Founded in 2011 by Chet Kanojia and based out of New York, NY, Aereo is a technology company that provides access to live-streaming broadcast television through a number of electronic devices. Using their patent-pending technology, Aereo users are able to pause, rewind, and fast forward programming, all using their internet browser. Because of this, users don’t have to worry about downloading an app, or purchasing and installing a specialized box.
Even though Aereo has been in existence for more than two years, the company remains in the initial stages of launching, primarily due to problems with their proprietary technology, as well as multiple ongoing legal battles (see final section).
Aereo is not listed with or rated through the Better Business Bureau, but has been featured in publications such PCMag, Consumer Reports, Boston Globe, Cnet, and more. Based on a wide variety of online reviews, customer satisfaction appears to be mixed, with the majority of complaints citing the inability to watch live television due to constant buffering.
How Aereo Works
Aereo allows you to access a tiny TV antenna and a remote DVR, both located in a data center near you, which can then be controlled using your internet-connected device, such as a smartphone, computer, or tablet. In other words, you’re telling the antenna to tune to a specific channel, which can then be watched live, or recorded using the remote DVR.
Aereo service features programming from most major networks, including CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and PBS, in addition to a wide variety of other syndicated programs, lifestyle and interest channels, as well as religious and news & information channels.
From an accessibility standpoint, Aereo is currently only available in the following cities:
- Atlanta, GA
- Baltimore, MD
- Boston, MA
- Dallas, TX
- Denver, CO
- Detroit, MI
- Houston, TX
- Miami, FL
- New York, NY
- Salt Lake City, UT
However, according to the company’s website, nearly 20 additional cities are currently in the works.
In order to use your Aereo subscription, you will need to be located in your home city at the time. In other words, if your subscription is based on Denver but you’re on a business trip to Houston, you won’t be able to use it. However, when you are located in your home city, all of Aereo’s functions are handled through a browser and connected via a cloud. This makes using the service is as simple as:
- Logging on to the internet from a PC, laptop, smartphone, or other device.
- Watching live TV.
When you first join Aereo, you’ll be offered a free one-month (31-day) trial. If you fail to cancel your service prior to the trial expiring, you’ll automatically be billed for the first month’s service. However, keep in mind that you can choose between two membership options:
- Basic – $8 per month (plus tax), which includes up to 20 hours of DVR space.
- Upgraded – $12 per month (plus tax), which includes up to 60 hours of DVR space.
Whichever membership option you choose, Aereo will confirm your coverage area using the billing address on your credit card, so make sure your residential and billing addresses are located in the same city. In other words, if you live in Boston but have a billing address in New Hampshire, Aereo won’t allow you to use their services.
Your Aereo membership can be cancelled, upgraded, or downgraded at any time, and your account will be billed or credited on a pro-rated basis. However, keep in mind that if you have the Upgraded plan and more than 20 hours of programming recorded, and then downgrade to the Basic plan, your oldest recordings will be deleted after two days.
Bottom Line: Should You Try Aereo?
Whether you’re single and in your early 20’s, or a parent with young children, it seems that Aereo has something for you. It’s no secret that most entertainment is moving online, and network television appears to be no different. It’s also apparent that the company is wholly committed to their vision, as they have just agreed to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court after being sued by several large broadcasters.
Overall, Aereo seems to have mostly positive reviews, but like any new technology, there are some drawbacks. First, if accessed from a mobile device, you’ll likely use data on your wireless carrier’s network, which can be exhausted fairly quickly (if you’re not on an “unlimited” plan). Once this occurs, not only will your Aereo viewing experience be impacted, so will your other device’s features, including internet speed.
Next—and perhaps most importantly—the quality of Aereo’s service is heavily impacted by capacity. Because of this, there have been numerous reviews claiming that live network broadcasts can be difficult to watch due to constant buffering, and the more popular the show, the worse it gets. In many instances, users report that prime time shows or sporting events are essentially impossible to watch.
Lastly, Aereo is only available in your home area. This means that if you frequently travel to other cities, you won’t be able to use Aereo while on the road. This is a fairly significant drawback when compared to competitors like Amazon Prime Instant Video.
So, bottom line: Should you try Aereo? With a free one-month trial, and relatively low pricing thereafter, subscribing to Aereo could be just what you need to watch the network television shows you want. Just keep in mind that you may not be able to view them live.