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Aereo Founder Looks Back on Streamer’s Controversial History

Aereo
(Image credit: Aereo)

Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, the streaming upstart that ended up folding due to a 2014 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of broadcasters, has provided details on his next project that he’s touting as an “affordable” wireless broadband service to residential households. 

Chet Kanojia

Chet Kanojia (Image credit: CNBC)

In announcing his plans to CNBC today, Kanojia took the opportunity to look back on Aereo’s controversial history and reflect on what he should have done. 

When he met with potential Aereo investors, he described his pitch as a “binary risk” meaning that there was a 50/50 chance the streaming service—which simulcast live network broadcast streams without permission from the networks for a monthly subscription fee. 

“It’s like a drug discovery company, for example, that says if I get FDA approval it’s going to be very successful,” he told CNBC. “And if not, not.”

Aereo had raised $97 million from investors, including Barry Diller but after the SCOTUS decision, the company declared bankruptcy and sold off its assets for less than $2 million. 

In hindsight, Kanojia thinks he should have adopted a more “inside the beltway” philosophy.

“We didn’t anticipate how fast it was going to get to the Supreme Court,” he told CNBC. “I wanted a short fuse, quick yes/no, go/no, but I still thought it would be three to four years, not bloody 18 months.”

He added that he thought it was a “big mistake” that he didn’t launch Aereo in the Washington D.C. area prior to the SCOTUS decision, which he derided as having no legal standing. 

“If we had launched in D.C. and all of these justices’ clerks and people that are part of the machine had access to the product they would’ve built some affinity towards it,” he said. “Because [the Supreme Court decision] was completely unfounded in any legal argument, it was basically ‘we don’t like Aereo.’ There was no factual basis for it.”

Kanojia is more optimistic that his new startup, called "Starry," which he said would have been a "companion" service to Aereo is more successful, basing his approach as providing an affordable internet service to compete against larger carriers. 

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.