Archives For Cord Cutting

While Best Buy often functions as an uncompensated showroom for online sales, given massive Alexa and Fire TV displays, the big box store is clearly a valued Amazon retailer. As such, the two companies have announced a significant partnership expansion that sees Best Buy replacing Roku on Insignia house-brand sets with the Fire TV experience. Also, interestingly, Best Buy will not only sell these televisions in-store but optionally through Amazon.com for the first time.

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Hot on the heels of Philo announcing plans for Fire TV and Apple TV apps comes testimony word that AT&T will soon launch Watch. To hit the $15 price point, these two over-the-top streaming services provide fewer channels and do away with sports-centric programming that drives up licensing costs. For comparison, Sling TV starts at $20/mo … with ESPN. And most bundles run significantly more (although include a broader channel lineup, with local networks in many markets, and additional features like unlimited DVR from YouTube TV @ $40/mo). On the flip side, Philo will provide access to bundle networks’ dedicated apps and corresponding library of on-demand content — even the skinniest of bundles may be more appealing and cost-effective than individual network subscriptions. Sorry CBS All Access ($6/mo).

Nuvvyo, the company behind Tablo and a ZNF advertiser, has just updated their headless OTA DVR line up with the Tablo Dual Lite. However, there’s not much “lite” about the new dual-tuner unit other than a significantly lower price point than the Tablo Dual.  Whereas the Dual retails for $220, the Lite weighs in at a competitive $140 — more in line with transcoding HDHomeRun pricing. In fact, in some ways the Lite (MSRP $140) exceeds the capabilities of the original Dual (MSRP $220) — sporting a slightly better tuner, with integrated demodulator, and slightly better AC WiFi chip that may result in some minor real-world performance improvements when confronting marginal broadcast or wireless coverage scenarios. What you’d be giving up is the integrated high-quality 64GB eMMC storage, good for about 40 hours of HD recording. However, with external drive pricing so low there’s really not much downside. And, in fact, the Tablo Dual Lite offers a free trial of the company’s new Cloud DVR.

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Sure enough, as leaked back in January, AirTV OTA DVR capabilities have been enabled to record antenna network television shows – think. The feature is currently available, in beta form, to original AirTV Player hardware … vs AirTV placeshifting hardware, which may receive support in the near future.

AirTV began rolling out a free open beta test of its new “Local Channels DVR” for AirTV Player customers. The Local Channels DVR requires an external storage device to record free over-the-air (OTA) channels (like ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC) received via an OTA antenna and AirTV Adapter. The new feature joins Sling TV’s in-app Cloud DVR and gives users access to recorded OTA programming alongside recorded OTT content.

AirTV, a sister subsidiary of Sling TV under satellite television provider DISH, lays out all sorts of beta caveats here – along with several USB drive recommendations, ranging from 64GB to 1TB of storage. So the good news is the clever service is free, at least for the moment, and the hardware is affordable at about $100. However, it is early days here and I don’t imagine the DVR functionality compares to Tablo and TiVo’s years of experience and (tuner counts).

Tablo, the headless OTA DVR pioneer, treats customers to a nice update this week in the form of performance enhancements and “advanced” recording features. Specifically, scheduled recordings now offer pre- and post-show padding — to add 10 minutes to that awards show or an hour to the Super Bowl to account for incessant instant replays or overtime. Further, subscribers can specify the number of season pass recordings to keep and which channel to record a given show from. Sure, these features aren’t exactly new to us TiVo owners… but it’s not like TiVo owners can watch television on our Rokus. And, with up to 8TB of storage, introducing recording count probably wasn’t such a high priority.

Beyond the DVR scheduling enhancements, the other headliner here is a new technical implementation that enables somewhat faster live television startup. Unlike a typical HDMI-connected device, Tablo ingests the live OTA signal, transcodes the video, and then streams it out on the fly (somewhat similar to Slingbox or the transcoding HDHomeRun hardware, minus the WiFi). So while it’s a more versatile solution, it’ll always be a step or two slower than channel surfing a traditional set-top or antenna-connected television. And anything they can do to speed it up is appreciated.

Beyond doubling down on cable television capabilities at CES, Silicon Dust also announced an upcoming cord cutter DVR. While the company has produced network tuners, basically forever, and been iterating on DVR software recently, the upcoming HDHomeRun Connect DUO+ is the first to merge both solutions within a single box, along with a hard drive. As such, the two-tuner Duo+ includes 250GB of storage, good for 60hrs of HD antenna recording. As opposed to TiVo or Channel Master, the Duo+ is more Tablo-like in that it’s a headless device that streams content through various platform apps, like Roku and Fire TV. Beyond claims of a mid-year release and reference to a DVR subscription fee (currently $35/yr), timing and pricing remain elusive.

As TiVo puts the finishing touches on their CES experience, we can clearly see from the “booth” signage (above) that they’re expanding beyond newly introduced native voice control to embrace third parties. While TiVo “Vox” offers far deeper integration and control, including stacked commands, than Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can provide, those offerings are always-listening (for better or worse) and already installed in many TiVo customer’s homes… and options are good. No word yet on availability, but I assume this will come to all Hydra-endowed retail units and whichever MSOs choose to integrate (who may be limited by regional availability). Continue Reading…