Aereo Content Delivery Service Maxes Out

The Boston Business Journal reported Aereo is not taking on any new members in New York, Atlanta and Miami due to capacity issues. Aereo offers live and delayed content from broadcast TV stations over the Internet to subscribers. To avoid falling under FCC rules for cable TV, the company assigns each subscriber their own antenna and tuner from a pool of antennas located in a mini-fridge size container. The miniature antennas in the container act as probes to pick up off-air signals that are fed into the box from an amplifier and master antenna system, similar to that used at a cable head-end.

One problem with this approach is that each of the boxes and associated probes can support only a limited number of subscribers. More subscribers mean more amplifiers, more boxes, more tuners and additional power consumption.

In the Boston Business Journal article, Aereo CEO Chef Kanojia said: “We are hopeful that we will have more capacity coming online later this week or early next week in all those markets.”

Aereo depends on the Internet to deliver broadcast TV to user devices. Some people complained they were experiencing a lot of buffering while trying to use Aereo during the game. In his article Kanojia says this had more to do with overall high congestion on the Web, adding, “I think a lot of it was a function of the Internet conditions in general.”

The Aereo experience shows viewers are still watching broadcast TV and want it available on whatever device they happen to have handy.

While we wait for ATSC 3.0, ATSC mobile DTV has the potential to meet this need. However, before that can happen, more broadcasters need to start transmitting it. Improved video quality would also help. Most mobile DTV broadcasts use a resolution of 416 x 240, although for demonstrations at CES and NAB I've taken a bit more bandwidth from the main ATSC stream to transmit 640 x 360 video at 600 kbps using H.264 main profile and this looks good on tablets Using HEVC should allow transmission of 854 x 480 resolution in the same bandwidth or even 1280 x 720 if the main ATSC stream is crunched a bit more.

For more on Aereo see the Boston Business Journal article Aereo CEO talks NY capacity issue, Super Bowl buffering by Kyle Alspach.

CNET reported on Feb. 6 that Aereo reopens to new members in New York.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.