Founder and CEO Chet Kanojia sees Aereo as an alternative to cable amid changing consumer habits. (Cindy Ord / Getty Images)
Aereo, an online service that allows users to view broadcast television through Internet-enabled devices for a monthly fee, will be available in the Detroit area next week, the company announced.
The controversial service, which streams programming from broadcast outlets such as NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox onto smartphones and Internet-friendly televisions but doesn’t pay rights fees to the networks, is seen as a threat to those networks and their local affiliates. But attempts to sue the service and block Aereo have so far been unsuccessful.
Starting Monday, Aereo will be available to 4.2 million viewers in nine Southeast Michigan counties — Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Washtenaw, Livingston, Monroe, Lapeer and Sanilac. Users will have access to more than 20 channels, including the local network affiliates. For $8 a month, subscribers get 20 hours of DVR storage, and 60 hours for $12.
Founder and CEO Chet Kanojia sees Aereo as an alternative to cable amid changing consumer habits. He sees typical Aereo customers coupling an Aereo account with a Netflix subscription, and watching other shows or movies via iTunes.
As far as customers, “we have people that are 25, we have people that are 45 or 50,” says Kanojia, who started the New York-based company in 2012. Aereo does not disclose subscriber numbers.
In addition to the networks, PBS, BounceTV, MOVIES!, ThisTV, MyNetworkTV, AntennaTV and the children’s programming channel Qubo will also be available to users.
Aereo’s growth has come despite concern from networks. Broadcasters in New York and Boston have sued Aereo for copyright violation, but the courts found in favor of Aereo, saying its streams to users did not constitute “public performances.” A similar suit was filed in Utah earlier this month.
Representatives from Detroit’s network affiliates did not respond to requests for comment.
Aereo’s vice president of communications and government relations, Virginia Lam Abrams, compares Aereo to an antenna on top of your house. “Consumers have always had a right to have an antenna,” Abrams says. “It’s just this antenna is smarter, it’s smaller, it’s more innovative, and it’s in the cloud.”
The company’s Detroit launch follows the service’s launch in New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Salt Lake City, Houston and Dallas. Aereo was slated to arrive in Chicago last month, but technical problems have delayed its availability there. Twenty cities are being targeted for service this year.