Archives For Cord Cutting

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…

Channel Master just unveiled an $89 “smart” antenna, featuring “seven different reception patterns.” And I had the same question as you – what does that even mean? So I rang up VP Joe Bingochea to get some answers.

It turns out the company has partnered with Ethertronics to integrate a variant of their “active steering” technology, also implemented within Samsung handsets for years and years. The amplified SMARTenna+ incorporates a tuner and some digital circuitry that will automatically scan the airwaves at first power up and then polarize the antenna elements for max receptivity – in this case, they’re going with the highest channel count as the preferred “pattern” (and presumably, in case of tie, higher quality signals would prevail). However, Channel Master recognizes your favorite channel may be an outlier, so the button on the bottom of the antenna manually steps through those patterns, should one need to fine-tune… in the literal sense. As an analogy, Joe reminded me of those old, powered rabbit ears that sported a dial.

Of course, the pinnacle of this technology would be a bundled antenna and set-top to match optimal “pattern” with currently tuned channel on the fly – something it turns out Sezmi had actually implemented back in the day and something Channel Master may look to in the future. Continue Reading…

By way of Cord Cutters News, we learn that DISH subsidiary AirTV has inadvertently leaked upcoming product plans for at least one, if not two, DVR services. AirTV, of course, is designed to harness over-the-air television signals, with the first iteration displaying content locally and the newer edition implementing Slingbox technology to stream OTA around the house or around the world to apps on a variety of platforms including iPhone, Roku, Fire TV, and Apple TV.

While live antenna programming is nice, it’s also available on nearly every HDTV and “appointment television” is pretty darn limiting… so DVR capabilities would certainly enhance the value proposition of these offerings. Based on the pre-release marketing materials, it seems DISH will take divergent approaches in how they handle AirTV DVR based upon hardware model – but we’re reserving judgement until it all becomes official, presumably in the coming days as CES ramps up.

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By way of AFTVNews, we learn that DISH went back to the well.

AirTV was originally conceptualized as a network tuner designed to stream local OTA into SlingTV apps, on various platforms, alongside the premium content. However, what they ended up launching was a Playskool-looking Android TV box, with optional tuner, for local antenna TV playback only. But, for 2018, it looks like DISH’s AirTV LLC subsidiary has two new boxes on the docket.

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By way of Twitter, we gather Channel Master has licensed the Technicolor Skipper and is poised to introduce it as the Stream+ at CES in January. The Skipper is a 4K Android TV set-top box, with voice control remote, and over-the-air capabilities… which will hopefully see greater uptake as the Stream+ versus the competing and largely forgotten DISH AirTV, also produced by Technicolor. Stream+ joins CM’s OTA DVR+ in their post-antenna lineup. And given that DVR button on the Stream+ remote, perhaps we’ll be fortunate enough to see some interplay between the devices or even local recording capabilities via USB drive – in addition to requisite cord cutting streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu. Stay tuned!

Skipper details:

  • Out of the box industrial design
  • Android TV certified
  • OTT and Live TV services with optional Broadcast TV services
  • 4K Ultra HD: HEVC/VP9 Ultra HD 2160p/60 video
  • Wireless Connectivity: Dual band IEEE 802.11n 2.4 GHz (2×2) and IEEE 802.11ac 5 GHz (2×2) interfaces
  • Media sharing functions using a USB 3.0 port for plugging of HDD
  • Enhanced user experience with 3D graphics
  • Future-proof quad core CPU ready for gaming services
  • Bluetooth Low Energy remote with voice control

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Amazon Fire TV: Echo Edition

Dave Zatz —  September 13, 2017

As Apple continues to rest on its laurels, despite trailing the pack, Amazon is prepping an all-new Fire TV that mates their well-regarded video streamer to full-featured Alexa voice control. Like the Amazon Echo Dot, the incoming flagship Fire TV will incorporate a far-field microphone array, for always-listening capabilities, along with speaker output and the possibly iconic lightbar. Beyond the merged functionality you might expect, the new Fire TV seems likely to pick up a few Logitech Harmony Hub-esque remote control tricks given the included IR blasters… with hopefully a better reception than seen from the Xbox One. While timing and pricing remain uncertain, I’m willing to bet this tricked out 4K HDR 60fps digital media adapter will likely clock in lower than Apple’s $149 1080p aTV.