Who in the US can use Aereo’s new TV streaming service? (map)

Services like Aereo, which streams popular TV shows to mobile devices for $8 a month, are poised to disrupt the cable and satellite bundles through which most Americans consume television. The service is live in New York City and Boston, and Aereo promises it will soon be available in Atlanta and 21 other cities. But for roughly 50 million urban Americans, Aereo won’t be arriving anytime soon — and millions more face a looming threat of the service being shut off soon. The reason for this relates to the country’s court system, which is explained below, but first here’s a map that shows where Aereo-like services are legal and where they’re not:

Click to enlarge. Map by Rani Molla.

Click to enlarge. Map by Rani Molla.

The map shows how nine western states, covering nearly a third of the country, are ineligible for Aereo. The reason for this is a federal judge’s decision in Los Angeles last December to shut down a would-be Aereo competitor at the copyright request of broadcasters. The shut-down order doesn’t cover just LA but the entire 9th Circuit (the largest of the country’s 11 court circuits). While the order doesn’t shut down Aereo directly, it effectively has that effect since the same type of technology is in play.

The map also highlights the Second Circuit (New York area), where an appeals court gave Aereo the green light, and two places where Aereo’s services are in jeopardy. The first is Washington, DC, where the broadcasters recently sued Aereo’s competitor, and the other is the First Circuit where broadcasters have threatened to file a lawsuit to stop Aereo in Boston.

In the other areas, the legality of TV streaming is unclear. This will all take months or years to sort out and could wind up at the Supreme Court. In the meantime, western Americans eager for new ways to consume TV will have to watch from the sidelines. (If you want to see the inside of Aereo and its tech, we have some photos here.)