Can Aereo Save Boston From the Perils of Cable TV?

Aereo launches in the Boston market in May, and it looks like a promising alternative to cable.

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Back in January, Aereo announced that it was launching in Boston, and the company is now targeting a roll-out by early May. For the uninitiated, Aereo provides you with your very own digital antenna and a DVR, all routed through the Internet. The idea: Get your local TV stations, static-free, for $8 a month. While Aereo hasn’t announced its official launch date—it will be sometime in late April or early May— I recently had the chance to give it a test run. The verdict: It works pretty great. And it’s even better when considering that cable TV is one of the biggest rip-offs of our time.

You get all the major channels you’d expect, including CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, CW, and PBS. (I was previewing the New York service, so I had the New York local stations, but we’ll be getting the Boston stations when Aereo launches locally.) The reception is crystal clear without hiccups or fuzziness.

Helpfully, the software is intuitive and straightforward. For anyone who’s ever navigated a cable box “guide” or a DVR, you’ll get it right away. You have the ability to select stations, and search for and record individual episodes or full seasons of shows. And then, of course, watch them. (The screenshot above shows the software; you can expand the show to full screen, however.)

Perhaps the best part is the cost—$8 a month is absurdly cheap compared to cable. Granted, if you were to pay the up-front price of an antenna, you’d have no monthly charges. But you also may have possible trouble with reception and no DVR.

The one major sticking point I found with Aereo is that it’s limited to certain devices: a desktop browser (PC or Mac), an iPad, an iPhone, an Apple TV, or a Roku. That’s it. There’s no easy plug-and-play set-top box, the kind that you could give to your parents to just plug in. That’s going to severely limit their customer base to the tech-savvy folks willing to watch TV on an iPad or hook up a computer to their television.

Still, watching TV on an iPad or a laptop is kind of great: You’re no longer limited to watching TV on the couch, and you can even access your TV recordings from outside your home or during travel.

If you’ve been thinking about cutting the cable cord, but haven’t been able to miss out on the nightly local news or your weekly dose of your favorite broadcast TV show, be it Modern Family or CSI, you ought to give Aereo a try. While you’re watching, you can count all that extra money you’re saving from your cable bill.

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  • Kevin Beasley

    How about zero dollars a month with good digital antenna I guess the $8.00 is okay for the DVR add Netflix and Hulu Plus and your done.

  • Greg

    If the broadcast networks and affiliates adopt Syncbak, Aereo is dead. As I understand it, Syncbak will be free to viewers, though I’m not sure whether they will charge for the DVR service. It will also include some VOD. There’s nothing Aereo does that Syncbak can’t do as well. If Aereo arrives in one’s market before Syncbak, then it may well be worth subscribing to, but once Syncbak arrives, I don’t see a future for Aereo.