Me and my Aereo: Why the new streaming TV-antenna can be a huge disruptor

For the past week or so I have been watching lots of old TV shows. The Odd Couple, Dragnet, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and more… shows that have aged quite well, and are rightfully considered classics. I would dare say that I have seen every single episode before, sometimes more than once. So why the rekindled interest? Because I was watching them in a new way, through the streaming TV service Aereo.

Aereo is an Internet-based TV antenna that allows you to watch live TV on any device with a web browser… and when I say antenna, I’m being serious: there is actually a mini antenna that you “rent” housed in a server farm downtown. Every channel that is broadcast over the air in Atlanta is available. Atlanta is the second market the burgeoning service has entered, and, since I live far enough away that an actual antenna wouldn’t pick up a good signal, I had to try it out.

The service is quite impressive. For $8 a month you get one antenna, and for an extra $2 you get a second antenna. Why would you need a second antenna? to record two shows at once, of course. You see, Aereo is not just a streaming service, it is also a digital video recorder “in the cloud” – each antenna comes with 20 hours of storage. It also comes with a 30-second “skip” button for commercials. It even works with my Roku box, so I can watch shows on my actual TV.

Cable companies and content providers HATE Aereo, and have sued to try to prevent the business model from existing in the first place. If people could watch local TV without having to buy cable or satellite, AND have the DVR capabilities that they are used to… well, a lot of consumers would “cut the cable”, putting a big dent in the entertainment industry’s bottom line.

The head of Fox Television even threatened to pull its programming from the airwaves and become a cable channel (which is ironic, because Aereo’s biggest backer is the former head of Fox Barry Diller). Why such hyperbole from the head of a TV network? Because affiliates get paid by cable and satellite companies to cary their channels, and because Aereo is an “antenna” they don’t pay such a fee. If Aereo becomes successful, well… follow the money. Or the lack thereof.

Thanks to Aereo, I can watch and record the great MeTV network – that’s one of the local “sub-channels” that is not offered through my DirecTV package, and they are the ones that are showing all the aforementioned classic TV shows. And since I sometimes travel for work, I’ll be able to watch the college and professional football games that I wouldn’t be able to when I’m out of town.

I may sound like a paid shill, and if I do, my apologizes. I’m just really impressed with the service, and I really think that it is one of the first steps in a more equitable “ad hoc” model of content consumption.

That is, if Hollywood doesn’t kill it first.

UPDATE: A colleague who also is subscribing to Aereo let me know that  you have to be connected to an Atlanta-based IP address to use the service, which will prevent you from using the service while traveling (like I assumed above). So, looks like I need to setup an Atlanta proxy server…