Aereo: Live Broadcast TV for the Roku

Aereo is a service that leases remote television antennas and virtual DVRs.  Aereo subscribers are able to view live broadcast content and record it for later. The service offers all major broadcast channels plus Bloomberg. The service costs $8 per month for a single tuner and 20 hours of DVR space. Aereo’s premium tier adds a second antenna and boosts DVR space to 60 hours. Aereo debuted in New York City, but is going nationwide in 2013. Boston went live in May, Atlanta will go live in June, and Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Madison, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, Raleigh—Durham, Salt Lake City, Tampa, and Washington (DC) will follow.

Aereo has prevailed against broadcasters in two court decisions.  On April 1, 2013 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in favor of Aereo, upholding a July 2012 decision denying a request for a preliminary injunction against Aereo.

Aereo isn’t for everyone. You have to have a robust internet connection to to stream Aereo. If your only internet option also happens to be your cable provider, you may find internet expensive without the television and phone bundle discounts. Part of a cable or satellite bill pays for infrastructure and service. Aereo requires a set top box. Right now, the only choice is a Roku. That’s $100 per set. When your Roku breaks or becomes obsolete, it’s up to you to provide replacement equipment. Aereo’s Roku channel is a private channel. Roku has a history of pulling the plug on channels that run afoul of Big Entertainment. You may one day turn on your Roku and find it unable to stream Aereo. Premium services provide a LOT more channels. If you are a fan of baseball, basketball, hockey, profanity, or nudity, broadcast television may not work for you. You can subscribe to pay services, but those costs add up and you may not be able to stream your teams due to blackout rules. Finally, some internet service providers (ISP) cap or throttle bandwidth which may lead to degraded or no service.

Aereo is different than broadcast television.  For starters, the user interface is two dimensional — channel-by-time or time-by-channel.  You scroll across a row of channels for a time or a row of programs for a channel.  I much prefer the channel-by-time-by-program grid.

Programming is organized as shows.  You cannot sit in front of the television and watch for hours on end.  When a show ends, you are returned to the program guide.  Aereo doesn’t actually know when a program begins or ends, so you may be dumped before the end of a show or after a show begins.  Once at the guide, you have to wait for the next block to begin before you can start a program in that block.  It’s only seconds, but it feels like forever — especially if you were dumped from the beginning of a program or before the end of a program.  Aereo says they are working on continuous channel viewing.

When recording programs, you can adjust the beginning and end of a program, but only from a PC.

Aereo does some nice things for the user.  You can watch Aereo on a PC or tablet.  It’s almost worth $8/month to be able to take the ball game out to the pool.  If you are using a Roku, you can stream videos from a lot of the programs which are only on premium providers.  You can also play movies off a thumb drive or usb disk.  Recorded programs are available wherever you access Aereo.

Finally, the picture quality is excellent.  During heavy downpours that pixelated and disconnected my broadcast channels, Aereo only suffered picture quality degradation and occasional pauses.  During these downpours, I found Aereo very watchable.

You can add the Aereo Roku channel by following these instructions.


One comment on “Aereo: Live Broadcast TV for the Roku

  1. Pingback: Roku Installation Guide | Roku for Dummies

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