Aereo makes play for new customers

Startup offers new pricing structure, limited free use

Aereo, the controversial startup that’s givng broadcasters conniptions, unveiled on Thursday a feature that lets consumers use the service for free for one hour a day and a new pricing structure that it says offers subscribers more flexibility.

But CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said Thursday he’s confident the service won’t survive and “It’s not something I lose sleep over for even five minutes.” 

The announcement comes several weeks after New York federal Judge Alison Nathan denied a motion for a preliminary injunction against Aereo by broadcasters seeking to squash the service, whichs lets subs watch broadcast television for free through a farm of dime-sized antennas and store shows remotely. It could threaten retransmission fees, a burgeoning source of revenue for broadcasters. 

“The minor loss we were served in the court is only the first out in the first inning. Throughout history, our content has always gotten paid for,” he said during a conference call to discuss CBS earnings.

Until the question of its legality is settled, Aereo is clearly looking to become as relevant as possible, enticing consumers with Aereo Try for Free, available by logging in to Aereo.com and creating a password. There is no credit card to enter, but users must be located within New York City, the only place where the service currently exists, although it has aggressive rollout plans. Barry Diller, who’s backing Aereo, said last month that the company will be moving forward into most major U.S. cities despite the substantial legal challenges.

The free service lets users watch broadcast television live and pause, rewind and fast-forward anything they’re watching. However, recordings aren’t retained for future use, a service reserved for paying members.

And Aereo has started offering a day pass as well as monthly and annual memberships in order to lure subscribers. A day pass is $1 for 24 hours with three hours of DVR storage space plus 10 days to watch the shows. Monthly passes for either $8 or $12 include 20 or 40 hours of storage and a second month free. A yearly membership with three extra months is $80, also with 40 hours of DVR storage.

The free trial comes with one remote antenna. The others include two so subscribers can record two shows at once.

“We know that one size does not fit all. That’s why we’ve designed our new pricing structure to work for a wide variety of lifestyles,” said Aereo CEO Chett Kanojia. “Whether you want a day pass to watch the ‘big game’ on your mobile device or an annual membership that provides you with 40 hours of DVR storage.”