The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

As you probably know, the Supreme Court took a dim view of Aereo, and ruled that its activities were illegal because Aereo violated broadcasters’ copyrights. In response, Aereo pulled the plug. Literally. Within hours, it notified its subscribers that the jig was up, and that it was shutting down. Signals went dark, and remaining subscriptions will be refunded. R.I.P. Aereo. But wait a minute.....

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.

MatthewWeflen's picture

It's been a pretty rough few months for cable cutters. First the FCC allowed cable companies to scramble local QAM channels, then they have opened the door for streaming to be gimped, now this.

What's next - making OTA antennas illegal? How much of the government does Big Content have in the bag, anyway?

dommyluc's picture

Oh, dear! Poor Barry Diller doesn't get to make more money for doing nothing. Boo-hoo. Please wipe away my f***ing salted tears.
I'm a little more worried about what the Supremes (the ones without Miss Ross) have done to women's access to contraception and labor union organization than I am about them shutting down Diller's wet dream.
I love home audio and video as much as anybody but c'mon, people, get your priorities straight.

Ken C. Pohlmann's picture
Antennas Direct is offering free antennas, coaxial cable and mounting to 1,000 Aereo subscribers. Customers responding to the offer must provide a copy of an Aereo billing statement and pay $10 for shipping. "We have a solution to the Supreme Court ruling that resulted in the loss of your local broadcast television: A free antenna from Antennas Direct," the retailer said.
notabadname's picture

It was quite the little game - a bunch of little antennas, blah, blah. It was a company, trying to resell a product for which it never paid for the rights to resell. If you want to cut the cable, fine. But doing it by supporting a company that offers a product cheaply only because it isn't paying for that product before selling it to you, is not the solution. This has no relationship to true OTA antennas, and they where never in danger nor will they be. OTA antennas are easily available. If cutting the cable is so good then cut it and use your antenna and see how you enjoy your service, or lack thereof. I guess I am just fatigued by a society that demands to pay nothing, or very little, for everything. Pirated movies, music, grey market electronics, faux premium brand clothing and jewelry, and $8 faux cable.

John Sully's picture

They had a fairly rube goldbergian scheme which skirted the letter of copyright law but ran squarely into the intent of the law. Aereo were a bunch of crooks and they got what they deserved. I have no sympathy.

cetus's picture

I see Simple.TV are offering a special price to Aereo customers when they join them, here: