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Unfazed by Six-State Ban, Aereo Going Big in Texas

26 Feb, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

NEW YORK – Aereo looks to be the Energizer bunny of media startups. On the heels of a federal judge in Utah telling the over-the-air TV service it can’t operate in six western states, the company moves forward with a rollout in its fourth Texas market next week.

U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball handed the company its first courtroom defeat last week ruling Aereo isn’t allowed in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana or to stream TV shows to iPads, iPhones and other devices. Following Kimball’s ruling, Aereo has ceased operating in Salt Lake City and Denver.

Aereo lets users stream over-the-air TV shows to mobile devices and other computers and record shows. Broadcasters are suing Aereo for allegedly infringing copyright by retransmitting programs without licenses.

But Aereo says its service is legal due to its design, which relies on miniature antennas to capture and stream the shows. The company argues that it merely provides the technology to enable consumers to timeshift and device-shift television programs.

Kimball wrote: “The court concludes that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their copyright infringement claims and that plaintiffs will be irreparably harmed if a preliminary injunction does not issue.”

Unfazed, Aereo said Monday it will launch in Austin, Texas, on March 3. This follows its rollout in San Antonio last week and an expansion to Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston last year.

Aereo said the Austin area includes 12 counties across Texas, in range for 19 broadcast channels, as well as Bloomberg Television. Residents who preregister at will have priority signing up when Aereo’s technology will be available.

Aereo had asked Kimball to put the Utah case on hold, pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision, which is expected in June. Kimball said in his ruling that he believed not only that Aereo infringed copyright by transmitting TV shows, but that the company should be immediately stopped.

“If Aereo were permitted to continue to infringe plaintiffs’ copyrights during the pendency of this litigation, Aereo’s infringement will interfere with plaintiffs’ relationships and negotiations with legitimate licensees, impede and effect plaintiff’s negotiations with advertisers, unfairly siphon viewers from plaintiffs’ own websites ... and cause plaintiffs to lose control of quality and potential piracy of its programming,” Kimball wrote. “All of these potential harms are intangible factors that support a finding of irreparable harm.”

Though Aereo hasn’t disclosed the number of people who use it, it ran out of capacity in New York and in Atlanta earlier this month because of demand.

Aereo’s streaming and cloud-based DVR service lets users watch over-the-air programming and record it to play back on personal devices, charging $8 a month for its cheapest package.

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