Aereo spreads its broadcast-killing tentacles: Utah in August, Chicago in September

The upstart over-the-air television carrier Aereo is moving on to other regions after expanding to Atlanta and Boston earlier in 2013. Starting August 19, residents across the state of Utah will be able to rent out an Aereo mini-antenna to get access to about 25 channels including local ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates, as well as PBS and a number of specialty interest channels. The Utah roll out comes less than a month before Aereo plans to come to Chicago on September 13.

Aereo is a controversial new service that threatens to upset the traditional market between broadcast television and cable providers. For $8 a month, customers can rent out a miniature antenna in an Aereo data center to get access to over-the-air broadcasts in their area. These broadcasts can then be streamed online through a PC-based Web browser, smartphone, or tablet. Aereo also provides 20 hours of online DVR service to record and playback broadcasts at a later date. For an extra $4 per month, customers can get another 40 hours of DVR storage for a total of 60 hours.

Aereo makes over-the-air broadcasters :(

While Aereo sounds like a good deal for consumers, the New York-based start-up is sending broadcast providers and content producers into a tizzy. Earlier in July, Boston’s ABC affiliate WCVB filed a lawsuit against Aereo alleging copyright infringement against the service provider. “Aereo’s method of conducting business destabilizes the free, over-the-air television broadcast industry,” Hearst-owned WCVB said in its complaint filed with the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. “If Aereo is permitted to profit from the unauthorized retransmission of copyrighted television programming, it will encourage other infringers to do the same.”

The Boston suit follows a case filed against Aereo in March 2012 in New York City by a consortium of television broadcasters including the affiliates for ABC, CW, Fox, NBC, PBS, and Univision. The broadcasters have tried to shut down Aereo through a preliminary injunction several times since the legal fight in Manhattan began. So far, however, Aereo has been able to stay alive in New York, successfully fending off its most recent injunction challenge last Tuesday.

While Aereo has seen some success in its legal troubles in New York, other parts of the country appear hostile to the company’s service. Utah has not announced any plans to go further west than Utah in 2013.

In December, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted an injunction against Aereokiller (an Aereo copycat). The decision forbid Aereokiller to provide its services in any territory covered by the Ninth Circuit including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State.

Outside of the courtroom, Aereo is also being used as a stick in an ongoing business negotiation between CBS and Time Warner Cable. The two traditional broadcasting companies are currently tangled in a contract dispute over Time Warner’s rights to carry CBS broadcasts in New York City. If the two parties can’t come to an agreement, Time Warner says it will advise its customers looking for CBS content to sign-up for Aereo’s service in the five boroughs, according to The New York Times.

Aereo's plans for world (or, at least, US) domination.

Roll out continues

Despite its legal challenges, Aereo vows to continue rolling out its service to other regions across the country. An Aereo spokesperson told TechHive the company is still on track to debut its service in a number of U.S. markets in 2013 with further announcements planned for later in the summer.

In January, Aereo said it would roll out its service to 22 markets by the end of the year including Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham, AL Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas Denver, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Madison, WI Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, RI, Raleigh—Durham, NC, Salt Lake City, Tampa, and Washington, DC.

The company also plans on rolling out an Android application for its services this summer. Currently, only iOS owners can access the service on their smartphones and tablets.

Earlier in July, PlayOn announced it would include Aereo in its PC-to-TV television streaming service.

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