Home Analysis OTT plus terrestrial TV makes U.S. cord-cutting easier and Sling TV exploits...

OTT plus terrestrial TV makes U.S. cord-cutting easier and Sling TV exploits the phenomenon with hybrid AirTV device

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In the U.S., 2017 will be characterized by the rise of online Pay TV services, according to the research company Parks Associates. “While traditional Pay TV provides superior viewing quality, OTT video commonly excels in discovery, portability and personalized user experiences. Consumers care less about the network used to deliver the content than they do about access to the content, ease of use, and convenience,” says Brett Sappington, Senior Director of Research at the company.

Parks Associates has released new research showing that in the U.S. the likelihood of non-subscribers adopting Pay TV has declined since 2012, with half as many cord nevers adopting Pay TV in 2016 (2%) as there were in 2015 (4%). “The size of the cord never segment is slowly increasing,” Parks says.

A report from the market research and consulting firm, ‘360 View: Entertainment Services in U.S.’, indicates declining Pay TV satisfaction in each of the last three years. Only one-third of Pay TV subscribers are very satisfied with their Pay TV service.

Meanwhile, according to the Parks Associates ‘OTT Video Market Tracker’, 63% of U.S. broadband households subscribe to at least one OTT service and 31% of U.S. broadband households have multiple OTT service subscriptions.

However, it is not only OTT services that are a threat to traditional Pay TV. The report shows that the percentage of U.S. broadband households that use only antennas to receive TV [and so rely on over-the-air, terrestrial television] has steadily increased since 2013 to reach 15%. “This increase coincides with the drop in Pay TV subscriptions and an increase in Internet-only video subscriptions,” the company observes.

The combination of over-the-air viewing and what is being termed by some analysts, like Ampere Analysis in the UK, as a next-generation bundle of multiple subscription OTT services, is an opportunity that the new AirTV Player seeks to exploit. AirTV is a subsidiary of DISH Network and has launched a 4K Android TV-based streaming device that integrates free over-the-air channels (including local versions of ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC) with Netflix, Sling TV and YouTube in single experience. Purchase of the AirTV Player includes a $50 Sling TV credit, available to new and existing Sling TV users.

The AirTV device also includes the Google Play Store for access to thousands of apps, games, movies and shows. Other OTT services could be added. You can switch between terrestrial channels and Sling TV content without changing TV inputs.

AirTV describes itself as a brand that is dedicated to meeting the growing consumer demand for over-the-air products and services. It launched its $129 device at CES earlier this month together with a professional installation service. A nationwide network of licensed AirTV Pro Install technicians will identify and set up the best available indoor or outdoor antenna solution, based on a customer’s location.

The antenna installation is not an after-thought as the combined streamer/antenna option is being marketed as a full service. So U.S. consumers are being offered prices for indoor or outdoor antenna installations with a choice of two pre-selected antennas, with a promise that skilled technicians will arrive the next day.

“Americans are rediscovering free local, over-the-air TV for sports, shows and news, particularly given how well OTA complements popular streaming platforms like Netflix, Sling TV and YouTube,” says Mitch Weinraub, Director of Product Development for AirTV. “AirTV Player simplifies what has been a fragmented viewing experience and integrates a customer’s entertainment options in one easy-to-navigate app.”

Like Parks Associates, AirTV notes a rise in terrestrial viewing in the U.S, quoting Nielsen figures showing that nearly 14 million households in America watch over-the-air TV and that this market has grown 24% over the past four years. “The AirTV Player streaming device combines some of the fastest growing segments of the television ecosystem: streaming video platforms and live, over-the-air signals,” the company declares.

There is also a version of AirTV Player without the terrestrial antenna and this streaming-only device costs $99. Users add an over-the-air antenna that is sold separately and connect this to the AirTV Player via a USB AirTV Adapter, also sold separately.

The AirTV Player connects to a TV via HDMI. The device has a custom-built remote control (built by Universal Electronics) with dedicated buttons for Netflix and Sling TV and voice capabilities. You can control power and volume on any connected TV or sound system using infrared. The device will play 4K content available on Netflix and other apps in the Google Play Store.

Technicolor is building the AirTV Player. “We have over four years’ experience integrating Android technology into connected home devices,” says Luis Martinez-Amago, President of the Connected Home North America division at Technicolor. “This enables AirTV to offer consumers the ability to watch streaming and OTA channels without switching inputs, and utilizing the Sling TV interface to simplify the experience.”

This move by DISH Network follows the introduction last year, in the UK, of the NOW TV Smart Box (from Sky), which combines a terrestrial TV tuner with streaming technology. This means that the popular over-the-air Freeview service, Sky’s NOW TV Pay Lite offer and popular broadcaster catch-up services (plus some other streaming video) can be viewed through a single device without changing HDMI ports. The Sky box is fully integrated however – the terrestrial tuner is built into the device. You can read more about that product here.

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