Monday, February 25, 2013

Who Needs 500 Channels?

There is a new TV service being offered in New York City that has the potential to change the way we receive and, more important, pay for the TV we watch.  Today most of us use either cable or a satellite service to receive our programming.   For sure this has vastly expanded the options we have for viewing but in reality most of us watch a relatively few different channels even if we have access to many more.  Even the most basic cable service provides 50 channels or more.   One of the ways that the cable and satellite providers have been able to offer channels that appeal to a small audience is to bundle them into a package containing very popular services.  So if you want ESPN and CNN, you also have to take and pay for the Wall Paper Channel and the Canadian Curling Network.   The Time Warners of the world have been slow to drop this pricing structure but this new Internet based service might force a change.

Called AereoTV, the new service offered now only in New York City provides access to most of the local over the air broadcast channels like NBC, CBS and PBS as well as some services now only found on cable and satellite.  The difference is that you pay for only the channels that you want.    The price for the service can be as low as $80 per year, well under what many of us pay each month for cable or satellite.

Since the service is distributed via the internet, you can use most any device that can connect to the internet to watch your programs.  So the TV in the family room, the iPad or laptop in the kitchen and even your smartphone can now receive your favorite TV shows.   You can easily watch the Today Show while on the bus riding to work.  A single subscription allows you to authorize up to five devices which should be plenty for even the most digitally adroit among us.

AereoTV enables you to record programs using a “DVR in the cloud” technology.  You can record two programs simultaneously and play them back on any device you have authorized.   You can watch one channel and record another.  No need for any new equipment - the recorder is located at the AereoTV offices.

AereoTV plans to roll out this service in 22 cities nationwide by the end of 2013.  Right now the Cincinnati market is not on the list.  Cleveland, Ohio is.   As you might guess, the cable companies and other providers have filed several legal challenges to AereoTV.   Also the networks are very protective of the local affiliates so if you are a current subscriber living in New York and travel on business to Chicago, presently you can’t watch the local New York City stations while there. 

As has happened often in the past with new technologies, the rules, laws and regulations are not keeping pace.  Back in the 1960s broadcasters did everything in their power through the courts to keep VCRs off the market.  We know how that story ended.  It may take a while but look for services like AereoTV that provide viewer options to gain wide acceptance and become commonplace in the media landscape.  Look for it sooner than many might wish to believe.



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