Archives For Cord Cutting

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…

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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