Aereo (site no longer live) provides a disruptive alternative to cable and satellite television. The company takes over-the-air broadcast television signals and re-transmits them as an online stream to their own customers. Instead of you having an antenna on your roof, you lease a micro antenna (pictured below right) from Aereo that is located at their network operations facility. This facility pulls down all the local signals in the best quality possibly through your micro antenna, encodes the signal for the interwebs, and allows you to watch anywhere (though you are supposed to only watch in your local market).
I have seen the service in action and the quality is amazing.
Shows can be viewed on any compatible television set (through a Roku box or AppleTV Airplay,) tablet, computer or smartphone. Aereo also allows viewers to record their favorite programs through a remote DVR. They charge very low monthly rates ($8/mo in Atlanta) and intend to keep costs down for their customers.
When it was launched, Aereo was sued for copyright infringement by many of the large television network companies. The plaintiffs argued that Aereo is illegally stealing television signals and broadcasting content that it does not own. Aero states that all they are doing is passing the media on to its customers through their leased antennas, which should not be regarded as theft. The courts continue to allow Aereo to operate, much to the dismay of traditional broadcasters, but the battle is far from over. Earlier this month the four major broadcasters asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case.
Backed by Big Money
Headquartered in New York City, Aereo was founded by Chet Kanojia, who remains the CEO of the company today. Kanojia graduated from Northwestern University with a masters degree in computer systems engineering. The company is backed by Inter Active Corp (IAC), an internet company chaired by Barry Diller. IAC owns a large number of powerful brands and companies, such as Match.com and About.com. Aereo is also supported by First Mark Capital and First Round Capital. Since its inception Aereo has raised over $60 million.
Aereo’s target market is fairly wide reaching. The technologically savvy who covet the latest devices and gadgets love Aereo, as do the frugal who wish to save money on their television bills. Aereo is available in New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Houston and Miami. They will be expanding to other cities near term, you can check availability here (no longer live).
What are your thoughts? Should this be legal or not?
Update on Aereo
On June 25, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Aereo’s services breached copyright laws. The site is no longer live.