Funding round scores broadcaster threat Aereo $34m

Over-the-air US retransmission service Aereo has secured US$34 million in its latest funding round to support “rapid nationwide expansion and increased investments”.

The news comes ahead of a key legal ruling in its battle against the US broadcasters over the legality of the service.

After the Series C funding round, Aereo now counts respected media investor Gordon Crawford and Himalaya Capital Management among its investors, which already include Barry Diler’s IAC.

Crawford – recognised as the man who forced the resignation of chairman Stephen Case following the disastrous merger of AOL and Time Warner during the first Dot Com boom retired from his Capital Research and Management fund last year after more than four decades of working on media mergers and investments in the likes of Comcast, Disney, Lionsgate and Yahoo.

The news will give Aereo’s management plenty of hope that a Supreme Court judge will rule that the service is not breaking the law by offering broadcast networks over the air for a fee, while not paying the content providers themselves.

ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC want the service shut down, claiming it violates numerous copyright laws.

Though they have so far been largely unsuccessful in their appeals, the legal issues have slowed down Aereo’s growth. It aimed to be in 22 US cities by the end of last year but only managed 10.

However, Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia claimed today: “Aereo experienced tremendous growth in 2013 and we expect 2014 to be another blockbuster year. Last year at this time, Aereo was launched in only New York City. Today, Aereo is available in 10 markets and will grow to 15 by the end of the quarter.”

Access to Aereo’s cloud-based antenna/DVR technology and 20 hours of programming storage costs US$8 a month as a basic rate.