Last week the U.S. Supreme Court's decided that Aereo, the New York City-based startup that let customers stream TV to their Internet-connected devices, was violating copyrights. Three days later, on June 28, Aereo decided to pause its service. But plenty of other companies are still providing consumers with the basics of Aereo's service: providing broadcast TV channels' programming to computers and mobile devices. What services are best poised to notch a big win from Aereo's big defeat?
This service, started by a serial entrepreneur outside of San Francisco in 2012, is very much like Aereo with two crucial differences: it requires a set-top box, like the one a cable company provides, and moves the antenna inside your home home. But connect a HDTV antenna to the $199 Simple.TV box, and you can record and stream network programming.
Pros: There's no subscription needed.
Cons: Requires not only a physical, in-home antenna, but also a pricey router-connected box, which can limit the box's placement.
Underdog status: Simple TV is a scrappy, 30-person startup with $5 million in venture-capital funding. Consumers who liked Aereo's David stature, in the battle against Goliath broadcasters, will like supporting Simple.TV.
This in-home box system allows users to use wireless Internet connections to stream network-broadcast shows to Internet-connected devices. This means a Tablo box can go anywhere in the home--well, anywhere with a power source. Customers have a choice of paying either a $5-per-month subscription fee, or $150 for life.
Pros: Flexibility. And the review site Digital Trends calls it a "slick device with a sweet interface."
Cons: Doesn't connect directly to an existing television, so an additional device--say a Roku or Apple TV--is required to view programming intercepted by a Tablo-connected antenna.
Secret weapon: Doesn't limit users to watching at home.
Like Aereo, FilmOn offers over-the-air channels through a website and mobile apps. Unlike Aereo, it's free--and offers a lot more content, including original programming. The company behind FilmOn was founded by Greek entrepreneur Alki David, and has a broad international audience, including 20 million monthly users in the United States.
Pros: It's free.
Cons: The bulk of content can be overwhelming to consumers--and while it's easy to find a local Los Angeles station, or check out a Russian broadcast, finding a local sports game within minutes is a challenge. Pre-roll ads can be a viewing deterrent.
Très chic: Big in Europe!
Customers can buy an assortment of slick indoor and outdoor antennas directly from Mohu, a startup based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Its best-selling Leaf indoor antenna is the prototypical modern antenna--a bendy, black, sheet-of-paper-sized device that's easy to install on just about any surface. Plus, Mohu's "Channels" project is an interface that will let users choose what they want to view, in a TV-guide style layout.
Pros: Slick design, made in the United States. In a New York City neighborhood, a Mohu antenna can receive up to 81 channels.
Cons: It's just an antenna. And in some portions of the United States, the $40 basic indoor Leaf will pick up exactly zero channels--in such places, a pricier, $150 Sky HDTV Outdoor antenna is required. And Mohu Channels doesn't allow DVR-like storage or playback.
May the force(s) be with you: Mohu started as a military contractor, developing high-performance antennas for the armed forces. Keep an eye out for future innovations from these guys.
It seems so basic, but it's true: The simple TV antenna is back for cord-cutters. RCA, an original pioneer of not just antenna technology, but also color television, is launching a campaign to re-familiarize consumers with the good ol' antenna. It's set up a website called TVSetFree.com to help market its "Ultra-Thin HDTV Indoor Antenna."
Pros: Today's Antenna is thin and flexible--and not as finicky as those rabbit ears of yore. But, just like it always did, in most of the U.S. an antenna gives your TV network-broadcast programming, anytime. No cable subscription, set-top or Wi-Fi box required.
Cons: You still need a TV set. And then another $50 for the antenna.
Can't shake: That old-school feeling.