What Is Aereo Streaming Video Service? FAQ

Aereo basics

Aereo is a video provider with a very simple proposition: Instead of attaching an antenna to your TV, you can watch television broadcast through an Internet service.

Aereo comes with its share of useful features and maddening caveats. Whether you want to know whether Aereo is the right service for you or you're looking to get the most out of your existing subscription, read on to learn a few interesting facts and useful tips about this unusual way to stream video.

What is Aereo?

Aereo is a video streaming service. But unlike others, such as Netflix or Hulu, Aereo does not deliver individual shows on demand. Instead, it taps into local and network TV broadcasts from channels such as NBC, CBS and Fox. If you turn on Aereo to watch NBC, you'll get NBC straight, no chaser, complete with commercials and an inability to restart a show if you tune in halfway through — the same as watching regular TV.

What can I watch with Aereo?

Pretty much what you'd expect from network TV: CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, CW and PBS are available just about everywhere. Other channels vary by region. In New York, for example, you can get the NYC Life and NYC Gov channels, while Atlanta has three religious channels. Aereo won't replace a cable subscription: There's no AMC, ESPN, Showtime, etc.

Do I need an antenna for Aereo?

The short answer is no. When you subscribe to Aereo, the company will set up an antenna for you at a remote location, then stream the content to you. If you want to cut out the middle man, you can get a decent HD antenna for about $40, but that still ties you to your TV every time you want to watch "The View." In addition to ensuring a high-def signal, Aereo allows you to watch on your PC, laptop, mobile device or, with some finagling, your TV.

Can I record shows with Aereo?

Yes. A default account will give you 20 hours of storage space to record whatever shows you want. The only catch is that you can only record or watch one show at a time — if you want to watch two programs in the same time slot, forget it. An upgraded account, however, will let you record two shows simultaneously, or watch one and record one, and give you up to 60 hours to store them.

Is Aereo an app?

Aereo is a streaming, cloud-based service that requires an Internet browser to work. Roku and Android have dedicated Aereo apps, although you can still run it through the default browser on an iPhone or iPad. Other devices require workarounds: AppleTV users can watch Aereo through AirPlay, game console owners can watch Aereo through PlayOn and Chromecast users can simply plug the device into their TVs and sync their Chrome browser to it.

Can I watch Aereo anywhere?

Not exactly. Aereo isn't a central data server that farms out content like Netflix. In order to satisfy copyright laws about broadcast TV, Aereo purchases an antenna and sets it up in a central location in a supported city. At present, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio have access to Aereo, with almost 20 more cities on the way. You can only watch Aereo if you're in the area where you'd normally be able to receive antenna broadcasts — if you sign up in New York, for example, Aereo will lock you out if you try to stream from the middle of nowhere. You can still access your Aereo programming if you use a proxy server to fool it into thinking you're nearby.