Aereo, the controversial service that lets people watch and record TV on their mobile devices, is discussing partnership arrangements with pay-TV companies and internet service providers to expand its reach. Such an alliance could expand Aereo’s market penetration and entrench its role as one of the biggest potential disruptions to the existing TV business.
For anyone unfamiliar with Aereo, the Barry Diller-backed company lets subscribers rent mini personal antennas that can beam and record over-the-air TV to mobile devices and laptops under two plans. One costs $1 a day, or there’s a monthly subscription for $8. For those eager to hear more, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia will be speaking at paidContent Live on April 17 about his plan to disrupt the TV industry.
News of Aereo’s discussions with Dish, AT&T and others comes by way of a Wall Street Journal report that says such a partnership could let Aereo quickly expand its footprint. Aereo has already announced plans to expand soon to 22 new markets beyond New York City where it is already available.
Aereo’s desire for a partnership with a major ISP or TV provider is probably not related to money or infrastructure; the company has told me in the past that rolling out a new antenna farm is quick and easy. Instead, any partnership is likely tied to deeper strategic goals. From the Wall Street Journal story:
In one scenario that was discussed, AT&T would sell broadband or wireless data subscriptions paired with Aereo’s video service, people familiar with the matter said.
In other words, such an arrangement with AT&T would let Aereo subscribers use the service heavily without fear of exorbitant data bills.
Meanwhile, the talks with satellite TV-provider Dish Networks may have centered on an acquisition. Although Dish CEO Charlie Ergen said on a February investor call that Dish had no plans to buy Aereo, he added “we never say never.” Ergen has also repeatedly expressed admiration for Aereo and, unlike other incumbents in the TV industry, acknowledged the reality of consumers quitting established TV models in favor of “cord-cutting.”