STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let's talk about any way to watch television. A service called Aereo offers an alternative to traditional broadcast television. In fact, it is seeking to be a kind of alternative to your cable company. It's backed by the broadcasting mogul Barry Diller and it's causing waves - waves of lawsuits.
Let's talk about this with Rich Jaroslovsky. He's writing about Aereo for Bloomberg News. Welcome back to the program, Rich.
RICH JAROSLOVSKY: Thanks. Great to be here.
INSKEEP: OK. So I guess the basic concept here is you're watching broadcast TV and maybe eventually more and more cable channels over the Internet. But how does that work?
JAROSLOVSKY: Well, Aereo, it's a very interesting company. They basically in each locality where they're going to be operating, they have a data center with thousands of tiny antennas, just like the ones that you'd find on many rooftops, and the antennas pull in the over-the-air broadcast signals and then stream it to you over the Internet.
INSKEEP: OK. So this is working already in New York City, for example. I could get WCBS or one of the old-line network broadcast stations over the Internet. But why do I need to do that when I can just turn on the TV and watch it directly?
JAROSLOVSKY: Well, one reason is because this will stream directly to your smartphone or to your tablet as well as over-the-air TV, if you have a Roku or an Apple TV. The service costs only about $8 a month and for that you not only get all the over-the-air TV signals in your home market, but you also get 20 hours worth of stored DVR programming. So it's a combination DVR and over-the-air television for a fraction of what even a basic cable package would cost you.
INSKEEP: OK. Does that mean that if I'm in New York - the first market where this is being tried - that I can get rid of the cable company entirely and still get all the same programming?
JAROSLOVSKY: For the over-the-air broadcasts networks - for CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox - as well as for a bunch of lesser-known but still over-the-air signals...
INSKEEP: Public Broadcasting, for example.
JAROSLOVSKY: Public Broadcasting, PBS Kids, that's absolutely what it means. They set me up with a trial account, even though I'm not in New York, so that I could try the service for a while, and I was pulling in 31 channels over Aereo.
INSKEEP: Thirty-one. But not the full range?
JAROSLOVSKY: Definitely not the full range. What's missing, because of litigation that's going on between the service and many of the networks, are all that they cable networks. There was no Disney Channel, there's no ESPN, there's no HBO, and really for those services to start showing up on Aereo it's going to take some resolution of all the legal challenges that are going on right now.
INSKEEP: What do they cable companies think of this service that's starting?
JAROSLOVSKY: Well, the TV networks are suing Aereo, which has been in operation since last year in New York City. But so far they have not prevailed. They attempted to get an injunction to shut the service down - they failed at that. They're appealing. It's now at the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, but in the meanwhile the company has not only continued to operate in New York but has announced plans to expand to 22 more cities starting in the spring.
INSKEEP: Let me make sure I understand why cable companies would not like this. I guess the average local cable company is to some extent a monopoly. Does this break their monopoly?
JAROSLOVSKY: Well, it certainly does. If, for example, all you really wanted were your local stations and HBO, what the cable companies don't want you to be able to do is to say just give me my local stations and HBO and cut my bill. That's exactly what you can do with Aereo. You can get all the panoply of local stations and then you could theoretically add apps to your smartphone or to your tablet so that you could then only subscribe to the channels that you actually want, as opposed to paying for bigger packages with many channels that you never view.
INSKEEP: Rich Jaroslovsky, who writes for Bloomberg News. Thanks very much, Rich.
JAROSLOVSKY: Thank you.