Aereo sells out in New York ahead of Super Bowl, Olympics

The oft-sued service that streams over-the-air TV grounds its legality on its one-antenna-per-customer setup. Until it adds capacity, it has no more room for New York members.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
An array of Aereo antennae
Aereo's arrays of tiny antennas let consumers watch live, local television broadcasts online. Aereo

Aereo, the online TV startup headed to the Supreme Court later this year, has run out of capacity for new members in New York, where the service launched in 2012.

Chief Executive Chet Kanojia confirmed a report by DSL Reports on Twitter.

Aereo, backed by IAC Chairman Barry Diller, offers a cloud-based DVR that lets users record over-the-air programming and play it back on personal devices, charging $8 a month for its cheapest package. The company has not disclosed how many members it has, or how much capacity it has in any given market.

An Aereo spokeswoman said the company continues to experience strong growth across all its markets, and it's working overtime to add more capacity. When that capacity is up, "new consumers will be notified that they can sign up and create an Aereo account."

The hiccup comes before two of the biggest broadcast television events of the year: the Super Bowl, which will air Sunday on Fox, and the Sochii Olympic games, which will air on NBC through most of February.

Media companies (including CBS, the parent of CNET) have sued Aereo in multiple states, claiming it violates their copyrights by streaming their broadcasts without paying the networks a fee for the programming. Aereo has said its setup -- with an individual antenna for every subscriber, and an individual copy of the content for each user -- is the same as operating each member's antenna on his or her behalf, connecting it to the Web, and letting that member use the antenna however he or she sees fit, which is allowed under copyright law. The US Supreme Court will hear the case later this year.

That one-antenna setup also means that when enough people sign up for Aereo in one of its markets, no more can until more antennas are added.

Aereo launched in New York in March 2012, and since then has expanded to 11 total cities, including Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Detroit, Denver, Baltimore, and Cincinnati.

The company aimed to be in 22 total cities last year, but has been held back by technical difficulties on top of accumulating legal wrangling.

Its rollout in Chicago, what would have been its biggest market after New York, remains in limbo because of difficulty weatherproofing antennas, and the company has faced problems in Pittsburgh as well.

Read: Aereo's Supreme Court battle may change how you watch TV

In December, Kanojia said Aereo would roll out to four or five more cities in the remaining weeks of the year. Failing that, he said at the Consumer Electronics Show that it would come to those cities in the first quarter.

So far, the courts have largely ruled on Aereo's side but as with any case before the Supreme Court, the ultimate ruling is difficult to predict.