CBS threatens suit in anticipation of Aereo’s expansion into Boston

CBS Aereo

The spat between Aereo and broadcast networks will continue in the courtroom eventually, but the two sides are taking to other avenues to jostle for public attention. CBS tweeted that it would “be there to sue (Aereo)” if the latter’s upcoming expansion to Boston goes through.

The tweet came directly from CBS executive vice president of communications Dana McClintock, who also happens to hail from Boston. On the one hand, he stated that “stealing our signal will be found to be illegal in Boston,” and on the other, he took a shot at Aereo’s performance by alluding that “if Aereo’s business is as successful in Boston as it’s been in New York, it has its own problems to deal with.”

The latter remark is aimed mainly at Aereo’s reluctance to disclose how many subscribers it currently has. But his overall comments come as a response to Aereo’s earlier announcement that it will officially expand to Boston on May 15, the first market outside of its home base in New York. McClintock hasn’t elaborated further on the initial tweets, nor made any other public comments about Aereo since.

Aereo pulls in over-the-air broadcasts that are freely available and then pushes them to computers and iOS and Android devices over the Internet. The channels include all the top networks, including CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, the CW and others. The company makes money by charging a subscription fee to use the service, which is part of the bone of contention broadcasters have. The other is that Aereo allows viewers to record content and also fast-forward through commercials. Aereo does not transmit any cable channels.

The expansion to Boston is just the first phase in an aggressive rollout that will see 21 other markets gain access by the end of the year. Some of these include big cities, like Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston and Washington, D.C.

Aereo recently took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to plead its case and gloat over its court victories against broadcasters, but also to point out that it’s only offering an alternative to viewing content that is already available through other providers.

For now, the fight could go to Boston, but there’s a real chance this saga will be see more protracted public relations skirmishes with each successive market Aereo expands to this year.

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