BOSTON and NEW YORK -- Aereo announced plans to launch its online television technology in the Boston metropolitan area. Beginning May 15, consumers who have pre-registered with the service will receive a special invitation to receive the service. After May 30, Aereo will make membership available to all eligible consumers across the Boston designated market area, which includes more than 4.5 million people in 16 counties in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Boston is the second city to launch as part of Aereo’s expansion announced in January.
Aereo CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia said it was a particularly auspicous launch since the service ha more than 60 employees from teh Boston area, “including me.”
Aereo’s cloud-based antenna/DVR technology transmits broadcast TV station signals to mobile devices, adding pause, rewind and fast-forwarding to live programming. In Boston, Aereo said it would carry 28 over-the-air broadcast channels: WGBH (PBS), WBZ-TV (CBS), WCVB (ABC), WHDH (NBC), WLVI (CW) and WFXT (Fox). It will also carry diginets including The Country Network, PBS Kids, Ion and Qubo; Univision and Telemundo. Bloomberg Television, will be optional.
Broadcasters have sued to stop the service, claiming it violates their copyright because the Aereo, which has the financial support of Barry Diller, has not negotiated for carriage rights under retransmission consent law. Aereo claims it doesn’t need to because it defines itself as a cloud-based digital video recording service rather than a multichannel video providers. The courts have thus far declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would shut down the service until the copyright issue is decided. The most recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling denying the injunction. The judges were divided 2-1 over the case. The broadcast plaintiffs have consequently requested an enbanc hearing of the 13-member court to review the decision of the three-judge panel.
Aereo is basing its legal argument on Cartoon Network LP, LLLP v. CSC Holdings, the case that set the legal precedent for digitally recording content for personal use. Cablevision filed an amicus brief for the plaintiffs in the case, denying the similarity of its DVR service and Aereo’s transmission of live TV to mobile devices. The company uses small, individual antennas in large arrays to retransmit signals. Subscribers are said to “lease” one of these small antennas for their own personal use.
Judge Denny Chin, who dissented on the Second Circuit decision, called Aereo’s antenna technology a “Rube Goldberg-like contrivance, over-engineered in an attempt to avoid the reach of the Copyright Act and to take advantage of a perceived loophole in the law.”
Aereo is currently supported on iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Chrome, Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, Safari, Opera, AppleTV and Roku devices. Aereo service 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.
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