Editor’s note: This article was originally published February 24, 2014
Aereo, a controversial service that delivers access to signals from local broadcast TV stations without requiring a pricy cable subscription, is coming to Austin just in time for South by Southwest.
The company is set to announce Monday that 1.25 million residents in 12 Austin-area counties can begin subscribing on March 3, founder and CEO Chet Kanojia told the American-Statesman. Customers who pre-register at aereo.com will be given priority.
"Austin has ranked very high in terms of pre-registration," Kanojia said. "It’s a tech-savvy town with good broadband availability."
Monthly fees for Aereo start at $8 and max out at $12. The $8 package includes unlimited access to live TV and up to 20 hours of cloud-based DVR storage; the $12 package comes with 60 hours of DVR storage. The channels are delivered over the Internet.
"Between Aereo and something like Netflix, there’s a significant amount of content available to you," Kanojia said. "You’re spending $20 – maybe $25 – instead of $150 to $200 each month on cable."
Austin will be the 11th city Aereo serves, a spokeswoman said. The service is also available in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
Nineteen stations will be offered including KAKW (Univision), KEYE (CBS), KLRU (PBS), KNVA (The CW), KTBC (Fox), KVUE (ABC) and KXAN (NBC), as well as several digital subchannels: AccuWeather, Create, Estrella, GetTV, Telemundo, ThisTV and UniMas.
Bloomberg TV, a national cable network that offers round-the-clock financial news, is also part of the packages.
In other cities, Aereo has been the subject of lawsuits by broadcasters claiming the company violates copyrights and federal requirements that pay-TV providers must offer financial compensation in order to gain the right to carry their signals.
Aereo counters that it’s doing nothing wrong since it runs data centers with thousands of small antennas – one for each customer. Since individual consumers viewing over-the-air signals aren’t required to offer stations cash compensation, Aereo says it shouldn’t have to either.
Most courts so far have sided with Aereo, but a district court in Utah recently sided with broadcasters, forcing Aereo to drop service – at least temporarily – in Denver and Salt Lake City.
"It’s very disappointing that this particular court decided to take a view opposite every other court to date," Kanojia said, "but we’re committed and we’ll continue ahead with our plans to expand."
Fox, one of the companies that has sued Aereo, provided the American-Statesman with this written statement: "We are very pleased that the U.S. District Court in Utah has granted our request for a preliminary injunction. This injunction will prohibit Aereo from stealing our broadcast signal in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Kansas and Montana."