As streaming-video service Aereo prepares to make its case before the U.S. Supreme Court later this month, it continues on in its effort to expand its audience (who may have their new toy taken away from them if the Supremes rule in favor of the broadcast networks). Today, Aereo announced that it will soon become available via Google’s Chromecast dongle, making it easier for people to see the streamed feeds on their TVs.
Considering that Aereo streams freely available over-the-air network feeds that many people can get with an antenna, it would make sense that you should be able to enjoy the service on your 60″ LED. But currently, most people who watch Aereo on their TVs are doing so through a computer, tablet, or smartphone connected to their set.
Adding Chromecast support means that Aereo subscribers who own Google’s $35 HDMI dongle (which allows you to stream Netflix, Google Play, Hulu, and other content to your TV) will just press a button on their Aereo interface and the service will appear on their set.
“The way people watch and experience television is changing and Google is a pioneer in providing consumers with more choice and flexibility in how they access and experience that media,” said Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia. “We’re excited that Aereo will be Google Cast Ready this May. Consumers deserve more options and alternatives in how they watch television and our team is committed to providing consumers with the best experience possible using Aereo’s innovative cloud technology.”
Though the news was announced today, the functionality won’t be available on May 29, by which point the Supremes should already be mulling over whether or not the service and its DVR functionality violate broadcasters’ copyrights.
Aereo operates arrays of very small antennae in various markets around the country. These pick up the signals being broadcast over the air by local channels. Each antenna within that array is dedicated to a single end-user.
The company contends that this 1:1 connection is no different than someone who puts a nice rooftop antenna on their building to improve their TV reception.
The broadcasters counter that Aereo is violating their copyright by retransmitting their signals without permission and without paying the huge retransmission fees paid by cable and satellite companies.
In each market that Aereo has launched, broadcasters have sought injunctions that would shut the service down pending a trial. In all but one instance, federal courts and appeals courts have sided with Aereo. It was only after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the broadcasters’ case that one federal court agreed with the broadcasters, shutting down Aereo service in several states in the Rocky Mountain region.
In their appeal to the highest court, the broadcasters have taken the controversial step of challenging the legality of Aereo’s cloud-based DVR system, which allows users to record and play back shows from remote servers.
According to the broadcasters, each time a cloud-stored program is played constitutes a “public performance,” claiming that each play back without permission is a violation of copyright.
If the Supremes side with the broadcasters on that particular argument, that could have disastrous effects on all cloud-based technology, casting doubt on ownership and copyright of anything stored on and transmitted from a remote service.
The Supremes have never ruled on this issue. They had their chance a few years back, when broadcasters sued Cablevision over its cloud-based DVR over similar copyright issues. But rather than hear the case, the court let stand a U.S. Circuit Court ruling in favor of Cablevision.
Thus, even though Cablevision believes Aereo’s actions are illegal, it issued a white paper last December criticizing the broadcasters’ efforts to once again question the legality of cloud-based media storage.