We often jump on newly released gadgetry, as we’re wont to do, and my co-conspirator Adam Miarka just picked up the recently unveiled Tablo Dual Lite over-the-air DVR given his dissatisfaction with Plex DVR playback (as run from his Synology DS218+ NAS). The Tablo primarily records shows his toddler requires (hello Daniel Tiger and Ready Jet Go). While Tablo hasn’t yet provided a feature to offload recordings, Adam is running the community-produced Tablo Ripper from a Windows laptop to hoard move recordings from his smaller Tablo external drive to a Plex directory on the more capacious and aforementioned NAS. Tablo Ripper can be run as a service and does integrate with commercial skip software, but Adam’s keeping things simple by running on demand (and PBS doesn’t show a whole lotta commercials). From the NAS, Adam streams shows to his Apple TV Plex app and I suspect he’ll eventually get around to Plex iOS downloads for network-free mobile entertainment before the family heads out on their vacation.

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One of the best bang-for-your-buck televisions last year was the TCL P Series, combining exceptional visuals (given the price point) and a top flight app platform in Roku. Unfortunately, the company cancelled plans for multiple sizes, simply shipping a single 55″ set that was occasionally unavailable due to demand (and perhaps production bottlenecks). TCL has now reloaded with the 2018 iteration, rebranded as the 6 Series to avoid Vizio lineup confusion, and early reports from CNET and Chris Heinonen are promising. And, beyond quality, the 2018 model is available in two sizes… with immediate Amazon availability:

As my household’s primary entertainment these days consists of children’s programming and cable news, this sort of set is right up my alley. OLED just wouldn’t get frequent enough appreciation to justify the expense. However, as with the 2017 model, the 2018 VESA mounting points are too low on the television to fit well into our family room. As such, I’m waiting to see how the 2018 Vizio range and Best Buy Fire TV televisions, stack up.

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).

Apr 11

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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As Apple’s original video production costs reportedly balloon past a billion and given recent music video app consolidation, I wonder what sort of distribution methods the company will employ when content begins arriving in 2019. Will these shows be accessed via an Apple Music subscription (as Carpool Karaoke is) similar to Google Play Music with YouTube Red and to better take on Spotify, sold independently via iTunes, or packaged within an entirely new video streaming offering? The latter strikes me as unlikely – for comparison, Netflix had millions of customers before venturing into original content (and marketing still remains a challenge). Might they employ a multifaceted approach that also includes syndication to a Hulu or leverage existing partner Disney, with its own upcoming streaming service? And then there’s the episodic question – all at once like Netflix or a weekly trickle like CBS All Access and Hulu?