Chet Kanojia, ME’93, (left) has a vision for television.
That vision happens to be nothing less than a total shake-up of the cable television industry. With his groundbreaking Internet platform, Aereo, Kanojia makes it possible for consumers to buy only the shows they want to watch, rather than subscribing to an entire cable package.
The company is already up and running in seven cities and has raised $60 million from investors.
Kanojia, who earned a master’s in computer system engineering, was the guest of Northeastern president Joseph E. Aoun (above, right) for the October installment of his Profiles in Innovation speaker series.
Kanojia gave a short presentation to a packed audience at the Raytheon Amphitheater, while another 100 people watched a live broadcast via the university’s Facebook page.
“I want to change how consumers access, pay for, and view TV,” Kanojia told the audience. “What if you could pick and choose what you want to watch, and pay a rational price for it without packaging restrictions?”
If this sounds too good to be true, well, it might be.
A host of media heavyweights—Fox, CBS, ABC, and NBC—have argued in court that Kanojia’s innovative business model amounts to taking copyrighted material the company doesn’t own and reselling it without compensating the copyright owner. Kanojia counters that the broadcast material is already in the public domain and available to anyone who has an antenna—his company is merely providing the antennas. Tiny ones that are about the size of a dime.
Kanojia won the first round in October when a federal judge refused to shut down Aereo, but the plaintiffs have vowed to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if needed.
Kanojia, who sold his first company, Navic Networks, to Microsoft for $250 million in 2008, says the idea for Aereo began “on the back of a napkin.”
In response to one question, Kanojia said the key to creating a strong corporate culture for innovation is to hire people who share your vision, provide them with “the best possible resources,” and allow them to “rely on their own judgment” to get the job done.