With Aereo offline, how will online video viewers access broadcast TV?

Now that Aereo has suspended its operations as it figures out it next move, online video viewers are left with a gap in their streaming content. How can they access TV shows that they can no longer get via the SVOD provider? Actually, there are plenty of options.

Besides hooking up an HD antenna, an increasing number of cable and local broadcast channels are available for online viewing. For example, Univision streamed World Cup matches for free, unauthenticated, until the quarterfinals matches.

Many cable channels post at least some of their content online; more can be accessed by authenticated subscribers, but sneak peeks and previews are available on channels like Fox and Discovery.

Hulu makes many major broadcasters' shows available a day after they air. Users can watch ad-supported content for free on their desktops, while console or streaming device users must subscribe to Hulu Plus.

Local news stations often stream live feeds of their broadcasts online, allowing for desktop viewing.

As FierceCable reported, FilmOn is still alive and kicking despite an injunction against it, trying to refashion itself in the streaming world. The company announced a new package available in 18 cities that offers broadcast content to paying subscribers, with owner Alki David saying that broadcasters must now treat the provider like a cable company and negotiate retransmission fees.

And of course, if one is willing to wait 60 to 90 days, many television series are made available on Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) or Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) Prime Instant Video for straight-up binge viewing.

Those are some of the legal options. What should be worrying content providers and MVPDs alike is the continuing prevalence of not-so-legal services, readily available to Internet users.

VPN masking--creating a virtual private network that "spoofs" or provides an IP address different than the one a user actually has--is a popular enough workaround that Hulu took steps earlier this year to ban certain IP addresses. It clearly hoped to prevent viewers outside the U.S. from accessing its streams, but how well it succeeded is debatable. U.S. viewers likewise can mask their IP addresses to access content streamed in other countries, finally allowing them to get their BBC iPlayer fix.

Torrents are another thorn in the side of providers, with users accessing them to download just-aired or otherwise unavailable content. It's so prevalent that torrent streams of specific content have become unofficial barometers of a show's popularity--with HBO's Game of Thrones topping the list.

Even with more options available than ever before, online video viewers without a pay-TV component will continue to have a hard time getting an affordable lean-back component to their experience. And that will only encourage less-legal options.

"The reason Aereo existed and became so popular was because it filled a real and growing consumer need: the freedom to watch the TV they want at a price they can afford--something cable companies couldn't deliver," said Mohu CEO Mark Buff in a ZDNet article. "Even without Aereo, consumers still feel this way, which will continue to drive the 'cord-cutting' movement forward."

 For more:
- ZDNet has this story

Related articles:
Report: VPN masking is online video's open secret, and a pay-TV threat
Aereo temporarily halts operations
Aereo: Columnists question SCOTUS' tech chops, ruling's impact on DVRs
Hulu cracks down on VPN masking to block access by non-U.S. viewers

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