CES: Aereo CEO Details Expansion Plans

Kanojia Says Service Can Provide Ratings; Social media, TV Experiences in Possible Future Plans

With the completion of a $38 million round of Series B funding, announced Tuesday, Aereo has raised more than enough funding to complete the rollout of the service into 22 markets by the end of the first half of the year.

The nationwide rollout is expected to be completed by the end of the year, though the timeline for going live in specific markets will depend on speed of construction, Aereo's CEO and founder, Chet Kanojia, told MCN at the 2013 International CES.

The company is already offering a service in New York City and has identified Boston; Miami; Austin; Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Detroit; Denver; Minneapolis, Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Tampa; Cleveland; Kansas City; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Salt Lake City; Birmingham; Providence, R.I.; and Madison, Wis., as markets for rollouts in the first half of the year.

Aereo provides live broadcast signals to Internet-connected devices, including smart TVs, smartphones, tablets and computers. Users are charged either $1 a day, $8 a month or $80 a year.

Broadcasters have sued Aereo, which does not pay them for their signals, claiming copyright violations. Aereo contends that the service is legal under fair use provisions because each user receives the signals from its own separate antenna.

Kanojia declined to discuss the number of subscribers or users of the service. He said that usage had been very good. "About three-quarters watch five to seven shows" and half are watching "15 shows a week," he said. Among the users, about half didn't have a multichannel subscription before starting Aereo and the other half use it to supplement their cable or other multichannel subscription.

Litigation remains a major wild card in the services expansion.

Kanojia said that it would be difficult to say how long the legal battle might last. Broadcasters are currently appealing a decision that denied their request for a preliminary injunction to shut down the service. Those appeals will have to be exhausted before the two sides move onto a trial.

The explosion of connected devices at the 2013 International CES was an encouraging trend for the service's prospects, he noted.

Looking forward, he said that they were thinking about adding social media and TV experiences to the service. "There is currently nothing that is really compelling in that area and we'd like to take advantage of that," he said.

Aereo currently does not collect a great deal of user data, but could in the future if programmers wanted to work with it on developing new offerings, Kanojia said.

He also said that the service has the ability to provide ratings. "Nielsen has said they could do it," he said. "We don't have a need to do it but if someone wanted them, we'd be happy to work with them."