It's a short list of innovations that have changed the way people watch television — cable, the videocassette recorder, the DVD player, and, most recently, the DVR.
Now, startup Aereo wants to add its name to that list. In the age of all things going online, the company delivers live TV content on the Web inexpensively to customers.
Aereo built a service that grabs free, over-the-air signals broadcast by affiliates of major networks. Company engineers developed a dime-sized antenna — a tiny version of traditional rabbit ears — and set up thousands of them in locations around the country.
Then Aereo streams the programming to consumers on their computers and mobile devices, via a Netflix-like website. Viewers in 11 US cities, including Boston, can subscribe for $8 a month. Aereo targets customers who want to eliminate cable bills or even part ways with their TV sets.
The behind-the-scenes engineering for the service all took place at Aereo's office in the South Boston Innovation District, which has 80 employees. The company has a smaller staff at its headquarters in New York City.
Cheap and convenient is a powerful combination. But Aereo faces issues beyond technology. The legality of the company's basic business has been challenged by broadcasters in a case before the US Supreme Court.