The King is Dead. Long Live the King.
I’ve been following the Aereo case for quite some time. I won’t rehash the details, but briefly, Aereo allowed subscribers to watch broadcast TV via the internet. Cleverly, Aereo captured the free-to-air broadcasts with many small antennas to mimic what a viewer could do themselves, hence making the retransmission, in Aereo’s view, legal. I could easily argue both sides of the case because both had merits. Secretly, I was rooting for Aereo, because I thought it provided a unique service to people who wanted to cut the cord. I also felt that it was too good to be true. The Justices (in a 6 to 3 vote) also thought it was too good to be true. U.S. copyright law is pretty potent stuff.
So, anyway, Aereo’s retransmissions are on indefinite pause as described here. Interestingly, with Aereo gone from the marketplace, a crop of would-be competitors is rushing to fill the void. Outfits like SimpleTV, SiliconDust USA, Roku, Sling Media, Mohu, and TiVo are trying to snare Aereo subscribers and anyone else wanting to say goodbye to their cable company.
Aereo was easy breezy. Pay your $8 to $12/month antenna-rental fee and tune into live local broadcast TV on your internet device. The other options certainly let you watch broadcast channels free of cable, but they have strings attached. Most notably, you’ll need your own hardware and antenna; on the plus side, the Supreme Court won’t shut you down.
You can buy a TiVo DVR as well as their streaming box (and an antenna), and pay a monthly fee or a sizable one-time payment. SiliconDust has a tuner called HDHomeRun that can stream broadcast programs. Cost-effectively, Roku lets you stream internet content such as Netflix and Hulu to your TV. For live programming, add an antenna and a tuner from Really Simple Software. Last but not least, Mohu offers over-the-air antennas as well as a streaming service.
Defiantly, Aereo is claiming that their “journey is far from done.” But at least for now, Aereo is off the air. Whether or not they will play a role in the future remains to be seen. What is clear is that Aereo blew open an important door. They showed consumers that they can watch broadcast TV via the internet and stream it to a multiplicity of devices, all without being held hostage by cable companies. No one knows how it will all sort out, but for sure, cable cutting will become easier and easier.
SimpleTV is pitching itself to former Aereo subscribers: “Your favorite service is going away. Here’s an idea that isn’t.” Exactly.