Less than two weeks after CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves dissed the Internet-based TV service Aereo as “more wind than reality,” the growing company’s founder tells The Hive that a lawsuit by CBS and other broadcast giants is “baseless” and “purely name-calling.”
Aereo chief executive Chet Kanojia says he’s confident that his potentially disruptive startup will prevail in the suit, which alleges that its distribution of broadcast television over the Internet to paid subscribers is illegal. For $8 to $12 per month, Aereo allows customers to watch broadcast channels on any Internet-connected device, including an actual television, and record the programs.
It does a heck of a job, according to our Hiawatha Bray.
Aereo’s service includes only channels that are free to watch over the air, using an antenna. Instead of set-top bunny ears, however, each subscriber has an antenna at the nearest Aereo location. The antenna picks up broadcast TV signals, which Aereo then beams to the viewer over the Internet.
“The consumer has a right to an antenna. That’s undisputed,” Kanojia said at Aereo’s South Boston office. “The question is how big the antenna can be. Where can it be located? Essentially, how long the cord can be. Aereo’s point of view — and I think it’s a very logical, simple, consistent point of view — is antenna manufacturers, television manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, in general, have always made money providing equipment to consumers to be able to watch broadcast television. So [whether] the antenna is located on my roof or your roof is not material.”
So far, the courts appear to agree. In April, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision and denied broadcasters’ request for an injunction that would have halted Aereo’s service while the case is in progress. The appeals court said last month that it would not reconsider.
Aereo is based in New York but expanded to Bosten early this summer as part of a plan to reach 22 cities by year’s end. The company keeps subscriber numbers private but says its goal is to serve a quarter of all American homes within five years.
“We take comfort in the fact that (a) consumers like what we do, and (b) the courts have consistently sided with Aereo,” Kanojia said.