The first quarter of 2014 has been a roller-coaster ride for Aereo. On the up side, the streaming video company has now launched in more than a dozen markets and is planning to introduce an app for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Chromecast "in the next couple of weeks" according to Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia, in an interview with Engadget at SXSW in Austin, Texas, this past weekend.
Kanojia was highly optimistic about his company's future and ready to talk about where the startup is headed next. According to Kanojia, in addition to Chromecast support, his team is also working on two app updates scheduled for this month and the middle of April, and on creating apps for smart TV platforms. Support for game consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's Playstation are not on the development agenda yet, but Kanojia isn't ruling them out as targets for the future.
The good news on Aereo Inc. 's development side, however, comes even as the company's technical challenges mount, and Aereo's legal future remains uncertain. Aereo suffered a system crash on the night of the Oscars (an issue that the upcoming app updates are meant to help address), and recently had to halt new customer sign-ups in New York and Atlanta due to a capacity crunch. Aereo has since reopened service at least in New York to consumers who were already on a wait list, but the problem indicates that the company may have difficulty scaling as its customer base grows. (See Aereo Hits Capacity Crunch Again .)
And then there are Aereo's legal problems. Shortly after the company went live in Austin on March 3, it had to shut off service in the Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colo. regions because of a preliminary injunction handed down by the US District Court of Utah. More importantly, the company is scheduled to face off against broadcasters in the US Supreme Court on April 22. Kanojia claims not to be worried, but that court decision could mean life or death for Aereo. (See Aereo Injunction Sets Stage for Supremes.)
This is a critical time for the streaming video company. It could be that Aereo has timed things well (like Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) once did), building up enough credibility and customer clout to ride out the many challenges still ahead. Or it could be that Aereo is about to run out of luck. If the Supreme Court decides against Aereo, the company's new Chromecast app could be very short-lived.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading