Aereo Tries to Preempt CBS Lawsuit

Antennae-based service plans Boston expansion this month

Aereo, the antennae-based service that allows subscribers to watch television online, filed a motion Monday hoping to keep CBS from suing to block its expansion to Boston and other markets.

CBS and other networks are already locked in lititgation with Aereo, and Aereo's motion for declaratory judgment in New York is an attempt to keep CBS from suing in the markets where it plans to expand. The complaint names CBS and affiliates in several of those markets, including Boston.

The Boston expansion, planned for May 15, would be Aereo's first expansion beyond the New York City area. CBS and other networks have said the service is illegally retransmitting their signals, and CBS has said it will sue in Boston when Aereo expands there.

“These public relations and legal maneuvers do not change the fundamentally illegal nature of Aereo’s supposed business," CBS said in a statement. "The issue of unauthorized streaming of copyrighted television programming is now being contested in the 2nd Circuit and the 9th Circuit, and wherever Aereo attempts to operate there will be vigorous challenges to its Illegal  business model.”

Aereo said that if CBS sues in Boston, it will amount to an attempt to re-litigate arguments it has already made unsuccessfully elsewhere.

"The fact that CBS did not prevail in their efforts to enjoin Aereo in their existing federal lawsuit does not entitle them to a do-over in another jurisdiction," Aereo said. "We are hopeful that any such efforts to commence duplicative lawsuits to try to seek a different outcome will be rejected by the courts.”

Aereo streams video by capturing live TV signals using antennas small enough to fit on a fingertip. Aereo says it puts "tons" of antennas in data centers and then relays the signals over the internet to laptops, phones and tablets.

The company relays ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, the CW, Univision and PBS, among other networks available by antennae, but does not relay cable channels. It has announced plans to move to 22 markets, including Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia.

It poses a threat to networks in part because it lets customers fast-forward through ads, which undercuts the traditional ad-sponsored TV model — a model already besieged by DVR viewing and Dish's ad-skipping AutoHop service.

Aereo says all it is doing is harnessing — on a massive scale — the power of the humble antenna, which has always given TV owners access to the public airwaves.