Aereo [is] going to change TV viewing for many people.Aereo has just launched in Boston. You may not have heard of it, but that’s okay. What it is and how it works is slightly less important than how it’s going to change TV viewing for many people.
The Aereo service has taken the old-fashioned notion of receiving television programming through an antenna and brought it into the 21st century. Aereo uses arrays of tiny antennas to capture the over-the-air, high-definition signals of the broadcast television networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW, PBS), and couples this technology with cloud storage and DVR capability, enabling users to record and watch shows at home or on a mobile device.
So why does this matter? For one thing, no equipment installation is required. Viewing and managing of recordings is done through Aereo’s website. It’s another option for cord-cutters who want out from under the burden of a cable or satellite bill. (Obviously, you still need high-speed internet access to use Aereo.)
That flexibility is the key. VCRs and DVRs gave viewers the ability to time-shift—to record a show to watch at a later time. Now, with the explosive growth in mobile devices, consumers want the ability to place-shift—to watch their favorite shows wherever they happen to be. And if you happen to be at home and have an Apple TV or Roku box, you can watch your Aereo recordings on your TV.
Beyond this flexibility, what sets Aereo apart is that it’s disruptive. The broadcast networks have been collecting fees from cable and satellite providers that carry their programming. Aereo’s technology sidesteps the providers, and thus the fees.Broadcasters have taken Aereo to court, but the courts have sided with Aereo.Broadcasters are unhappy about this, and they have taken Aereo to court, but so far the courts have sided with Aereo, marking a victory for consumer choice. As the ways we access and consume television content change, many of the traditional elements of the business of television are likely to end up bent and bruised.
Of course, the big four-and-a-half broadcast networks have plenty of other problems to contend with. It’s unclear how much longer the tired old model of 22 to 24 episodes of a show, spread over an eight-month season, will continue to provide the kind of financial returns the networks are used to.
This approach worked fine decades ago, when there was no competition besides the other networks, but for the season that just concluded, all the broadcast networks lost viewers from the group most valued by advertisers, adults under 50.
Viewers are tiring of waiting several weeks for new episodes of their favorite shows. Cable channels like HBO and FX use the same time slot for shorter, uninterrupted seasons of multiple shows through the course of the year, which is a much more sensible way to structure programming. Shorter seasons are also less expensive to produce, which may be what has finally led the big networks to consider limited use of this strategy.
Most people are fans of at least a couple of shows on the broadcast channels, and most network shows are available online after they air, but sometimes with a delay. For example, Fox holds episodes of New Girl for eight days after their initial broadcast before releasing them online.
Or maybe you only care about network TV access for live sports events like Patriots games. Those aren’t available on Hulu, or any other streaming platform. With Aereo, you can record the programs you care about and watch them at your convenience, without the need for cable or satellite service or a DVR.The takeaway is that Aereo gives consumers another option for accessing TV programming.Aereo costs $8 a month plus tax for 20 hours of DVR space, or $12 a month for 60 hours of space and the ability to record two shows at the same time. Some will think the service is unnecessary, others will see it as a bargain. Either way, the takeaway is that Aereo gives consumers another option for accessing TV programming, one that offers more flexibility than most other currently available options.
The TV revolution is well underway. Aereo is going to be part of it, whether the networks like it or not.
Have you tried Aereo yet? Give a whirl and let us know what you think!