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A New York City-based company that allows people to watch a variety of major networks without paying for a large cable package is bringing its services to Utah.
The company, Aereo, will launch its services to subscribers across the state on Aug. 19. Through the service, viewers will be able to log on to their account on a variety of devices to watch live television and record television shows to watch later.
Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, said until he founded the company about two years ago, the only way to watch television without paying for a cable package was to purchase a rooftop antenna or “rabbit ears.” The antenna developed by Aereo is small enough to fit on the tip of a finger, but still gets HD reception. It is located in the “cloud” so that users don’t need any additional equipment to watch TV, Kanojia said. They just need an internet connection and a compatible device, which includes the iPad, iPhone, AppleTV, Roku or computer with an updated internet browser.
Aereo’s coverage will span the entire state of Utah, so subscribers will be able to watch live television and recorded shows anywhere in the state on any compatible device, Kanojia said.
After subscribing, each consumer will be assigned their own antenna. They can then connect to their account on any compatible device and watch recorded shows and live television on around 30 different television channels, including major networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. The antennas in Utah are housed in a data center in Bluffdale.
The idea behind Aereo’s technology came from frustration, Kanojia said. Over the years, he’s noticed that cable companies were forcing viewers to purchase television channel bundles that included hundreds of television channels viewers didn’t ever watch.
“Eighty percent of households only watch six to eight channels,” he said. “A third of households only watch network television and half of the viewership at any given time is broadcast TV.”
Because of this frustration, Kanojia wanted to do something meaningful and create an alternative for consumers who didn’t want to pay for large cable packages. Kanojia said through Aereo, subscribers pay a monthly fee of $8 or $12, depending on the amount of storage space they want for recorded shows and how many devices they want to watch television on at one time.
The company has, at times, been considered controversial, Kanojia said. Broadcast networks have taken Aereo to court twice, citing its antenna technology as piracy, but the courts ruled in favor of Aereo both times. Aereo’s argument is that close to “54 million Americans use some sort of antenna to watch TV. This is not piracy. This has been part of the American way since the beginning of broadcasting.”
“Nobody sits there and says, ‘I love my cable company,’” Kanojia said. “Today’s cable bill can be higher than a car payment. It’s just irrational.”
Virginia Lam, vice president of communications and government relations at Aereo, said Utah was one of the first on the list for the technology because of the state’s tech-savvy reputation.
“Utah is a young, tech-savvy state,” Lam said. “Utah is the sweet spot for this technology.”
Besides Utah, Aereo’s services are available in New York City, Boston and Atlanta. The technology will be rolling out in Houston, Dallas and Miami next month. Kanojia hopes to have the technology in more than 20 regions before the end of 2013.