The average product manager or chief revenue officer might quietly find their adrenals working overtime if their fledgling tech firm courted controversy from the outset and found itself embroiled in a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. But that hasn’t stopped New York tech startup Aereo from raising a lordly $34 million in Series C, which it plans to plough into expanding its streaming television service to new markets.
Born in controversy
The major network broadcasters took an early dislike to Aereo after its launch in 2012, chiefly because they took exception to a young upstart (ahem, startup) daring to transmit their programming without licensing agreements. So the copyright infringement lawsuits began, and those product manager adrenal glands might just have got busier.
But to be frank, Aereo’s product manager Noam Rubinstein has betrayed no sign of a nervous disposition and the company’s CEO and founder, Chet Konojia, seems positively bullish. He’s been unwaveringly confident that his firm has been operating well within the law and has actively welcomed the move to put the broadcasters’ appeal to the Supreme Court. Until December, when the move was announced, Aereo had been firefighting (and winning) different lawsuits in different regions; a Supreme Court decision is now expected later this month.
In a recent interview, Konojia said:
“We demonstrated the law was on our side [from the start]. And since then we’ve demonstrated it four times. Obviously that adds to the confidence.”
Full steam ahead
And the confidence appears to be shared by the startup’s backers. Original investor Barry Diller (Chairman of IAC) was joined by media investment supremo Gordon “Gordy” Crawford and Chinese human rights activist Li LU, the man behind Himalaya Capital Management.
Aereo streams local channels using tiny antennae and offers 20 hours of cloud-based DVR storage to let users copy the programming for their personal use, all for $8 a month. And its (so far successful) argument is that its customers have a right to view and copy.
While the law suits have slowed down Aereo’s expansion plans, it still managed to roll out its service beyond New York to 10 additional markets in 2013, and plans to launch a further five by the end of Q1 2014.