Dish Network’s Dish DBS Corp. officially launched its AirTV service Wednesday, an over-the-top, over-the-air service that gives customers access to dozens of over-the-air broadcast channels across multiple devices inside and outside of the home.
Dish originally introduced AirTV late last year in a limited soft launch of the device to test consumer interest. The company had also earlier debuted the AirTV Player, an Android TV based streaming device that allowed access to over-the-air content as well as Netflix, YouTube and apps on Google Play. The AirTV Player is still available – Dish also officially launched a cloud DVR for that product Wednesday, which it beta-tested earlier this year.
The AirTV is a sleek portable box that connects directly to a home broadband connection utilizing Dish’s Slingbox technology to offer broadcast content both at home and on the go.
With AirTV, free local channels, like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS, are available for viewing via the Sling TV or AirTV app on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and iOS and Android phones and tablets. Local channel availability depends on the OTA signal availability at the user’s home location. In many major markets, customers can receive 50 or more local channels for free.
There is no monthly charge for AirTV. Customers just have to buy the equipment, which retails for $119.99 and the service can be integrated into an existing SlingTV subscription – meshing with the customers other pay TV channels – or as a standalone. Customers don’t have to subscribe to Sling TV to use the Sling TV app for the broadcast service.
“Customers can mount their antenna connected to AirTV wherever the signal is strongest, whether it’s tucked away in an attic or hidden behind the living room TV,” AirTV director of product development Mitch Weinraub said. “AirTV wirelessly streams to AirTV-enabled devices visible to a home Wi-Fi network, so there’s no longer a need to run cables across the home to get OTA signals.”
Existing Sling TV users can integrate AirTV directly into their accounts. Customers can also set up a free Sling TV account to access their local channels via AirTV, or create a free account with the stand-alone AirTV app.
The AirTV device also eliminates the need to wire multiple rooms with individual antennas – the box connects devices and TVs throughout the house via WiFi connection. The AirTV box also can be located anywhere in the house – making for optimal antenna placement – and up to two streams are available inside the home. One of those streams can be viewed outside of the home.
Weinraub said SlingTV hasn’t offered broadcast channels in the past specifically because of the cost and hassle for customers. Local broadcast channels can be pricey – he estimated that the typical pay TV customer spends between $10 and $15 per month to receive broadcast stations via their pay TV subscription.
“That’s a lot of money,” Weinraub said. “Our goal is to not make them pay that when they don’t have to.”
The device also helps Sling TV avoid retransmission consent fees – the national service has no carriage deals with local broadcast channels. Customers who buy an AirTV box also have to buy an antenna – which can vary in size from shelf units to roof-top mounted devices and can be purchased separately or through professional installers -- to access channels for free over the air.
The AirTV box is available for purchase on Amazon.com, through regional retailers like Microcenter and via the AirTV website. Weinraub said Dish is talking to other retailers like BestBuy and hopes the equipment will be available through their stores soon.
With about 14 million homes without a pay TV subscription and more and more households cutting the cord every day, Weinraub said AirTV believes the market is ripe for the product. And he added that most customers don’t understand the level of content that is available for free over the air. In addition to the major broadcast networks ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, My Network TV, the CW and PBS stations, some metro markets have 50 or more digital channels available, ranging from station-affiliated networks like MeTV and Acorn TV and movie channels and lifestyle channels. In the New York area alone, 72 channels are available over the air in SD and HD quality. Customers can determine which channels are available in their areas via the AirTV website.