NEW YORK – The courts may have killed Aereo TV’s efforts to offer cord-cutters and mobile device users over-the-air local TV signals, but that hasn’t deterred a number of alternative solutions for ditching cable, satellite or telco TV subscriptions.
The biggest of these new challengers is TiVo, which recently revealed its Roamio OTA, billed as a scaled-down version of its Roamio DVR for cable systems, optimized instead for receiving free TV signals.
TiVo said the $49.99 box will be released exclusively in limited quantities through 500 select Best Buy locations starting Sept. 14.
Similar to the previous base-model TiVo Roamio unit, the Roamio OTA essentially swaps out the QAM digital cable tuners for four ATSC “over-the-air” broadcast tuners.
The new model also keeps the RF remote, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and all the streaming services of the more robust Roamio box.
More importantly, the newer scaled-down Roamio OTA has a much lower purchase price than its $199 cable sibling.
The TiVo Roamio OTA isn’t subscription free, however. It still requires TiVo’s monthly $14.99 fee to receive a program listings service, and doesn’t provide for the option of an up-front lifetime service plan available to many other TiVo models.
The new device also does not support viewing on displays other than the one connected to the HDMI port on the box, requiring a separate TiVo device to access recorded content on other screens in and out of the home.
It therefore lacks support for handheld smart devices, which the Aereo service made its primary target.
Alternatively, a company called Tablet TV has started a beta launch in the San Francisco area in partnership with the KOFY-TV station, owned by Granite Broadcasting, for an untethered live television tablet solution.
The system, for which pricing wasn’t announced, is designed to put the ability to watch and record all subscription-free, live HD television anywhere directly onto tablets via an over-the-air signal transmitted to a small antenna.
Tablet TV will look to provide those TV services that Aereo TV tried and ultimately failed to deliver.
Tablet TV pointed to data from Frank N. Magid Associates showing an opportunity to reach 33 percent of tablet owners with an offering like Tablet TV’s.
“Given that almost half of the current U.S. population with Internet access owns a tablet, or about 110 million people, the scale of the opportunity is clear,”
Tablet TV said in a statement. Tablet TV will make it easy to watch and record live, free, HD broadcast TV, any time and anywhere, video-on-demand movies and programs, integrated social networking, and access to everything available on the Internet.
Tablet TV will provide premium movies or TV shows on demand without the need of an Internet connection or cellular service plans.
But Internet-connected viewers can access social- media capabilities such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., where users can learn and chat about the video content of interest.
The Tablet TV start-up kit consists of a T-Pod, powered by ePICT (which acts as an antenna), and an app which is downloaded to the tablet. The T-Pod connects wirelessly with the tablet and the app enables the Tablet TV user to navigate Broadcast TV channels, record programs, and access VOD offerings.
Other previously announced cord cutting solutions include the subscriptionfree Channel Master $399 DVR+ with 1TB of storage for 160 hours of HD recording. A $249 “driveless” version is also available for those who would rather add an external hard drive.
For streaming, Channel Master’s solution provides access to Vudu, but an optional Wi-Fi dongle is required to connect to a network.
Another solution for viewing OTA channels on smart devices comes from the EchoStar’s $299 Slingbox 500, which will send TV signals received in the home out over the Internet to a smart devices with a viewing app.
SimpleTV also offers a dual-tuner OTA and OTT solution. The two tuners can be set to either ATSC (for off-air) or Clear QAM (for unencrypted digital cable) reception. It connects to a display via an internet connection and to a smartphone, tablet, or Amazon Fire for direct playback from the device. To view programming on a standard TV, a connection to a smartphone, tablet or set-top media players connected to the TV, must be made.
SimpleTV allows DVR functionality with an optional out boarded hard drive, and runs $249 for the unit and a one-year subscription. A “Lifetime” service plan is available for $399. The device does not include built-in Wi-Fi and must be connected to the internet via an Ethernet connection.
MyWayTV from Voxx Accessories’ Terk brand is an integrated set-top device that marries a Terk 360-degree TV antenna for urban and near-suburban areas with a hard-bundled Roku streaming stick.
The $169 device offers consumers free HD over-the-air broadcast programming and streaming programming in one solution.
The Roku Streaming Stick connects to the MyWayTV set-top via an MHL-compliant HDMI input. The box will then connect with an HD-ready TV.
The MyWayTV bundle includes connection cables, a system remote and the Roku Streaming Stick.