My NYC visit, with Aereo

Aereo program gridLast week, I took the opportunity to visit New York City for a week of sightseeing with the family. Notice the comma in the title; I didn’t get to meet anyone from Aereo, the streaming TV and virtual DVR service. but I used the occasion to sign up and try it out.

As my recent misadventures with nimbleTV would suggest, I find the NYC over-the-air channels to be the best set of local OTA channels anywhere. Not only do they include all of the major networks, they also have one of the best live sports schedules plus a heap of interesting subchannels. Unlike nimbleTV’s old lineup, Aereo includes Cozi, this, Movies!, Antenna, Bounce, PBS Kids, Qubo, and Livewell.

There’s one major drawback to Aereo – you can only sign up for the NYC locals if you are in the NYC market and have a credit card with a NYC address. As I sat in my hotel, I satisfied the first requirement, but the second took a little work since Aereo politely declined my offer to present myself in person. I bought a Visa gift card from a nearby drugstore, then logged on to register it. (Turns out that Vanilla Visa doesn’t want to know your home address, but you can add a Zip Code if you want.) Armed with that card, I created a new Aereo account using the true, physical address of my hotel, complete with room number. Bingo!

After my return to FTABlog World Headquarters in Denver, I discovered a second major drawback to Aereo – it refuses to work when you travel outside your “home” market. Even though my account was still good, Aereo noticed that I was out of town and refused to stream even the programs I recorded while I was in NYC, never mind live TV. Considering that just days earlier I was watching Denver OTA TV from my NYC hotel room (via a Slingloaded Dish Network receiver), I was surprised. I wonder whether a proxy service would solve that issue. Hmmm.

Let’s talk about the Aereo experience. First, Aereo is a great deal at $8/month just for its cloud-based DVR and ability to stream to mobile devices. Live TV and playback of recordings were smooth and easy using my laptop with the hotel’s wifi and using my iPhone’s LTE.

The landing page highlights upcoming shows seemingly at random but with nice graphics. Its guide, embedded above (click it to see full size), is pretty crummy, with low-contrast program titles in a vague grid. The good news is that it’s easy to type in program names using a helpful autocomplete to search for and schedule what you want, but to see what’s on now, it’s much weaker than TitanTV or any other real listing service. FilmOn‘s lack of any similar grid is even worse, but nimbleTV’s horizontal scroll was noticeably better. The recordings window is clean and simple, and it includes episode titles. Playback is easy, and as I said, worked well using either the hotel’s wifi or my iPhone’s LTE signal.

Aereo plans to expland to more markets, and I’m looking forward to its arrival in Denver. Meanwhile, I’m glad I had a chance to try it out.