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Controversial Aereo TV service launches in Utah on Aug. 19

Published July 23, 2013 12:20 am

Networks, meanwhile, have sued Internet TV company over technology.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A controversial new Internet-based television service that allows customers to view live broadcasts of local TV stations on desktop computers and mobile devices will launch in Utah on Aug. 19.

The service, called Aereo, did a pilot project in New York City in spring 2012 and began launching nationwide earlier this year. Utah will be the fourth market in the U.S. to get the service after New York City, Boston and Atlanta. Aereo will be available in all 29 Utah counties when it launches.

An announcement on the launch date is scheduled for Monday morning.

In addition, it is likely the New York-based company will build an operations center in Salt Lake City sometime early next year to monitor and manage the service in the western U.S., said Chet Kanojia, founder and chief executive. He did not know how many people the company will employ in Utah when it opens.

"It's in the early planning stages, but we think that makes a lot of sense," he said about building the Utah operations center. "There's a growing tech center there, and that area makes a lot of sense to make an investment in people."

With the Aereo service, customers will be able to view live feeds of stations KTVX Channel 4, KUTV Channel 2, KSL Channel 5, KSTU Channel 13 and KUED Channel 7, and more than 20 additional over-the-air stations on their desktop computers and mobile devices such as an iPhone or iPad. The video is viewed through a Web browser.

"When other people have used the service, they see the quality of the video and it's like an 'a-ha' moment," Kanojia said. "It's a very compelling experience."

Aereo is mostly funded by media mogul Barry Diller, the former head of Paramount Pictures and Fox Broadcasting. It uses a technology where small dime-sized antennas capture the over-the-air broadcasts and then streams them live on the Internet. Each antenna is reserved for each customer. An array of tens of thousands of these tiny antennas was built atop a data center that Aereo is leasing in Salt Lake City.

Since it launched last year, Aereo has been mired in a lawsuit filed by the major television broadcasters, including NBC, ABC and CBS, alleging that the company violates copyright law by broadcasting network TV signals to hundreds of thousands of viewers without the company paying retransmission fees.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, however, has dealt a series of blows against the broadcasters. Last April the federal court affirmed an earlier district court ruling that Aereo's technology does not violate copyright law. Last week, the court also decided that it would not revisit that earlier ruling. The networks have threatened to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The service also has a cloud-based digital video recorder viewers can use to record programming to watch at a later time. Subscriptions will cost anywhere from $8 to $12 per month.

Kanojia said the service is on track to launch in a total of 22 U.S. markets by the end of September. Chicago is the only other city announced, and it will launch there in September.

vince@sltrib.com

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