The broadcasters who provide free TV won’t like this new twist on that concept. Aereo says that it will offer consumers its controversial streams of local TV stations’ programming without charge for an hour a day in its first market, New York City. The change is part of an overhaul of its pricing that’s designed to entice additional people to try the service. But it’s sure to infuriate broadcasters who say Aereo infringes on their copyrights. The Barry Diller-backed service uses tiny antennas to capture TV station signals which it transmits online to subscribers’ computers and mobile devices, adding DVR-like recording and playback capabilities. The hitch is that Aereo doesn’t pay broadcasters. The company says in its release today that “consumers have a fundamental right to access over the air television that broadcasts on the public airwaves, and that enhancing and supporting public access to that local broadcast signal is important.” Two weeks ago the major broadcast networks leading the fight against Aereo lost their effort to shut it down pending a trial on whether the service is legal. Although it has just launched in NYC, Diller recently said that Aereo will be in “every major American city” by the end of 2013.
In addition to offering limited free usage, Aereo today introduced alternatives to its $12 a month fee. Customers can pay $1 to watch for a full day and store up to three hours of programming. The shows will be available for 10 days, and users can access two antennas so they can simultaneously watch and record different programs. For $8 a month users can watch as much as they want and store 20 hours of programming, while $12 ups the storage to 40 hours. Fans can pay $80 to use the service with 40 hours of storage for a year. Aereo currently works on Apple products and Roku boxes; the company says it hopes to support PCs and Android devices this summer. The service only provides streams to users when they’re physically located in their home market.