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Aereo Expands as CBS Strikes Back

Sarah Thomas

Aereo Inc., the startup that has the cable networks trembling in their airwaves, announced Tuesday that it's expanding into its second city, Boston.

Beginning May 15, pre-registered Bostonians will be able to purchase Aereo's antenna and stream 28 live broadcast channels via the Web to any connected device. Aereo says it will then expand to the larger Boston area, covering more than 4.5 million consumers in 15 counties at the end of May.

The company plans to reach 22 more cities in 2013. It's currently only in New York City, where it launched in early 2012. Despite its relatively small footprint, it's been giving the broadcasters a major migraine since day one. After Aereo won a court appeal that declared its business model legal, CBS and Fox even threatened to convert their broadcast signals to a pay-walled cable service. (See Aereo: Suited Up to Disrupt Pay TV and Aereo Standoff Could Force Fox Behind Paywall.)

In another competitive response, CBS today acquired a stake in Aereo competitor Syncbak, which also streams local TV online. The big difference, however, is that Syncbak works with the broadcasters to bring their content online and limits the programming to authorized viewers in their area. It keeps the broadcasters in control of their content, unlike Aereo which nabs it over-the-air without their permission.

CBS was amongst the broadcasters that sued Aereo in an attempt to shut down its service. The litigation is ongoing, and the final outcome could have important implications for the future of free-to-air TV. (See 'Free' TV Model Under Threat.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
4/24/2013 | 8:28:48 AM
re: Aereo Expands as CBS Strikes Back
There's a service in the UK called tvcatchup.com that does a similar kind of thing... it retransmits Freeview (free digital broadcast TV) over the Internet to the web and to phone. Loads of legal challenges as you can imagine. But for now it still seems to be online.
4/23/2013 | 4:00:25 PM
re: Aereo Expands as CBS Strikes Back
This is precisely why OTA broadcasters will seriously consider dropping signal broadcasting for closed distribution. Which means Aereo will disrupt TV broadcasting, which has been a marginal business for at least 20 years now.
4/23/2013 | 3:30:23 PM
re: Aereo Expands as CBS Strikes Back
Who shows the Bruins, Celtics and Sawx in Boston? If a lot of local sports is exclusive to NESN and other cable sports channels that could mean a big difference in how well Aereo does.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
4/23/2013 | 3:18:41 PM
re: Aereo Expands as CBS Strikes Back
Aereo is going up against Comcast and RCN in Boston with its 28 channels. I think that'll be enough for a lot of people to make the switch given the price of $8 per month.-á

The Syncbak model is also interesting. Really, Aereo could end up adjusting its business model to work with the networks too, but I doubt it does that unless legally forced. Partnerships with operators are more likely.
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