Aereo, a startup whose service allows users to watch digital streams of broadcast programming, is expanding aggressively despite legal challenges from broadcasters, and it has the cash to do it. Today, Aereo announced a $34 million Series C round of funding, saying it will use the additional capital to bring its service to new markets and to grow its staff.
At this time last year, Aereo's service, which includes the ability to pause and rewind live TV shows while watching them on internet-connected devices, was available only in New York City. Now it is available in nine other markets, including Boston, Atlanta, Denver and Salt Lake City. Aereo's founder and chief executive, Chet Kanojia, says he wants to bring his service into five additional cities by the end of this quarter.
"Aereo experienced tremendous growth in 2013 and we expect 2014 to be another blockbuster year," Kanojia wrote on the company blog. "Consumers are craving choice and options and as a result, we continue to see explosive growth across all our markets."
That growth has landed Aereo in hot water with big broadcasters, including NBC Universal, ABC and Fox Television Studios. Broadcasters argue that the startup is stealing and reselling their content. Aereo says the antennas it uses to capture broadcast signals are legally no different than to the ones people already use to watch TV in their own homes. Courts have sided with Aereo, repeatedly denying broadcasters' requests for an injunction that would force Aereo to shut down.
The startup continued to forge ahead even as its opponents appealed last month to the U.S. Supreme Court. Aereo's founder even indicated that he would welcome a judgment from the nation's highest court. "We want this resolved on the merits rather than through a wasteful war of attrition," Kanojia wrote at the time.
In 2013, Aereo debuted an Android app (it was already available on Apple devices) and more than doubled its staff. Now a group of both new and prior investors, including Himalaya Capital Management, Highland Capital Partners and FirstMark Capital, are placing a big bet that Aereo will continue to survive and thrive. "We are thrilled to have a world-class group of investors who believe innovative, cloud-based technologies, like Aereo, are the future," said Kanojia.
He will announce the Series C round of funding today at the Citi Global Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas.
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