In NYC it almost looked like a no-go, but the Aereo mobile-TV service, backed by heavyweight investors like Barry Diller, went live this past week with little fanfare. The company has produced a $12-per-month service that brings live, local TV OTA signals to mobile devices. Aereo grabs the signals and then retransmits them to customers. Broadcasters such as ABC and NBC say this is illegal; Aereo claims it is free to pick up the signals and deliver them in a convenient manner.
We may find out in May, as involved parties are working on a court date to decide on a preliminary injunction. If this goes through, the service may need to hit the pause button while the legal matters are ironed out. Diller stated this week his hopes to roll out the service to at least 70 cities by the end of this year.
Broadcasters state that if anyone wishes to retransmit their signal, a new license must be renegotiated. They say the only way for consumers to legally get the station is to grab it over the air. Aereo basically pulls the signal in via a dime-sized antenna, which is housed at its location, and then the consumer controls that antenna with their mobile device and via the Internet. Many companies in the past few years have used almost the exactly same thing, repurposing OTA content. In each case, the courts sided with the broadcasters, and the companies were shut down relatively quickly.
The difference here is the power of the backers like Diller, the headlines made, and the traction already acquired. More money for this turn can be devoted to court proceedings, and it would not be surprising to see this go on legally for a long time as both sides dig in for the long haul.
But, for now, Aereo has accomplished the first step no one thought it would, and it is live and rolling. The next big question is how long it will stay that way.