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Aereo, a bold new service that brings broadcast TV and DVR to your iPad and iPhone, started its engines in New York City today — and the results are mostly impressive.
As promised, Aereo lets “live TV meet the internet .. on devices you already have” for $12 a month, and requires no additional cords, buttons or antennas. The service simply requires a subscriber to enter a user name and password into its website and — voila! — all the bad television you can watch. (Well, that’s not really fair. I chose to test drive the service between 2pm and 3pm and drank deep from Family Feud, Days of Our Lives and Miffy the Bunny.)
For now, the most important observation is that the service is easy and more or less works. To choose a show, a user simply taps an item from a TV-guide like menu. Aereo then prompts the user to hit play or record the show for later with the DVR feature (which stores up to forty hours).
Every time I tested it, a show played within two to ten seconds except for two occasions when it didn’t load at all. The overall picture quality is terrific and Aereo includes a feature that lets a user adjust the video quality or simply set it to automatic. The service also lets users tap a single button to tell Twitter and Facebook friends that they are watching Miffy.
Overall, Aereo seems ready for prime time but will anyone sign up? In our own happy cable-cutter home, we watch an occasional show on over-the-air TV plus a healthy dose of Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and MLB streamed through a Roku box. I’m not sure we need TV on our other devices even at only $12 a month.
Aereo may find favor, though, with those who don’t have a TV at all or who have poor over-the-air reception. It will also be appealing to those who have a 3G iPad and want to watch TV at the cottage or during a long car ride. (While the iPhone offers the same thing, the screen is just too small to feel like TV). The device isn’t yet available on non-Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) platforms but is expected to be soon.
For now, Aereo is live only in New York City but the company plans to roll out in hundreds of other cities before long. To gain traction, Aereo announced today that it is offering a free 90-day trial to all new subscribers.
They’d better hurry. Broadcasters hate the service and are trying to stamp it to death in court. Aereo is holding its ground by saying that its micro-antenna technology qualifies for a legal loophole in copyright that distinguishes between transmitting to one or many devices. The court fireworks will likely begin in May.
Update: Check out how Aereo appears on the iPad…