Aereo: First Impressions

I have updated this post to add some Aereo channels.  Notably, Aereo has added Movies! which is an excellent 24×7 movie channel.  I noticed that the current version of Playon adds an Aereo channel.  I’ll be reactivating my Aereo account to test this.  The results will be documented here and this entry will be linked from a new post to ensure people see it.  Great summer for cable cutters in New England! 

I received my invitation to try Aereo on May 27, 2013.  By this time, Aereo had already changed their pricing plan.  Instead of getting two antennas for $80 per year, I would get one antenna for $8/month or two antennas for $12 per month.  That’s about an 80% increase in price!

Aereo actually costs more than $12 per month.  Assuming a two television home, Aereo requires a Roku for each set.  The least expensive Roku is the 720p LT which costs $50.  The flagship Roku 3 costs $100 and my favorite Roku 2 XS costs $80.  (All of these are Wal-mart prices.)   And you will need fast internet.  Fairpoint charges me $45/month for high speed internet.  If you also need VOIP phone service, that will probably add $10/month to your bill.  The Rokus are warranted for 90 days, but let’s assume you get a year of service out of them before they fail or you decide to upgrade.  $12 + $45 + $80 * 2 / 12 = $70 per month.

I called Comcast to see what a similar configuration would cost.  They recommended the Triple Play with the Digital Starter tier of programming.  That plan costs $144.95/month plus $7/month for a modem/router, plus $32/month for a pair of HD DVRs, plus taxes and franchise fees that could not be calculated in advance of my purchase.  $144.95 + $7 + $32 +? = 183.95 + ?

I called DirecTV next.  DirecTV recommended their Entertainment package.  With two DVRs, that came to $101 per month plus taxes they could not specify until I checked out.  $101 + $45 + ? = $146 + ?

Last call was to Dish Network.  They offered me their America’s Top 120 package with two DVRs for $57 per month.  That price included all taxes.  $64 + $45 = $110

Even after almost doubling their price, Aereo is still the least expensive option.

Let’s compare programming (I’m going to leave off digital music, religious, foreign language, and shopping channels as well as ‘west’ incarnations of the same channel for this comparison)…

Channel  OTA Aereo Comcast DirecTV Dish
A&E X X X
ABC Local Weather X
ABC News Now X
ABC Family X X X
AMC X X X
Animal Planet X X
AXS TV X X
Aztec America X
Baby First TV X X
BBC America X
BET X X
Biography X
Bloomberg X X X
Bravo X X
Comedy Central X X X
CMT X X X
CNBC X X X
CNBC World X
CNN X X X
COZI-TV X X X
C-Span X X X
C-Span 2 X X X
C-Span 3 X
CW  X X X X X
Discovery X X X
Disney X X X
Disney Jr. X X
Disney 😄 X X
Documentary Channel X
E! X X X
ESPN X X X
ESPN2 X X X
ESPNU X
ESPN 3D X
Food Network X X X
Free Speech X
FUSE X
Fox News X X X
FX X X X
G4 X
Golf X X
Game Show Network X X
Hallmark X X
Hallmark Movie Channel X
HGTV X X X
History Channel X X X
Headline News X X X
Horse Racing TV X
Investigation Discovery X
Independent Film Channel X
ION X X X X X
IONLife X X X X X
Lifetime X X X
Lifetime Movie Network X
LinkTV X X X
MeTV X X X
MoviePlex X
Movies! X X
MTV X X X
MTV2 X X
NASATV X X
National Geographic X
NBC Sports X
NBC Weather Plus X
Nickelodian X X X
OWN X
Palladia X
PBS Create X X X
PBS Explore X
PBS Kids X X X
PBS World X X X
PBS WENH X X X X
PBS WGBH X X X X X
PBS WGBX X X X X X
Qubo X X
REELZ X X
RFDTV X
RTV  X X
SOAPNet X
SPIKE X X X
Style X
SyFy X X X
TBS X X X
Turner Classic Movies X X
TeenNick X
ThisTV  X X
TLC X X X
TNT X X X
TOON X X X
TruTV X X
Travel Channel X X X
TV Game Network X
TV Guide Network X X X
TVLand X X X
The Weather Channel X X X
USA X X X
Velocity X X X
VH1 X X X
WBIN X X X X
WBZ X X X X X
WCVB X X X X X
WE X X
WFXT X X X X X
WGN America X
WHDH X X X X X
WLVI X X X X X
WMUR X X X X
World Harvest Television X
WSBK  X X X X X

Obviously, Aereo has the least programming and Comcast has the most.  Aereo has less programming than broadcast.  Aereo has informed me that they have no plans to announce new programming at this time.  Note, though that Aereo has programming not found on the premium services.  ThisTV, MeTV, RTV, Movies!, and Cozi are great channels.

