Aereo to offer online subscriptions to over-the-air signals, including PBS

In 2010, a Seattle start-up called ivi attempted to sell online access to 28 encrypted broadcast signals, including public TV stations, without informing the stations (Current, Oct. 4, 2010). It was stopped by a federal judge in New York last February and is currently trying to raise money for its ongoing legal fight.

Now, a firm backed by media giant Barry Diller, Aereo, is doing much the same thing — except it’s using “proprietary remote antenna and DVR” technology “that consumers can use to access network television on web-enabled devices.” Aereo has installed miniature antennae throughout the New York City market that pull in over-the-air signals from all local broadcasters, including PBS member station WNET. Starting in March, subscribers, at $12 a month, each get a single antenna with a remote personal video recorder attached, accessible through their broadband connection.

“Aereo is the first potentially transformative technology that has the chance to give people access to broadcast television delivered over the Internet to any device, large or small, they desire,” Diller, who just joined Aereo’s Board of Directors, said in a release Tuesday (Feb. 14). “No wires, no new boxes or remotes, portable everywhere there’s an Internet connection in the world — truly a revolutionary product.” Diller, who founded Fox Broadcasting, is current chairman of InterActiveCorp (IAC), an Internet company that began as a subsidiary of the Home Shopping Network and now owns 50 websites including Newsweek/Daily Beast, Ask.com, Match.com and Vimeo. IAC has invested $20.5 million in Aereo.

According to ZDNet, assigning a separate antenna to each subscriber is how Aereo hopes to get around legal issues. “Legally, that’s not supposed to be any different from having the antenna in your own house,” ZDNet notes. “It’s just one long cord.”

Aereo is formerly Bamboom Labs, a self-proclaimed “a big, bold new technology” focused on the notion that “free over-the-air broadcast TV should be available to anyone within the service area 
of a channel,” it says.

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