Aereo hits ‘pause’ button on service, will issue refunds to customers

Streaming television service Aereo pulled the plug on its service Saturday, at least temporarily, after the Supreme Court ruled this week that its business is illegal.

The court said Wednesday that Aereo's service violates copyright law because the firm did not pay the same fees as cable companies when streaming live television broadcasts to devices such as computers, tablets and smartphones.

Service in all of Aereo's 11 markets nationwide stopped as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern on Saturday. All subscribers will be refunded for their last paid month, Aereo chief executive Chet Kanoja said in a letter sent to customers and posted on the company's Web site.

The court's decision dealt a death blow to the start-up's business model. The company has vowed to fight on but will have to radically change its business model to do so. 

Kanoja's letter said that Aereo would only "pause our operations temporarily" as it figured out its next steps. He also encouraged Aereo supporters to continue lobbying for change and sign up for updates at ProtectmyAntenna.org, the company's advocacy site.

"The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud," he said.

Subscribers took to Twitter to mourn the loss of the service, which many saw as a welcome alternative to more expensive cable subscriptions.

Customers trying to use Aereo now only see a goodbye message and notification that the service has been suspended.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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