Cost and programming are pretty objective things to consider, but there is another aspect of television that is just as important — the user experience.  On this front, Aereo falls flat on its face.

For starters, the user interface is two dimensional — channel-by-time or time-by-channel.  You scroll across a row of channels for a time or a row of programs for a channel.  I much prefer the channel-by-time-by-program grid.

Programming is organized as shows.  You cannot sit in front of the television and watch for hours on end.  When a show ends, you are dumped back to the program guide.  Aereo doesn’t actually know when a program begins or ends, so you may be dumped before the end of a show or after a show begins.  Once dumped to the guide, you have to wait for the next block to begin before you can start a program in that block.  It’s only seconds, but it feels like forever — especially if you were dumped from the beginning of a program or before the end of a program.  Aereo says they are working on continuous channel viewing.

When recording programs, you can adjust the beginning and end of a program, but only from a PC.

Aereo does some nice things for the user.  You can watch Aereo on a PC or tablet.  It’s almost worth $8/month to be able to take the ball game out to the pool.  If you are using a Roku, you can stream videos from a lot of the programs which are only on premium providers.  You can also play movies off a thumb drive or usb disk.  Recorded programs are available wherever you access Aereo.

Finally, the picture quality is excellent.  During heavy downpours that pixelated and disconnected my broadcast channels, Aereo only suffered picture quality degradation and occasional pauses.  During these downpours, I found Aereo very watchable.

If cannot recommend Aereo at this time, but it is a welcome addition to our entertainment ecosystem.

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7 comments on “Aereo: First Impressions

  1. Pingback: Aereo One Month Later | The Beer's on COMCAST!

  2. I have a question or 2 for you about this review. I am an Aereo subscriber and I like it, but you mention thing about it I didn’t even know. I’m wondering if Fox Movies! you talked about is region specific cause if it’s not I don’t know how to access it. I watch on PC only (I’ve considered getting a Roku, but I haven’t done it) is it maybe available through Roku only?
    You stated ” If you are using a Roku, you can stream videos from a lot of the programs which are only on premium providers.” Can you be more specific? Depending on what extra content I’ll get I might decide a Roku is worthwhile for me. Is the content different from using Playon? I’m not familiar with Playon, but I own a Wii U so I may look into that instead.
    You also stated “You can also play movies off a thumb drive or usb disk.” What, how? That could be useful. Can you do that by plugging the USB drive into a tablet?
    Thanks

    • Fox Movies is a broadcast station that happens to be rolling out to the same cities as Aereo. In my market (Boston), Aereo carries Movies!

      I hope I said Playon. Check out the channel list on Playon.tv. We like to check in for the Food Network, the History Channel, and Free Hulu, but there are a lot of other options. CBS and Fox classic channels carry a lot of great shows from my youth.

      You can use your Wii with Playon, but the Wii is SD not HD, so the quality is not as good.

      I use the free Nowhere USB channel for playing files off a usb disk. It has a ‘play all’ feature that will continuously stream your video files. If you name your files correctly, it will stream correctly, you can watch an entire season or a series of movies without having to interact with the Roku or TV. I prefer this to swapping DVDs in and out.

      I do not think you can easily stream files off a tablet.

      Lots of Roku info here…

      http://rokufordummies.wordpress.com/

      • Thanks for the quick response. It’s actually a Wii U, not a Wii that I have so I will be able to watch in HD. I love Aereo and I downloaded Playon last night, but I hesitated for the $60 pricetag to register it so I can’t actually use it right now. I might do it tonight though. I’d love to be able to watch Aereo and free Hulu and CBS.com episodes on my tv instead of my computer.
        Thanks,
        Leo

  3. It was more when I hesitated. I demo’d Playon three times before handing over my money. We still do not use it much, but we got our money’s worth a long time ago. BTW, consider getting the playon/playlater bundle for $10 more.

    When is the last time you spent an evening with Phoebe Figalilly? Try it for a month then cancel if you are not at least intrigued.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. I will be reviewing Simple.tv in the next couple weeks. If you are interested in stuff like this, follow me on twitter…

    https://twitter.com/ota4me

  4. Pingback: ABC, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., 13-461 | The Beer's on COMCAST!

  5. Pingback: Aereo Trimming Staff | Free TV For Me!

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