How Mohu Could Be as Disruptive as Aereo

Mohu Channels TV adapter

For all of the ink spent on Aereo (and I’m responsible for my fair share), the relatively quiet efforts of Mohu could end up being just as disruptive to the TV service market. Mohu has already had a successful run with its line of over-the-air TV antennas, but the company is ready to take its technology a step further. As Janko points out over at GigaOM, Mohu has just completed a Kickstarter campaign to help with the development of a new product called the Channels TV adapter. The adapter will combine OTA channels fed through an HD antenna (bought separately) with web video apps like Netflix and Hulu, and it will offer a personalized program guide including any channels and apps a user wants to highlight.

If Mohu can deliver a clean experience with the new Channels TV adapter – and that’s certainly a big if, particularly when it comes to switching between OTA and web content – the company will have a very compelling product offering. For the contingent of TV viewers who want broadcast TV and their $8 Netflix subscription, the Mohu device will put all of that content in one place on the living-room flat screen. Mohu isn’t offering DVR or multiscreen services (at least not yet), but it will appeal to the same audience with the Channels TV adapter as Aereo has with its monthly service. And with Mohu, there’s no additional monthly fee, and no cloud of legal drama. 

The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week from both Aereo and broadcasters on whether the start-up company is operating within the law. If the court decides Aereo’s approach to streaming OTA content without a licensing agreement is legal, then a chaotic mess will follow. Broadcasters will either move more of their content into the pay-TV bundle, or they’ll demand that pay-TV providers not move to the Aereo technology model as part of licensing deals that also include premium programming. Mohu, however, could give consumers much of what they want without that disaster. The immediate licencing revenue from pay-TV providers wouldn’t be threatened, which would give Mohu room to maneuver and grow. It’s an interesting alternative to the Aereo brawl that’s underway. And it will be well worth watching once Mohu brings the Channel TV adapter to market this summer.

13 thoughts on “How Mohu Could Be as Disruptive as Aereo”

  1. I could give up Cable, but there’s no way I could give up a DVR. Now even there I understand I’m in the minority? Or that most people watch a significant amount of their content live, even when they have a DVR at their disposal.

    So I think in theory you’re right to highlight this. Still seems like a small piece of the puzzle though. For those feeling like the Amazon Fire TV and apparently coming Google Android TV boxes add more undifferentiated boxes onto the pile (since nobody offers the “God Box” with everything you might want), is this box different enough?

    With the Android based its got a chance I guess. Sure there’s no Amazon Prime support, since they haven’t released an Android app yet. But most other things are available. I do wonder if it will be a repeat of the Google TV though, with content providers who were happy enough to let people watch on their phones decide to try and block this device from showing the same content on a TV set. I mean its not like every phone app supports screen mirroring/AirPlay etc happily. Lots of them don’t want anything that competes with cable. And many of these apps of course are moving to the TV Anywhere model where you’ll have to sign in with your cable login to use the app in the first place…

    I’m also not convinced by your argument that cable companies aren’t threatened by this unlike Aereo. The actual Aereo numbers are probably very small so far, same as this. And cable IS threatened by a renewed interest in OTA TV, whether through this device or just one of Mohu’s nice antennas. How they react will be interesting.

    Also the reaction to an Aereo win at the supreme court isn’t a given honestly. CBS has certainly SAID they’d pull their content from OTA in response, but whether they actually do that is another question. Like I said there really aren’t that many people using Aereo and this could definitely be shooting themselves in the foot for no good reason. And it isn’t obvious that those companies could get away with dropping their content from 15% of homes without massive revolt, potential loss of their transmission licenses etc. How it will all play out is complicated and would get very interesting.

  2. The problem with this product is the lack of DVR support. The only things I watch live anymore are a handful of sporting events. In fact I don’t think I know a single person that actually watches primetime TV shows as they air.

    Without DVR support I see this as a me too competitor to an already crowded field (Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast).

  3. This is essentially a one box solution, since the consumer could just use the TV tuner built in to their TV and a set top box like fire tv or a roku to achieve the same functionality. Personally, I don’t mind changing the inputs on my TV.

  4. All this device does is duplicate the functionality of a smart tv. A smart tv has apps to access OTT services, and a tuner to watch live television. *YAWN*

    Since the device uses HDMI, it’s not even like they are trying to combine a digital converter and a roku 2 for the dwindling NTSC TV crowd.

    If you have an HDMI port, you already have a ATSC tuner. There are much better boxes to hook up to your TV to get streaming options + other functionality. A smart blu-ray player most likely has netflix and huluplus apps (maybe amazon prime too), allows for playing files from USB storage, and also plays DVDs and blu-rays.

    How many things do you want to hook up to your TV? Another box is another remote, another port you need to have, another device to draw electricity.

  5. We very painfully cut the cord a few weeks ago. Added Hulu+ and Netflix to a Roku and a Mohu Leaf antenna. What we found out, is that in most instances, Hulu+ acts as a defacto DVR–if you miss a show it’s usually on Hulu+ the next day. The exceptions are NCIS and Big Bang Theory which I buy per episode from MGo. So Netflix and Hulu cost me $16/month, and the occasional episodes I buy are about $4-$6/month. Boom! Still less than my $85/month cable. I thought the DVR was going to be the hardest thing to give up…and I don’t really miss it. Channels has the advantage of being able to stream content from CBS’s website onto the TV without buying it a la carte.

  6. Mari went with a different angle than I might have… I’m most interested in the newly revealed buffer for pausing live TV – very interesting! And I wonder what the max duration is, as could I pause a show at 9PM and start watching at 9:20 to skip all the ads? Is this handled via internal flash storage or must I bring a USB drive? Either way, does this foreshadow DVR support? For comparative purposes, the Boxee Cloud DVR thing never enabled live television pausing.

  7. Hey Dave–I HIGHLY recommend the most recent episode of the Cord Killers podcast where Tom Merrit and Brian Brushwood talk to Chet Kanojia, CEO of Aereo who is amazingly straight-talking for a CEO and does a VERY good job of covering the ground.

  8. OTA is a big problem is much of the US – unless you’re putting an antenna on the roof, it’s not a given that you’ll be able to pull in every channel. Hence the 90% pay TV penetration rate in the US – more about reception than anything else.

  9. Tivo’s do most of this already, go into the search and you will find out if the Show is OTA and or if it’s on Netflix or Hulu Plus. Oh, it’s DVR too.
    i like Mohu’s products, but this idea seems headed for the dustbin that has Google
    TV in it.

  10. I think DVR will be added sooner than later. It will be a bring your own hard drive of course. At launch you can at least pause for 30 min and connect a hard drive to stream your own media content. I will be adding this to my version 2 which I use as a whole world DVR.

  11. @Glenn – those numbers you site from Fierce Cable are an estimate as well as a press release that someone paid Fierce to run- see the bottom of it, it doesn’t even pretend not to be a press release.

    Other numbers – Leichtman etc., show that pay TV numbers are only down 0.1 – 0.2% in 2013 and holding steady at close to 90% – . Articles about cord cutting get lots of clicks, but every one I’ve seen that heralds cord cutting as a verifiable phenomenon with numbers greater than 1% uses “estimates” or “projections” rather than hard numbers.

    Not to say it’s never going to happen, but it hasn’t yet

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