Dish's Sling TV stole the show with its $20 alternative TV package, but PlayStation Vue is coming soon, Netflix is certifying TVs and just about everybody is streaming. Here are the big home video trends of CES 2015.
David KatzmaierEditorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
ExpertiseA 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics.Credentials
Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
Watch this: Dish launches new Internet TV service with Sling TV
LAS VEGAS -- Home video at CES 2015 wasn't so much about the hardware as what you can watch on it, how much it will cost, and whether you can drop your cable subscription.
For the past few years as more online services deliver shows, movies and even live TV, the home video landscape has shifted from discs to streams. Now everybody and their grandmother watches Netflix, and once you spend an hour on the phone to explain to Grandma how to hook it up, chances are she'll love it.
But Netflix and other streaming services like Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus have always followed the on-demand, episode-by-episode model. Only recently, with apps like Watch ESPN, Sky TV, Bloomberg TV and CBSN, has live TV via the Internet entered the, um, streaming mainstream.
Sling TV by Dish changes the live TV game
The new Sling TV subscription service was easily the most important home video announcement at the show, and may prove to be the most important announcement of CES 2015, period.
It's a $20 per month subscription that includes cable staples ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, TBS, TNT, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. You can't DVR your way through commercials on Sling TV, but otherwise it sounds just like having those channels available via a cable box.
None of the major TV networks (CBS, ABC, Fox, etc.) are included, but if you add Sling TV to an over-the-air antenna and/or subscriptions to Hulu Plus or CBS All Access, you're pretty close to a basic cable package for far less money. (And let us note, for the record, that CNET is a division of CBS.)
Sling TV's launch date isn't firm beyond "the next few weeks," which is around the same time Sony's competing PlayStation Vue service (confirmed last November) will debut. Initially only available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles, Vue will offer a wider array of channels but is expected to cost around $60.
Both services make it easier than ever for existing subscribers to cut the cable cord, or for new, younger subscribers to actually afford live TV.
Netflix certifies TVs, streams HDR
The biggest name in streaming had a couple of key announcements at the show. Its new Netflix Recommends program will single out TVs that deliver a "a superior Internet TV experience" according to Netflix' criteria, which include ease of use, better performance and new features. Major TV manufacturers including LG, Sony, Sharp, Vizio and manufacturers of Roku TVs will have products out this year that will be certified by the program.
Netflix will also begin streaming HDR (high dynamic range) content this year. No other details were announced, but given how impressive HDR has looked in demos, and the buzz it generated at the show, we're excited to see what Netflix has in store.
Other news: 4K Blu-rays and Joeys, TiVo, ChannelMaster, and Tablo
The arrival of 4K Blu-ray players and discs isn't expected until the holidays 2015, but that didn't prevent at least one manufacturer, Panasonic, from showing a prototype 4K Blu-ray player.
Dish will introduce a 4K Joey in the second quarter as an add-on for its existing Hopper whole home DVR system. The satcaster calls it the world's first 4K set top box. There's no word on what kind of 4K content Dish has in store, but judging from the 4K offerings of DirecTV and Comcast (which will itself launch a 4K set-top this year), we don't expect a whole lot at first.
TiVo will be changing its iconic Season Pass feature to something called OnePass, coming in February. The idea is to integrate TV recordings from cable TV sources right alongside streaming video from places like Netflix and Amazon Prime. All available episodes of a particular show, regardless of source, can then be displayed next to one another on TiVo's My Shows list for easy binge watching.
Separately, TiVo also showed us an updated version of its antiquated Android app.
In another interface integration, over-the-air DVR maker ChannelMaster announced that its program guide would combine regular channels with streaming services, namely like Vudu, Pandora and YouTube.
Another of our favorite OTA (over-the-air) DVR makers, Tablo , has a new $249 piece of hardware called Tablo Metro . Billed as the first dual-tuner DVR with internal antennas, it's aimed at people living in, well, metro areas where the signals are strong and access to the roof is iffy at best. Perhaps better news for network DVR fans is Tablo's improved Roku app.
Other biggest names in streaming video like Roku, Amazon, Google and of course Apple were largely silent at the show, beyond new Roku TVs and Android TVs. Announcements regarding new 4K content, HDR notwithstanding, were also basically nonexistent. We expect plenty more big home video news later in the year, but for now it's safe to say Dish ruled the category at CES 2015.