Aereo set to launch in Boston on May 15

Steven Loeb · April 23, 2013 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/2efe

Free Web TV service will be available to 4.5 million consumers in 16 New England counties

Despite encountering both lawsuits, and threats, from broadcasters,  free Web TV service Aereo continues to soldier on, undaunted in its plans to expand across the country.

The company, which is currently only available in New York City, has unveiled the next stage in its expansion plan: it will be coming to the Boston metropolitan area next month, it was announced Tuesday.

Starting on May 15, those customers who have pre-registered with Aereo will be given a special invitation to join. Aereo membership will then become available to more than 4.5 million consumers in 16 counties in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont after May 30.

The Aereo will be available to consumers in the following countries: Barnstable, Dukes, Essex, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester counties in Massachusetts;  Belknap, Cheshire, Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties in New Hampshire; and Windham County in Vermont.

Back in January, Aereo raised $38 million, and announced that it would be using the money to expand to 22 new cities, including Boston. The other 21 cities were Miami, Austin, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houson, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Detroit, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Cleveland, Kansas City, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, Birmingham, Providence, and Madison. None of these locations  have been given a set date for expansion, but Aereo plans to bring its service to them throughout 2013.

In Boston, Aereo subscribers will have access to 29 channels. There are 28 over-the-air broadcast channels accessible through Aereo's antenna/DVR technology, including major networks such as PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, the CW, Fox, The Country Network, PBS Kids, Ion, Qubo and Spanish-language broadcast channels such as Univision and Telemundo. Users will also have the ability to add Bloomberg Television if they desire to. 

Aereo already employs more than 60 people in the Boston area, mostly engineers and developers.

What is Aereo?

New York City-based Aereo is a Web platform that allows users to watch live TV on their mobile devices or computers. It grabs over-the-air TV signals and routes them to users over the Internet, so they can watch broadcast TV whenever and wherever they want, on devices including PCs, iPads and Roku boxes. 

No cable subscription is required to use Aereo and membership plans begin at $1 per day, $8 per month or $80 per year. Aereo is currently supported on iPad, iPhone, Chrome, Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, Safari, Opera, AppleTV and Roku.

The service has raised the ire of the broadcast channels, who rely on retransmission fees, which typically  require cable operators, and other distributors, to obtain permission from broadcasters before carrying their programming, for money.  These operators will often be asked to pay the broadcaster in order to get permission to carry the station, but Aereo retransmits the broadcast without permission and without paying.

The broadcasters have said that they cannot continue to operate without these fees, and have tried using the legal system to stop Aereo from broadcasting for free.

In March of 2012, many New York-based broadcast stations participated in lawsuits filed against Aereo, stating that the business violated copyright law by using their broadcasts in an unauthorized Internet delivery service that is receiving, converting and retransmitting broadcast signals to its subscribers for a fee.

In July, A U.S. district judge denied the broadcasters an injunction finding that Aereo’s method of allowing its user to control viewing and recording from their PCs, or mobile devices, had already been covered by an earlier decision in 2008, Cartoon Network v. CSC Holdings, aka “Cablevision."

That decision was recently upheld by the U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit. The next step for broadcasters is to take the lawsuit to the Supreme Court of the United States, and that is no doubt what they will try to do.

In meantime, two of the big broadcasters, first Fox and then CBS, have even threatened to quit the free TV business altogether if Aereo is allowed to survive, saying that they might just turn into cable channels instead. Aereo, it must be stated, does not seem to be losing much sleep over these threats.

(Image source: https://studentsforliberty.org)

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