Media

As legal battle with TV networks escalates, Aereo launches in NYC — We tested it, and it rocks

I’m sitting in my office (by which I mean my kitchen) watching Rachel Ray on my iPad and Kathy Lee on my laptop. These aren’t clips or day or old episodes. It’s live programming that’s streaming to me via Aereo, the web TV service locked in a legal battle with the big TV networks, which launches to the public in New York City this morning.

The setup for Aereo was fast and painless. No apps to download or hardware to buy. That makes it different from services like Sling Box, which requires an expensive set-top box and a monthly subscription to a cable or satellite television service. It’s also why Aereo charges $12 a month.

I logged into the site, authorized my devices (you can have up to 5), and picked a channel. The load time was under five seconds and from there it ran without buffering, even when I adjusted the video quality to high.

There was, however, the painful shock that comes from tuning into daytime TV for the first time in years. These shows are terrible and the commercials are even worse. (For example: if I order a scooter now, I get a free deck of large print playing cards! A class action lawsuit for users of vaginal mesh wipes!)

I connected Aereo to my Facebook account and it found four friends, but I couldn’t figure out what social features to use from there. I wouldn’t mind seeing what show people are watching and recording. I love the inbox feature in Spotify, and it would be nice to drag and drop great episodes of my favorite shows for friends to watch.

The DVR was also drop dead simple. I searched for 30 Rock and The Office, and then set both to record all new episodes, skipping reruns. Aereo gives users 40 hours of DVR with their $12.99 monthly subscription fee. When I see how well the DVR works, I’ll update this post.

I counted 27 channels available now in several different languages, including a bunch I didn’t even know existed like This TV, Qubo, and Livewell. The navigation on both the iPad and laptop was simple and intuitive. Search was interesting: “comedy on Fox” brought up all the right shows, but “NBA basketball” returned results for the NCAA.

We know Aereo investor Barry Diller is excited to duke it out with his old buddies from Fox. But sadly this service doesn’t carry the Court TV channel, meaning I won’t be able to follow the legal battle via Aereo.

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