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An interview with Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia on social TV

A few months ago, Aereo debuted in NYC, a Barry Diller-backed technology company that allows you to access broadcast television via iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Roku for $12/month. The idea of bringing linear broadcast to your devices and surpassing an MSO is pretty big and disruptive.

Like Napster, BitTorrent and other technology companies attempting to innovate and disrupt, Aereo is facing intense push back from local broadcasters. Regardless of the legal challenges they face, Aereo has a sleek design and user interface, an amazing DVR feature a mission to bring more TV to your devices and a genius CTO with engineering at his core. Chaitanya (Chet) Kanojia Aereo’s founder and CEO previously sold his company to Microsoft. We spoke with him about the social TV elements built into Aereo and how he thinks his product will make TV more social.

Lost Remote: What’s your background? How did you start Aereo?

Chaitanya (Chet) Kanojia: I am an engineer and because of that, I see the world through a different lens than most people. To me, engineering is the art of the possible. You imagine something and then you try to create it. Hopefully, along the way, you create something that has a meaningful and positive impact on people’s lives.

After my last company became part of Microsoft and I completed my tenure there, I wanted to create and learn again. I did some soul searching, and concluded that I loved the video business and wanted to grow another company. I’ve been associated with the cable industry for about 12 years and it’s been amazing to watch how the entire industry has evolved. What I’ve learned is that the industry evolved to what consumers have today largely because of accidents and limitations of technology. Most people don’t realize that the tiers and packages on pay TV grew primarily out of technical necessities. Understanding that history solidified the need in my mind, to develop a technology platform that enabled consumers to access TV online. If we could achieve that, I realized that the possibilities for consumers would expand and that our impact could be both meaningful and positive.

The idea that consumers are going to use the Internet for most things in their everyday lives, including accessing live television, is inevitable. Fundamentally, I believe consumers want choice and it was only a matter of time before someone would step up to provide just that. That’s how Aereo came to life.

LR: What social features are currently integrated with Aereo? How does the DVR work? Are your recordings saved locally to your device? Can you share snippets of video content that you’ve recorded?

Kanojia: At the moment, Aereo allows you to connect with your friends via Facebook and Twitter. You can discuss what you’re watching and see what your friends are watching. As we move forward, we’ll continue to integrate more social features to make our platform even more interactive.

When you join Aereo, you have access to an individual, integrated remote antenna and remote DVR that allows you access to live, free-to-air broadcast television on up to five different devices. Your individual remote DVR provides you with 40 hours of storage for your recordings, which are saved in the cloud and accessed by you on any of your Aereo-enabled devices. To better understand how Aereo works, you can watch this video, which shows you how the user-interface works. It’s simple, elegant and intuitive.

LR: How do you have access to the broadcast channels?

Kanojia: Aereo’s technology is truly innovative and enables consumers to have access to free-to-air broadcast television via a remote antenna and DVR on virtually any type of Internet-connected device, including smart TVs, smartphones, tablets and computers. The easiest way to understand it is to think of our technology as a combination of a DVR and those old-fashioned rabbit ear antennas.

Consumers have a fundamental right to access free-to-air television that broadcasts on the public airwaves. Technology has finally caught up and consumers today are able to more easily receive those television signals. Where Aereo really stands out is our technology’s simplicity. There is no application to download, no box to buy and no equipment to install. It’s free-to-air broadcast television, where you want it, when you want it, all controlled by you, the consumer.

LR: Where is Aereo available?

Kanojia: Aereo is currently available only in New York City.

LR: How do you think Aereo will contribute to the future of social TV?

Kanojia: How deeply consumers engage with social media is up to each individual, but the opportunities to enhance television consumption through social media already exist and are likely to expand – it’s something Lost Remote reports on everyday.

The Aereo platform provides easy to use social media features that enable consumers to engage socially while watching their television shows.

The company recently presented at NY Tech Meetup, where Chet boldly described how, “choice needs to be introduced into the market,” to access “quality TV.” You can watch the presentation at 1:02:33.

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