Aereo Set to Blow Into Chicago

Internet TV startup expands to fourth market amid pending lawsuits by broadcasters

Aereo, the Internet TV startup that major broadcasters have charged with stealing their content, is continuing to expand despite the pending lawsuits with plans for a September launch in Chicago — its fourth market.

The company, whose backers include IAC chairman Barry Diller, plans to debut the online TV service in Chicagoland on Sept. 13,  covering 16 counties across Illinois and Indiana in an area with a population of some 9.5 million.

Aereo’s service launched in New York City last year, followed by Boston and Atlanta designated market areas this year. All told, the company is aiming to hit 23 total U.S. markets in 2013.

In Chicago, Aereo will offer networks such WLS-TV (ABC), WFLD-TV (Fox), WMAQ-TV (NBC), WBBM-TV (CBS) and WYCC (PBS), as well as other other-the-air special interest and foreign language channels. In addition, consumers can also add Bloomberg TV, which has a distribution deal with Aereo.

Aereo’s base plan is $8 per month, which includes 20 hours of DVR storage, while the $12 monthly option triples DVR storage to 60 hours (previously 40). The company has not disclosed how many paying subscribers it has signed up.

Broadcasters have been trying to shut down Aereo since it launched in the Big Apple last spring. Last year, ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision and other broadcasters have filed copyright-infringement lawsuits against Aereo, claiming the company must pay retransmission fees the way cable and satellite TV providers do.

Aereo claims it’s simply facilitating consumers’ right to free over-the-air TV, hosting dime-size antennas at its data centers and transmitting live and recorded video over the Internet. In two separate rulings, judges in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled against broadcasters’ requests for injunctions that would put the kibosh on Aereo. The cases may be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, given that an identical Internet streaming service — calling itself Aereokiller — was ruled illegal by the 9th Circuit last December.

Broadcasters including Fox and CBS have threatened to convert free over-the-air TV to cable channels if Aereo ultimately prevails.

SEE ALSO: Is Aereo Actually a Good Thing?