The Scoop on AirTV
In the middle of December of 2016, DISH Network leaked a few details about its latest offering to the cord-cutters – AirTV. But, we had to wait until CES 2017 to finally get a good look at the product. And from the looks of it, it can be a game-changer in the industry. For one thing, it has combined streaming service, cable programming, and Over-the-air (OTA) local channels into one irresistible package that is sure to revolutionize the television entertainment experience for viewers.
DISH Network brought a paradigm shift to the streaming industry when it launched its Sling TV service. At the time of its launch, it was the first of its kind to offer live television for streaming. It was now finally feasible for the cord-cutters to completely give up their cable connections. They could enjoy cable programming on the Sling TV app, and tune in to on-demand services like Netflix or Hulu, when they felt like it. It really was a huge step for the industry as a whole. Now, AirTV is taking this game to another level altogether.
At its core, AirTV is a streaming media player that runs Sling TV. But, calling it just a streaming media player is a gross understatement. In addition to running Sling TV, the streaming player from DISH brings you on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and so on. But, that is not where its awesomeness ends. It does something that no other streaming service has been able to do before – offer local channels.
That’s right. AirTV combines live TV of Sling TV, on-demand services of streaming services, and the highly desirable local programming.
AirTV runs on Android TV. This means that it is capable of running all the streaming services that are available in the Google Play Store. Whether it is Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Now, or something else, if it is there in Google Play Store, then AirTV will run it for you.
The device itself is compact and occupies as much space as an Amazon Fire TV. It comes with a remote control that features a good selection of buttons on it. It even has dedicated buttons for Netflix, and Sling TV. Switching between cable programming, OTA channels (local), and streaming services is a seamless experience and not distinguishable at all.
If you get OTA channels like NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, CW, and others in your location, then AirTV will enable you to tune in to them using an add-on device. AirTV comes with an optional OTA USB adapter, which is fitted with an antenna. Once you plug in the adapter, the local channels broadcasted in your area will immediately appear in the Sling TV guide. You can select the channel you want to enjoy right there, be it broadcast channels or cable channels. Even the movie catalogue of Netflix appears right in the Sling TV app, making AirTV the most convenient all-in-one solution for TV viewers.
AirTV is presently available at a starting price of $100, including the remote. If you want to buy the optional USB antenna separately, it will set you back by another $40. But, the AirTV + USB Antenna combo is available at a discounted rate of $130. When you buy the device, you get a $50 credit toward Sling TV. Although the device comes with Sling TV and Netflix pre-installed, and it is not mandatory for you to subscribe to either of the services. In fact, if you want to catch the local channels with AirTV, then all you need is the USB antenna. That being said, you are buying AirTV to enjoy the best of what cable, streaming services and OTA channels all have to offer. So, it would be a waste of money if you only use it to enjoy local channels.
Subscribing to Sling TV, or the streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others will cost extra, as per the standard plans offered by those services. To recap, AirTV is not a bundled service, but an integrator that has managed to bring three different TV entertainment media sources on a single platform. And it does a masterful job at it.
AirTV will be directly competing against some other products that will be looking to make it big this year. Mohu AirWave, Tablo Droid, and Tablo Live will all be integrating antenna-based local channels with streaming. AirTV enjoys a unique position as a service from the satellite TV provider Sling TV. Whether that position will help it in any way against the competition, only time will tell.
It should be noted that AirTV is not the first device which combines live TV with streaming. In fact, we can already enjoy this on most of our smartphones. We can install a streaming service like Netflix, and a TV service like Sling TV, and enjoy what both have to offer. But, AirTV differs in one crucial aspect – ease of use. AirTV is designed for the not-so-tech-savvy among us. There are a lot of people who want to cut the cord, but are not comfortable using smart devices. For them, AirTV is a game-changer. Its simple design and easy to use remote allows such users to enjoy the very best of television entertainment, without having to master any smart devices. To make things easier for them, DISH is even offering them an installation service. At this very moment, AirTV is an unbeatable deal.
Although there is no doubt that AirTV is a great substitute for a cable connection, it is bereft of some crucial features, just like the streaming service Sling TV. DISH has yet again failed to introduce the much-awaited DVR capabilities. Some of you might know that DISH is experimenting with cloud DVR service, which is still in beta phase. Ergo, AirTV features neither the local nor the cloud DVR capabilities. Note, however, that it is still a great offering, despite the absence of a DVR feature.