Aereo expands to Boston as CBS plans counterattack

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Much to the dismay of major broadcast networks, streaming video startup Aereo has begun its expansion.

The streaming video service is coming to Boston on May 30, but subscribers can pre-register for early access starting May 15. Boston will be the first new coverage area for Aereo since the service's March 2012 debut in New York. Aereo plans to go online in 22 new cities this year.

Aereo lets users watch and record over-the-air broadcast television on iOS devices, desktop Web browsers, Apple TV and Roku. Each user leases at least one antenna, which Aereo stores remotely at its own facility. Subscription plans start at $8 per month, though a free trial is also available, providing one continuous hour of viewing per day.

An Aereo antenna array.

Broadcast networks haven't taken too kindly to Aereo. CBS, Comcast, News Corp. and Disney have all sued the startup, arguing that the service infringes their copyrights. However, Aereo won an early victory a few weeks ago, when a judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction against the service. Fox, CBS and Univision have responded by threatening to stop broadcasting their content over the air if they don't prevail in court.

But CBS is also trying another tactic. On Monday, the company announced a “strategic minority investment” in Syncbak, a company that helps broadcasters stream live television to mobile devices, albeit with a much more limited selection than Aereo. The service is currently live in 47 markets, and is coming soon to 34 markets according toSyncbak's Website. Syncbak apps are already available for iOS and Android.

CBS says it will “work closely with its owned and affiliated television stations” and other partners as Syncbak becomes fully deployed. In other words, the plan is to actually compete with Aereo. That's a much better strategy than trying to sue a disruptive service into oblivion.

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