I’m an NPR frequent flyer. I listen to their programming a LOT, so this morning they had a story on this new service (only available in New York now) called Aereo. It works pretty simply. You subscribe to their service for something like $8 a month, and they provide TV channels that broadcast over the air on your smart phone or tablet. If you have Apple TV or a Roku box, you can stream the channels on your regular TV. Why is this different from just ditching cable and buying a TV antenna? Well, for a couple of reasons:
- Aereo has the TV antennas in their central location that provides the stream. So you don’t have to put one on your rooftop.
- In addition to streaming to your TV (if you have Apple TV or Roku. No word on the XBoX yet), smart phone and tablet, you can record up to 40 hours of TV programming on a DVR. I’m not clear if they set up DVR storage space using their service, or you have to buy a TiVo-type unit.
- They have tiered plans that start at free (day pass) to $40 a month.
I’ve taken mental stock of how many channels we actually watch on TV and it’s pretty small. It depends on where we are in the TV season, but for the most part, I think we watch less than 10 channels with a cable package that has hundreds of channels. I’m going to guess that this is probably pretty average for most people. Sure, some folks watch a lot of TV shows, and others watch almost none; preferring video games, the Internet, or maybe just reading a book. But if your cable bill is driving you crazy with the amount you pay versus the amount you watch, you’re not alone. And I think that’s why Aereo has popped up. There’s a good amount of “free” TV out there. Not just the Big Three mind you. But you have PBS and local channels that broadcast their signals over the air, too. The only drawback to something like Aereo is that if you watch HBO, Starz, Showtime, or other pay channels, they are not available. Nor is ESPN– for sports nerds.
My guess is that as Aereo establishes a foothold in bigger chunks of the country, and people like that they are going to pay less for TV, it’ll fit better with their real viewing habits. Like radio, TV is at a point where people don’t do “appointment watching” that much anymore. Netflix certainly knows this and have made all of their original content available at once — starting with House of Cards. DVRs, OnDemand, and the Internet have made the programming clock almost obsolete, so as people’s habits change, so will their devotion to cable and satellite change. And as services like Aereo, Netflix, Roku, and Apple TV build on the current viewing trends, a la carte TV may be a reality in the near future.
So with all that said, let me ask you how many TV channels do you watch? I’ve made it easy to answer with this handy-dandy poll: