Aereo Continues to Fend Off Legal Challenges to Its Cloud-Based TV Service

4/1/13Follow @jpruth

In an ongoing legal feud, Long Island City’s Aereo announced on Monday that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the prior denial of motions sought by television network broadcasters for a preliminary injunction against the startup.

Aereo, which is backed by Barry Diller’s Internet company IAC in New York, developed a platform and remote antennae system that lets users watch over-the-air channels on Web-connected tablets, laptops, smartphones, desktop computers, and televisions. In addition to its New York staff, Aereo maintains a development team in Boston.

The company’s technology lets users, who typically pay monthly or annual fees, view live shows and DVR programs via the cloud from certain networks and local broadcasters. Channels available on Aereo’s service include ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, The CW, and PBS as well as syndicated shows, Asian and Spanish language networks, and Bloomberg TV. Aereo is available in the New York metro area, and the company wants to bring the service to more cities.

Those plans may be at risk. The legal dispute continues over whether or not such viewings by the users are private and if such a service violates regulations on rebroadcasting.

The market for sharing television content across various devices is becoming increasingly competitive and complex as cable and satellite television service providers, broadcasters, and third-party services vie for pieces of the action. Cablevision, for example, lets its subscribers watch shows on their mobile devices while they are at home. Dyle, a live mobile TV service from a consortium of broadcasters, is also making its way to audiences across country.

Aereo contends that its service does not breach the laws, and the appellate court stated the transmissions, made by consumers using the platform, were not public performances so the service stays on. But the legal fight led by a group of broadcasters is far from over.

In February of last year, IAC unveiled Aereo, which got its start in 2011 as Bamboom Labs. The fanfare gave way to courtroom drama about one month later when broadcasters initiated litigation.

The courtroom battles will proceed as Aereo looks to scale up. Thus far the startup has landed more than $60 million in funding from backers that include FirstMark Capital, First Round Capital, Highland Capital Partners, and High Line Venture Partners. Aereo was developed by CEO Chaitanya “Chet” Kanojia, who previously founded Navic Networks, a provider of audience measurement software for the television ad market, in Waltham, MA.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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