Why I Gave Up On @Aereo

imagesOld-TVI’m a big proponent of trying new technologies, particularly where television is concerned. I have a Hulu Plus account, a sub-account on Netflix, and the minute I found out about Aereo, I signed up for a subscription. But I don’t have it any more, because it was unreliable and when I tried to approach Aereo about getting some kind of consideration for that fact, I was completely dissatisfied with their response.

Aereo, for those who don’t know, is a product that allows you to get an aerial television signal through your computer. And DVR the broadcast shows that you want to save and watch for later. Sounds awesome, right? And it was, for the first month or two, but then shows I tried to watch live started hanging up/lagging. Dramatically. So did the shows I had DVR’d. Speed tests on my Time Warner cable line actually revealed that the speeds were perfectly in line with my internet subscription (shocker!) and should have been enough to support the highest quality video, let alone the lowest-bandwidth video quality, which by that point was all I was using (in an attempt to avoid lags). (Note: no idea if this is still the case, thanks to the courts gutting Net Neutrality and the FCC recently indicating that pay-for-play is going to be the wave of the internet’s future.)

So I went to the company and asked what was going on. Could they fix it? Since we rapidly determined they couldn’t, were they willing to refund the rest of my subscription month? I certainly wasn’t happy to pay for a service that didn’t work, even if it did let me watch SCANDAL in real time with the rest of Twitter.

But no. They weren’t willing to refund the month that it hadn’t been working. They weren’t even willing to refund the remainder of the billing month pro-rata. They offered a $2 credit, which for the several hours I had spent trying to fix the problem was laughable, particularly given that I had to reiterate my problem with every email and correct multiple incorrect assumptions on the part of their “service” staff. In fact, although they had been billing me steadily, they said that my account had expired (which they later retracted).

To add insult to injury, even though Aereo uses broadcast signals to obtain your content, it limits your ability to access that content outside of your home area. In other words, if I DVR something in New York City, I can’t play it when I travel to another part of the state, let alone another part of the country, even though if I had a TV I’d be able to access these nationally-broadcast programs no matter where I went. At the time of my subscription, this wasn’t made clear before subscribing, though they may have changed this in the months since I left the service.

As much as I approve of alternatives to expensive cable contracts, I don’t approve of companies who take consumer’s money without delivering as promised. I was willing to support Aereo as an emerging technology, early on, because (at least until the FCC kills net neutrality even deader than it appears to be at the moment) we need alternatives to costly cable packages that deliver a minimum of engaging programs.

But if your product doesn’t work as advertised, and you’re dismissing customer concerns and unwilling to negotiate equitable payback for under-performance (or lack of performance), I’m going to stop supporting it. Fast. And let my friends know not to bother, too.

So while Aereo is currently garnering headlines (not to mention Supreme Court cases) and becoming something more people consider purchasing, it’s not a service I can recommend. Having spoken to a couple people about their plans to subscribe, I realized that not everyone is aware of the abysmal customer “service” they offer, and wanted to put this out there for public consumption: unless (and until) their customer service and quality of service improve, I really don’t think this company is the one to follow where this innovation is concerned.


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Edit: This morning (4/25/14) I woke up to an email from Chris McKay, Director of Customer Care & Billing for Aereo, Inc. Chris has offered to refund the full month’s fee for my final month of Aereo service, which I’ve accepted, so now it is just a matter of waiting for the refund to hit my account. I appreciate his reaching out and being interested in resolving the situation.

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