Aereo tries to sway sentiment ahead of Supreme Court hearing



Aereo TV Lawsuits

Days before facing a hearing in the US Supreme Court, Aereo Inc. has made a new bid to swing public opinion in its favor over its business of streaming television shows over the Web.

The company, which has its engineering offices in Boston, on Thursday debuted a new website that advocates for its cause as the broadcast industry tries to convince the Supreme Court to shut down its business.

The company charges subscribers $8 a month to get over-the-air television shows they can stream anytime to their computers and mobile devices. Available in 13 cities, including Boston, Aereo includes a remotely accessed DVR service.

Broadcast networks, including ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBS, say Aereo is stealing their content and argue the service could wreak havoc with their businesses by leading cable providers to stop paying billions in annual fees to license broadcast content.

The Supreme Court will hear the broadcasters’ arguments Tuesday and media mogul Barry Diller, an Aereo investor, has said a ruling against the company would spell the end of the service. The court is expected to rule by the end of June.

But the new website from Aereo,, suggests that a Plan B could be in the works, said Harry Cole, an attorney focused on broadcast media cases. Should it lose before the Supreme Court Aereo may seek to amend US copyright law, and may be prepping fans to lobby Congress on its behalf, Cole said.

“It’s in the Supreme Court’s hands, and they are not going to be convinced by this website,” said Cole, of Virginia-based Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth. “But I suspect that Aereo is trying to at least point the consuming public in a particular direction so if things go bad in the Supreme Court, they may be able to muster public support to change copyright law.”

Aereo declined to comment.

The company contends its service is legally equivalent to a consumer’s catching broadcast signals with an antenna of his own. The process has just been moved online, chief executive and cofounder Chet Kanojia has said.

“Since the dawn of television, consumers have had a fundamental right to watch over-the-air broadcast television via an individual antenna,” Aereo said on the ProtectMyAntenna site.

The site includes a description of the technology and its take on the legal dispute, along with links to a select number of briefs filed in this case and related court decisions — all of which are pro-Aereo. The company also sent an email to customers on Thursday directing them to the new site.

While Aereo is headquartered in New York, the firm’s technology was developed in Boston. Today the company has 80 employees in Boston and 35 in New York.

Aereo has raised $97 million from investors since its founding in 2010, from investors including Cambridge’s Highland Capital Partners and IAC, a New York firm headed by Diller.

This article appears on page B6 of the Boston Globe on April 18, 2014.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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