|Headquarters||Long Island City, New York, USA|
|Area served||Various US cities|
|Key people||Chaitanya Kanojia (CEO and Founder)|
|Products||Over-the-air television on Internet-connected devices|
Aereo is a technology company based in Long Island City, New York that allows subscribers to view live as well as time-shifted streams of over-the-air television on Internet-connected devices. The service launched in February 2012, and is backed by Barry Diller's IAC.
Aereo's legality is currently the subject of a ongoing legal dispute with the owners of several broadcast television networks. The point of contention is whether Aereo's business model constitutes a public performance, which would legally require it to obtain retransmission consent from the content providers. The case is currently set to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Aereo leases each user an individual remote antenna, allowing subscribers to view live broadcast television and allows users to record the broadcasts for later viewing. The existence of an individual antenna for every user is what distinguishes Aereo from purely internet-based streaming services. As of October 2012, Aereo can be used on Windows, Mac and Linux PCs with a compatible browser or iOS devices including the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Apple TV (2nd and 3rd Generation) via AirPlay. Aereo can also be watched using a Roku box via a stand-alone app and, as of January 21, 2013, the updated app allows onscreen navigation with the standard Roku clicker instead of using an iOS device as a remote.
As of June 2012, the service offers 28 channels, including all major broadcast channels. In August 2012, the company announced new monthly and yearly pricing options, $1 a day and 'Aereo Try for Free.' Monthly plans start at $8 for 20 hours of DVR storage, there are also yearly subscriptions.
The service was originally available to customers in New York City, followed by the Boston area. During times when customers venture out of the normal broadcasting range for network television, they will not be able to access the service. Aereo had planned to launch in Chicago on September 13, but as of February 28, 2014, Aereo was still telling potential Chicago users the service was in Beta with no definite date of launch.
- Boston (also services southern Vermont and New Hampshire)
- Cincinnati (including Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana)
- Kansas City
- Salt Lake City
- San Antonio
- Washington D.C.
Reviews of Aereo have been positive, including one by The Wall Street Journal’s Katherine Boehret, who commented on Aereo’s “clean user interface that works well on iPad...and its video quality is startlingly good,”  PC Magazine complained of the limited channel options and limited availability. It praised the interoperability of the service offered.
Television broadcasters vs. Aereo
Cable companies are required by the 1992 Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act to negotiate for retransmission consent, usually paying broadcasters for the right to carry their signals. Broadcasters argued that Aereo was a threat both to their business model, by undermining the cable retransmission fees and the size of their audience. Because the fees cable companies pay for broadcast content can comprise up to 10% of a broadcaster's revenue, broadcasters object to Aereo's re-distribution of this content without paying any fees. Broadcasters have also identified Aereo as part of the cord-cutting trend among television audiences that poses a threat to broadcasters' advertising revenue.
In somewhat similar cases, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted an injunction against Aereo's rival FilmOn, a similar service. However, the district court's injunction is only legally binding in its jurisdiction (including the West Coast of the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii) and is currently being appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Other competitors have been blocked from providing service in Los Angeles and Seattle by similar injunctions.
On March 1, 2012, two weeks before Aereo's initial launch in New York City, Aereo was sued for copyright infringement by a consortium of major broadcasters, including CBS, Comcast's NBC, Disney's ABC and 21st Century Fox's Fox. The broadcasters argued that Aereo infringed their copyrighted material because Aereo's streams constituted public performances. They sought a preliminary injunction against the company. On July 11, Federal Judge Alison Nathan denied this injunction, citing as precedent the 2008 Cablevision case, which established the legality of cloud-based streaming and DVR services. In response to the decision, Aereo Founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said “Today’s decision shows that when you are on the right side of the law, you can stand up, fight the Goliath and win.” In a subsequent interview with CNET, Kanojia asserted, “With one step, we changed the entire TV industry. The television industry and its evolution are now starting towards the Internet and that was stopped until Aereo came along...And I think as consumers start migrating to the Internet, new programming and new content are going to come in.”
Second Circuit appeal
The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Several other players in the industry, such as cable provider Cablevision, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Consumer Electronics Association filed amicus briefs. On April 1, 2013, the federal appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling, finding that Aereo’s streams to subscribers were not "public performances", and thus did not constitute copyright infringement. The appeals court also affirmed the earlier district court decision that denied the broadcasters a preliminary injunction against Aereo. In response, News Corporation's Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey stated that the company is contemplating taking Fox off the air and converting it to a cable-only channel: "We need to be able to be fairly compensated for our content ... we can't sit idly by and let an entity steal our signal. We will move to a subscription model if that's our only recourse." Univision and CBS have also stated that they may also follow and convert to cable-only.
In October 2013, the broadcasters filed a petition to the United States Supreme Court to take up the issue. On January 10, 2014, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. The Supreme Court proceeding is set for April 22, 2014. In February 2014, in advance of the case being taken up by the Supreme Court, a judge in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a preliminary injunction against Aereo, blocking the service within the 10th district, which includes Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park. On November 17, 2013, the National Football League and Major League Baseball filed a joint Amicus brief to the Supreme Court, warning that sports programming would likely migrate from broadcast to cable television; and that Aereo may put the U.S. in violation of several international treaties that prohibit the retransmission of broadcast signals over the Internet without their copyright holder's consent. The United States Department of Justice and United States Copyright Office also filed a joint brief in March 2014, saying that "[Aereo's] system is clearly infringing".
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- Official website
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