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AirTV aims to make antenna TV easier, more mobile for $120

Are you a cable TV cord cutter who thinks an antenna is too much of a pain? Here's a new option.

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AirTV

If you're looking to save money on TV, you've probably already considered slapping up an antenna and seeing what comes in. But to do it right requires extra gear.

Unless you already have an antenna distribution setup, you'll need to get one, or hook up a separate antenna for every TV in the house -- and some of those TVs may be in rooms without good reception. Unlike streaming services, you can't watch antenna TV on your phone, and you can't pause it or record it to a DVR. And the interface is nonexistent or archaic at best.

Plenty of devices already exist that address those problems, bringing antenna TV into the modern age, and the latest is AirTV. This $120 box is made by a subsidiary of satellite broadcaster Dish Network, which also owns the Sling TV service. AirTV connects to a single antenna and delivers free broadcast TV from that antenna pretty much anywhere you want. 

So why would you pay $120 for over-the-air TV, something you already get for free? Convenience. Here are its main capabilities.

  • Two tuners, so you can watch two different channels on different devices simultaneously
  • One tuner can be watched outside the home, for example streamed to a phone, anywhere in the world
  • Connects and streams using your home (wired or Wi-Fi) network
  • No monthly charge for program guide data
  • DVR capability, via a connected hard drive or USB stick, coming later this year
  • Watch on a TV, phone or tablet via the Sling TV or AirTV app (no Sling subscription required)
  • Works with Roku, Amazon Fire TV ($70 at Amazon.com), and iOS and Android phones and tablets, with more devices coming soon
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The AirTV connects to an antenna to distribute live TV to your TVs and devices.

AirTV

In a recent demo of the device, Mitch Weinraub, director of product development for AirTV, summed it up to me simply: "It's like a router for free TV." 

Since it's a networked device you can stash the AirTV behind your television or in a closet, or anywhere it's convenient to attach the antenna. It uses your network to stream that antenna signal out -- much like the original Slingbox, also owned by Dish -- to your Roku, Fire TV, phone, tablet or other compatible device, where you watch the antenna feed, change channels and (eventually) control the DVR.

You can choose either the official AirTV app, which just interfaces with the device itself, or the Sling TV app. It works even if you don't have a Sling TV subscription -- which start at $20 per month -- but Sling subscribers can get Sling's standard channel offerings integrated alongside antenna channels. 

The solution neatly sidesteps a big criticism of Sling compared to other live TV streaming services such as DirecTV Now ($35 at AT&T Wireless) and YouTube TV ($40 at Google Store): lack of local broadcast channels, namely ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. The Sling TV + AirPlay combo costs more up-front, but like Sling's competitors it provides a one-stop solution for live TV. Especially once AirTV's DVR comes online later this year.

Of course AirTV has its own competition, including Plex's DVR (in combination with an antenna tuner), Tablo (which requires a monthly fee for many features, including out-of-home streaming) and HDHomeRun with network capabilities, and Channel Master DVR+ and Stream+ for single TVs.  And don't confuse it with the AirTV Player, a single-TV device that debuted last year, is still available and integrates Sling TV with Netflix.

The AirTV is shipping now. 

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