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Aereo preps big Chicago debut

The country's third-biggest city will join New York, Boston, and Atlanta with the online over-the-air broadcast service starting Sept. 13. But other cities, that have yet to be announced, will be getting it sooner.

An array of Aereo antennae
Aereo's arrays of tiny antennae let consumers watch live, local television broadcasts online. Aereo

Aereo is coming to Chicago, as the startup unveiled another city on its expansion slate Wednesday.

Starting Sept. 13, Aereo will start offering the Windy City its service to stream and record live, local television broadcasts over the Internet to browsers and some connected devices.

The move takes Aereo to the country's third most populous city and biggest market yet save its launchpad, New York. But other cities will be coming online before Chicago, an Aereo spokeswoman said Wednesday.

A day earlier, Chief Executive and Founder Chet Kanojia said the startup plans to launch in as many as 19 new cities by the end of August. The Chicago announcement came ahead of an Aereo presentation at TechWeek Chicago.

Aereo, which is backed by IAC Chairman Barry Diller, uses antenna/DVR technology to let consumers can watch live, local over-the-air television broadcasts. The service has sparked lawsuits from TV broadcast giants including ABC, CBS (the parent of CNET), Fox, NBC Universal, and Telemundo, which alleged last year that the service infringes their copyrights and that Aereo must pay them retransmission fees.

Moving to other areas could open the door to other legal battles, but the company has filed for declaratory judgment in New York, which could make the ruling in that district applicable for the whole country. That decision is still pending.

Chicago will become Aereo's second-biggest market, but so far the expansion plans have left the country's other huge market -- Los Angeles -- out of the picture. Aereo has said legal grounding is secondary to market opportunity when it sets expansion plans, but LA is located in a U.S. court district that tends to be more favorable to media companies.

Thus far, Aereo has won battles. In April, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied a preliminary injunction motion from television networks that would have prevented Aereo from transmitting recorded broadcast television programs to its subscribers. The circuit includes New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

But television broadcasters have noted some lawsuit success in a different district court that includes California and nearby Western states by going after a smaller, less sophisticated Aereo clone tauntingly called Aereokiller.

After debuting in New York last year, Aereo expanded its service to Boston in May and Atlanta in June.

In January, Aereo said it would bring the service to 22 metro areas in 2013.