Aereo to launch in Boston


AereoThe much-embattled live broadcast TV streaming service owned by Barry Diller will launch their platform in Boston on 5/15. Consumers in Beantown will be able to access free over-the-air television channels with a cloud-based DVR via supported mobile devices.

Consumers who have pre-registered with Aereo will receive a special invitation to join and be one of the first to experience Aereo’s technology on 5/15. After 5/30, Aereo will make membership available to all eligible consumers across the Boston DMA. Boston is the second city to launch as part of Aereo’s expansion announced in January.

“Aereo is simply the easiest, most convenient way for consumers to access broadcast television online using an antenna,” said Aereo CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia. “Consumers deserve more choice and flexibility in how they experience television and Aereo provides them a high-quality, rationally-priced alternative. This is an exciting step forward for the company. Today’s announcement is even more meaningful and special for our more than 60 employees who call the Boston area home, including me. I’m proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time.”

Meanwhile, CBS EVP/Communications Dana McClintock responded to the news via a Twitter post on 4/23: “And we will be there to sue them.”

“Stealing our signal will be found to be illegal in Boston, just as it will be everywhere else,” added McClintock, responding to The Wrap post. “Then again, if Aereo’s business is as successful in Boston as it’s been in NY, it has its own problems to deal with.”

Using Aereo’s technology, consumers can pause, rewind and fast-forward any program that they are watching live, or save a program for future viewing. In Boston, there are 28 over-the-air broadcast channels accessible through Aereo’s antenna/DVR technology, including major networks such as WGBH (PBS), WBZ-TV (CBS), WCVB (ABC), WHDH (NBC), WLVI (CW) and WFXT (Fox); special interest channels such as The Country Network, PBS Kids, Ion and Qubo; and Spanish-language broadcast channels such as Univision and Telemundo. In addition, consumers can also add Bloomberg Television, for a total of 29 channels.

Aereo works on ‘smart’ devices from tablets to phones to laptop computers. Aereo is currently supported on iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Chrome, Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, Safari, Opera, AppleTV (via airplay) and Roku devices.

Aereo membership is available to consumers residing in the following counties in Massachusetts: Barnstable, Dukes, Essex, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester; in New Hampshire’s Belknap, Cheshire, Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties; and in Vermont’s Windham County.

Aereo has offices in Long Island City (Queens), Downtown Brooklyn and in Boston’s Innovation District. Aereo says it employs more than 60 people in the Boston area, primarily engineers and developers.

RBR-TVBR observation: Aereo continues to be emboldened by recent victories in court (injunctions, appeals)—albeit the final decision and trial still awaits. If Aereo does win in the still pending overall copyright infringement suit with the broadcast networks, it will be appealed to the Supreme Court. By the time the High Court rules (if they decide to hear the case), Aereo will be nationwide.

A sliver of good news that may slow Aereo down a bit: Aereo copycat company Aereokiller had a setback in the 9th Circuit in California last December, so expanding into California, Oregon and Washington might be ill advised for Aereo there.  The federal judge in the 9th Circuit  ordered Aereokiller to shut down its service–in part because it was ruled that broadcasters were likely to win on their claims of copyright infringement based on Ninth Circuit precedent.

The judge ruled, however, that his decision was applicable only in Ninth Circuit territory–which covers much of the West Coast–because it conflicted with the earlier New York decision which covers the Second Circuit. The Aereokiller decision could affect Aereo’s expansion, lawyers not involved in the case had told WSJ.

Meanwhile, the broadcast networks (so far Fox and Univision) are threatening to go cable-only if Aereo ultimately wins—and that may ultimately include many of the multicast networks Aereo is carrying. That’s the right move, because it may get Congress’ attention…and Congress can shut Aereo down on multiple grounds.