breach have leaped companies that have offered quality TV content online for low cost, such as Netflix and Amazon. Hulu, which is owned by the major broadcast networks ABC, NBC, and Fox, offers full episodes of popular shows like The Colbert Report the next day for free.
If anything, the rise and fall of Aereo has highlighted an important fact - that high-quality TV signals are available on the airwaves for free - something that might have been forgotten if Aereo hadn't insisted that its technology simply replicates the antenna and wire that average viewers could set up on their own.
But it's not as if the pay-TV industry is standing still.
The satellite-TV company Dish Network Corp. said it was preparing to launch an online TV service with channels such as ESPN, ABC, Disney Channel, and others for about $20 to $30 a month before the end of the year. The target audience is young urban professionals who don't want to watch more than 20 or 30 channels.
Since last year, Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. has offered a slimmed-down package combining Internet service, a little more than 10 local TV channels, and HBO for $40 a month for 12 months. That's just $10 more than getting the Internet alone.
Bill Niemeyer, senior analyst at TDG Research, says the incremental $10 charge for broadcast TV and HBO seems like a very Aereo-like offering, especially because the HBO GO app allows for online viewing, and having a pay-TV subscription will allow customers to sign in to different online offerings by networks.
"It's something they wouldn't have done five years ago, but they're doing it," he said. "I think they're trying to think long term about how to still be a big-dollar business. It means they have to change. They have to change on channel bundling, how they deliver services to people, using what pipes and how."