Aereo’s growth was slow even when it was legal



Aereo TV

At the end of 2013, seven months after Aereo launched its live TV streaming service in the Boston area, the startup had attracted just 12,000 subscribers in the region despite plenty of hype around the service.

That’s according to documents filed by Aereo with the US Copyright Office, as part of a failed bid by the company to be classified as a cable service following its US Supreme Court defeat and “pause” of the service in late June. Re/code reported on the documents yesterday, giving the first sense about Aereo’s early traction (the company never disclosed subscriber figures). Re/code reported that Aereo had 77,596 subscribers overall in 10 cities by the end of 2013; 27,000 of the users were in New York City, where the company initially launched in spring 2012.

The documents don’t contain figures for 2014, and there was some indication that subscriber growth in a few cities — including New York — got a bump in early 2014 in connection with the Super Bowl. The large amount of publicity around the Supreme Court case may have generated some extra interest in Aereo this spring, as well.

But it’s clear that the service was a very long way from the reach of Netflix (50 million subscribers) and even Hulu Plus (6 million subscribers). It was far from the sort of consumer tech rocketship we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in recent years. The company’s bid to rally consumers to contact Congress also seems unlikely to help much with subscriber numbers in this range.

Aereo’s future looks more uncertain than ever, with the Plan B of becoming a cable service turning out to be a dud. But had the company succeeded, the slow subscriber growth, points out Re/code’s Peter Kafka, is “a good reminder that the legal issues were only one of the hurdles Aereo had to clear if it wanted to win.”

See related: Mark Cuban praises Aereo for trying his idea again 

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