Aereo CEO: We'll roll out to five more markets by Q1

The television streaming company had previously said it would wrap things up by the end of 2013, but faced delays. CNET talks to the CEO to find out why.

Aereo's CEO Chet Kanojia talking to a group of start-ups in New York
Aereo founder Chet Kanojia, speaking to a group of New York entrepreneurs, continued to keep a tight lid on the service's subscriber reach, but says the company needn't have millions of users to be profitable. Joan E. Solsman/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- Aereo had a little issue with the weather.

That's why the upstart television streaming company has had trouble wrapping up the latest phase of its market rollout, according to CEO Chet Kanojia.

The company had previously said it would add its service, which uses tiny antennas to stream over-the-air programming to its members, to four or five more cities by the end of 2013, but that never happened. Last month, it added its 10th market, Baltimore , but was well short of its earlier goal of adding 22 markets by the end of the year.

"We will finish off the markets in the first quarter," Kanojia told CNET on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show here.

Aereo previously cited technical issues, which Kanojia said was largely a matter of ensuring its antennas were weatherproof. The first batch of antennas were indoors, while the newer ones in markets like Chicago were placed on rooftops, so the company had additional work to ensure they could operate under cold-weather conditions. He chalked it up to timing and execution issues.

Its rollout in Chicago remained in limbo because of technological problems, and the company has faced "technical snafus" in Pittsburgh as well.

The service is also the target of a slew of lawsuits from media companies, though Aereo has long maintained that the litigation isn't crimping its expansion plans. The service has been sued by all the broadcast network giants in a New York-based court, including CBS (the parent of CNET), and it faces other suits in Boston and Utah.

On the brighter side, the company recently said it raised $34 million in financing, which Kanojia said would go toward the next phase of capital investment.

Kanojia told CNET that he planned to double his staff by the end of the year. Aereo currently employs 110 people, up from 37 a year ago.

Of the 10 markets, Kanojia said that most of them were profitable, with a few (probably one, he added) that aren't turning a profit.

Aereo is lean enough that it only needs 6,000 subscribers in a market to break even, and it is well in excess of that figure in most of the markets it operates in now.

Kanojia maintained his projection of getting to 50 markets by 2015, and said the plan would be for something like 14 markets for the next phase, and the balance next year.

Smart televisions dominated CES, and Kanojia said that can only benefit Aereo as the Web-enabled sets can more easily get its service. He had previously spoken about getting Aereo embedded into a television, and Kanojia said today that he was making good progress.

"You will see one soon," he said.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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