Aereo launches Android app, wins key legal fight with broadcaster


Aereo racked up another legal victory in its battle against broadcasters. Above, televisions are seen on display at a Sears store in Schaumburg, Illinois, near Chicago in this September 23, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Jim Young/Files (JIM YOUNG/REUTERS)
October 10, 2013

Aereo, the firm that brings live, broadcast TV to the Web, is continuing to expand in the real and virtual world, announcing Thursday that it is releasing a long-awaited app for Android and launching its service in four more cities: Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and San Antonio.

One place that Aereo hasn’t launched yet? Washington, D.C. The company had said that the service would hit this area in the summer of 2013, but now the launch has been delayed until fall, spokeswoman Virginia Lam said in a statement. She said that “no new date has been set” and declined to elaborate on the cause of the delay.

The Web start-up uses antennas to pick up programming from public airwaves and then deliver shows into homes that have a Web connection for a monthly fee. The service has drawn the fury from the big broadcasting networks, who accuse Aero of being a content thief and who have filed several lawsuits seeking to ban the service.

On Thursday, Aereo received good news in its ongoing legal battles with broadcasters. A Massachusetts U.S. District court judge denied a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by the Hearst-owned station WCVB in Boston.

Judge Nathaniel Gorton, however, declined to move the case to New York’s Second Circuit, where Aereo has already won an appeals court victory over broadcasters seeking to stop the service

“The court was right to keep this case in Boston, the home of WCVB-TV,” a station spokeswoman said in a statement. “We will immediately appeal the court’s decision that allows Aereo to continue to engage in a commercial business that unlawfully profits by using WCVB’s copyrighted broadcasts and shows. We expect to prevail in this case.”

Aereo hailed the decision as a win for consumer choice. “Today’s victory belongs to the consumer, and today’s decision makes clear that there is no reason that consumers should be limited to 1950s technology to access over-the-air broadcast television,” chief executive Chet Kanojia said in a statement.

Aereo’s fights in the courtroom may be far from over. Along with the threat of an appeal by the Boston station, the service is also facing lawsuits from broadcasters in Utah. And Variety reports that unnamed sources have said that broadcasters plan to petition the Supreme Court to review the Aero case. As the Variety report noted, while broadcasters have lost their Aereo cases in the Second Circuit, they have prevailed in Los Angeles and Washington in suits against another, similar, start-up that offers users the ability to stream broadcast TV on the Web.

Related stories:

As Aereo threatens to alter TV landscape, major networks promise a fight

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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