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Aereo to Launch in Boston on May 15

UPDATED: Debut Will Mark Aereo’s First Launch Outside of New York City 4/23/2013 5:14 AM Eastern

Aereo’s controversial TV streaming and cloud DVR combo will debut in Boston on May 15, marking its first launch outside of New York City.

Beginning May 15, customers who have preregistered will receive a special invitation to get the service, Aereo announced Tuesday morning. After May 30, Aereo will offer subscriptions to all eligible consumers in the Boston designated market area (DMA), which it puts at more than 4.5 million consumers and 16 counties in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.  Aereo's coming launch will also put the service squarely in Comcast country.

Boston is the first of several markets that Aereo is teeing up for the service. In January, Aereo announced plans to launch the service to 22 markets in 2013, estimating a potential total reach of 97 million Americans.  

Aereo, which employees 60 people in the Boston area, declined to say which markets are next in line, but the other cities targeted for expansion include: Minneapolis; Madison, Wis.; Cleveland; Providence, R.I.; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pa.; Chicago; Salt Lake City; Denver; Kansas City; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Atlanta; Austin, Houston and Dallas, Texas; Tampa and Miami, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Detroit.

Aereo’s platform uses an array of thumb-sized antennas to capture free, over-the-air broadcast TV signals and transcodes them before shuttling them along to customers via broadband. Aereo currently runs on iOS devices, the Apple TV (via Airplay), Roku boxes, and several browsers (Chrome, IE 9, Firefox, Safari, and Opera).

Aereo says there are 28 over-the-air broadcast channels accessible through Aereo's antennas in Boston, including WGBH (PBS), WBZ-TV (CBS), WCVB (ABC), WHDH (NBC), WLVI (CW) and WFXT (Fox); special interest channels such as The Country Network, PBS Kids, Ion and Qubo; and Spanish-language broadcast channels such as Univision and Telemundo.  Aereo's subscription package also includes Bloomberg TV.

In February, the Barry Diller-backed startup expanded service to 19 million people in the New York City metropolitan region, and backed that up with its first advertising campaign, with the tagline: “No Cable Required.”

Following a $38 million round of funding also announced in January, Aereo has raised more than $63 million so far.  Those funds will be used for the expansion and to help Aereo mount its legal defense.

Broadcasters are currently fighting a legal battle against the service, which delivers TV station signals over the Internet without payment. Aereo says it is not violating copyright laws because it is simply providing remote access to the free over-the-air signals its subs are entitled to.

Some broadcasters, Fox notably, have threatened to go to a cable-only delivery model if Aereo wins in court.

Fox and other broadcasters are seeking en banc (full court) re-hearing by the Second Circuit federal appeals court of the decision by a three-judge panel of that court not to prevent Aereo from streaming TV stations signals while a district court weighs the broadcasters’ challenge to that service.

(John Eggerton contributed to this report.)

September