Aereo’s expanding, just not yet to the Bay Area

Aereo — the online service that records and streams local broadcast TV signals — will soon be available in a host of new areas. Just don’t expect it to come to the Bay Area anytime soon.

The New York company, which launched its service in its home city and has already expanded to Boston and Atlanta, plans to offer service in Chicago starting in September and in 19 additional cities by the end of the year. Unfortunately for local TV viewers, neither San Francisco, Oakland or San Jose appear to be on that list.

On its Web site, Aereo shows the cities where it currently operates and those for which is service is “coming soon.” The city farthest West on that list is Salt Lake City. Not even Los Angeles, the nation’s no. 2 television market, makes the cut.

Of course, how welcome Aereo might be in Los Angeles, the home of the entertainment industry, is an open question. The company’s service has infuriated the big broadcast networks, because Aereo doesn’t pay them a cent to transmit their programs to its users. Aereo’s service is built around dime-sized antennas that tune in over-the-air broadcasts. Each customer of the service is assigned an individual antenna through which they can tune in particular channels and record programs. Customers can tune in to the service on smartphones, tablets, PCs, Internet-connected TVs and digital set-top boxes.

The broadcasters sued Aereo, charging that the company was circumventing their copyrights and amounted to a public performance of their works, for which they were owed royalties. But federal courts ruled in Aereo’s favor, saying that the company’s technology effectively creates a private performance for each user that’s little different than if they were viewing the broadcasts at home on a television hooked up to a regular aerial antenna.

Aereo charges $8 a month for its basic service, which provides users with 20 hours of space to record programs on the company’s cloud-based DVR. Although it streams video over the Internet, Aereo does not allow users to tune in if they go outside of their local coverage area, nor does it offer service to users who are not located in one of its coverage areas.


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