Legally embattled Internet TV startup to launch service in Beantown and surrounding areas May 15

Aereo isn’t letting pending lawsuits and accusations of thievery by major broadcasters hamstring expansion plans, as Internet TV startup has set May 15 launch date for service in the Boston metro area.

Beantown is second market for Aereo, which launched in New York City last year. The startup offers live TV and DVR service, piped over the Internet to mobile and connected TV devices.

After initial two-week invitation-only ramp, Aereo on May 30 will open up service to an estimated 4.5 million consumers in 16 counties in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Aereo uses tiny, dedicated antennas to receive local TV broadcasts, then retransmits the video online. Startup, whose major backer is IAC chairman Barry Diller, argues over-the-air TV is free for any consumer to access.

But big broadcasters including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision Communications and PBS have filed copyright-infringement lawsuits against Aereo, claiming the company must pay retransmission fees the way cable and satellite TV providers do. So far, federal courts have twice ruled against broadcasters in their bid to shut Aereo down.

Nets are now threatening that if Aereo prevails in court, they’ll yank popular content from broadcast channels — or convert them to pay channels. At the NAB Show in Las Vegas, News Corp. president and COO Chase Carey said that if Aereo ultimately wins the case, Fox will consider turning its network into a cable service.

Earlier this year, Aereo announced plans to expand to 22 markets in 2013, extending as far west as Salt Lake City.

In Boston, 28 over-the-air nets available are to include WBZ-TV (CBS), WCVB (ABC), WHDH (NBC), WFXT (Fox), WLVI (CW), WGBH (PBS), Univision, Telemundo, Qubo, Ion and PBS Kids digital subchannels. Aereo also will offer cable net Bloomberg TV, through pact signed last year.

Aereo’s streaming service is currently supported on Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices; web browsers including Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, Safari and Opera; Apple TV (via AirPlay); and Roku set-tops.

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