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After Supreme Court ruling, Aereo’s rivals see opening

NEW YORK — Mark Ely saw an opportunity, and he took it.

The day after the Supreme Court ruled against Aereo in a copyright case brought by major broadcasters, Ely was trying to scoop up Aereo customers by promoting Simple.TV, his startup, on social media.

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“Former Aereo customer? Join the Simple.TV Family,” the company wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

“We’re telling Aereo customers: ‘Your favorite service is going away. Here’s an idea that isn’t,’ ” said Ely, who started his company in 2011.

The television establishment still has much to worry about after its Supreme Court victory on Wednesday over Aereo, the digital startup that had threatened to upend the economics of the media business.

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“Television is a castle filled with money,” said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer at Vivaki, Publicis Groupe’s digital marketing unit. “People are trying to get into that castle and take some money.”

But while the court’s decision broadens the moat, traditional broadcasters still must find ways to defend themselves against an array of companies that want to give viewers an alternative to their model.

Eager for a piece of the $167 billion American television market, dozens of companies are offering options for the growing number of viewers known as cord cutters, who are canceling their traditional pay-television subscriptions.

The providers range from Hulu, which broadcasters own, to Amazon, Google, and Netflix, all of which offer cheaper streaming alternatives.

Other companies, including Sling Media, TiVo, Simple.TV, and Mohu, sell hardware that allows viewers to stream television to digital devices.

And Aereo may yet stick around; the company said Saturday that it would pause its service temporarily as it sorted out its options but that its journey was “far from done.”

“I don’t think you are going to find a silver bullet to disrupt the broadcast industry,” said Kenneth Lerer, a venture capitalist. “I think you are going to find a lot of little bullets.”

Aereo and its battle with broadcasters overshadowed the efforts of several other startups that offer ways to watch free over-the-air television on cellphones, tablets, laptops, and Internet-connected televisions.

Those companies are now trying to grab the spotlight after the Supreme Court ruled Aereo violated copyright law by capturing broadcast signals on tiny antennas and transmitting them to paying subscribers.

Ely started Simple.TV months before Aereo’s 2012 debut. Ely noticed a growing number of people were watching TV shows and movies online but did not have access to live television programming like news and sports. His idea was to sell a “private TV server” that plugged into an antenna, hard drive, and Internet router.

With Aereo, subscribers paid $8 to $12 a month to rent dime-size antennas stored in a warehouse. Users could then stream near-live television and record programs.

With Simple.TV, people buy their own antennas and the $199 Simple.TV box. Users can record programs on a hard drive. The company also sells a premium service with features like automatic recording.

Mohu also hopes to grow. It sells over-the-air antennas and offers a streaming service and has sold 1.5 million high-definition TV antennas to consumers.

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