For Independence Day, 1,000 Free TV Antennas for Aereo Customers

A St. Louis company that celebrated the Supreme Court decision against Aereo by calling for people to join in "dancing on its grave" promotes free over-the-air TV.

To celebrate Independence Day, a St. Louis company is offering 1,000 antennas (with installation accessories) that capture over-the-air digital TV signals for free to Aereo customers losing service in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that said networks that create the content must be compensated by the reseller.

On Tuesday evening, Antennas Direct posted the offer on its website and Facebook page. It says the purpose is to give Aereo customers "their independence to free broadcast television" in the form of an antenna with a 50-mile-plus range that retails for $129.99.

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This follows a controversial blog posted by company president Richard Schneider right after the court decision was announced titled, "Ding-Dong, Aereo Is Dead."

"Aereo," reads the blog post, "a non-moneymaking hobby backed by bloated investors is dead. Finally."

"Aereo investors say they have no plan B," says the blog post. "And we are so grateful for their arrogance, poor planning and illegal business model. We invite you to join us today in dancing on Aereo’s grave. Three cheers for free TV!"

The spokesman says they have gotten some negative feedback, especially from some former Aereo customers.

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On the Antennas Direct Facebook page, one post grumps: "Rejoice???? The supreme court decision is just more evidence of how much the cable companies influence our government. I will not pay a premium price for a bunch of channels I won't watch and a crapload of advertising."

The spokesman says most of those who reacted negatively don’t seem to understand they are supporting the continuation of over-the-air broadcasting, which is free to the viewer.

Antennas Direct, a privately held company founded in 2003, sold about 600,000 antennas last year. It has seen sales rise about 80 percent during the first half of 2014, according to a company spokesman.

He attributes the sales rise to an increase in people either not subscribing to cable TV or replacing cable with a combination of over-the-air local stations and streaming services (that require only a broadband connection), such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and technology including Roku, Sling Media and Simple TV.

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To get the free antenna, former Aereo customers must upload a copy of their bill to prove they really are Aereo subscribers, and pay a $10 shipping fee.

The Antennas Direct spokesman admits that this is primarily a promotion to get the word out and encourage those who do not qualify for this offer to buy the product. Antennas Direct does little advertising, so it depends on word-of-mouth and publicity for sales.

While an antenna won’t work in rural areas from where broadcasts are beamed, the spokesman points out Aereo primarily operates in cities where the 50-mile range of its device is well within operational limits.

Antennas Direct has pulled other publicity stunts in its efforts to let people know that over-the-air remains a viable alternative to paying cable for local TV stations. In May, it delivered a sheet cake to Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia after it was declared the worst company in America in an online survey. The cake’s lettering sarcastically thanked Comcast for "all the business," and urged it to "stay the course."