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CBS makes tech investment as retrans row continues

CBS Corp. has acquired a minority stake in a content distribution tech company – a move that suggests the broadcaster is stepping up its fight against channel retransmission service Aereo.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, gives CBS a stake in US-based Syncbak, which creates technology that offers broadcasters new ways of distributing their content across emerging platforms.

Syncbak uses location-based authentication technology to allow channels to stream their signal to consumers in local markets. CBS plans to work with its owned and affiliated channels and other partners to incorporate the Syncbak tech and boost both distribution and revenues.

The deal closely follows the launch of a free CBS app that allows iPad and iPhone users to stream full episodes of its programming.

It also marks the latest move in the US broadcasters’ battle against TV streaming service Aereo, which offers over-the-top television broadcasts via subscription.

Earlier this month, a New York judge ruled Aereo’s service did not violate the broadcasters’ copyrights by retransmitting the content. The broadcasters, which include the major English-language networks and others such as Univision and PBS, have since appealed the verdict. Univision and Fox both threatened to move their channels to cable if the ruling is upheld.

Syncbak’s technology platform will still be available to other broadcaster networks and station groups following the CBS investment.

Martin D. Franks, CBS’s executive VP, planning, policy and government affairs said the Syncbak platform presented “several interesting opportunities for broadcast networks, their stations and affiliates”, while Syncbak’s CEO Jack Perry added: “Across the country broadcasters are looking for the best way to respond to consumer demand for streaming their content. Syncbak’s technology provides the right solution at the right time to make that happen. I am particularly pleased that CBS has recognised the role that Syncbak can play as the broadcast model continues to evolve.”