Apple TV Gets Its Own DVR, Courtesy of Tablo

Want to watch and record live network TV with your Apple TV? You can, some time this spring — if you also own a Tablo DVR, that is.

Ottawa-based digital video recorder maker Nuvyyo is using this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to preview a new Apple TV app for its Tablo DVR, which will allow users of the device to watch live and recorded TV programming from networks like ABC, CBS or Fox without the need for a cable subscription.

Tablo has been selling its networked DVR for some time. The $200 device uses an over-the-air antenna to record broadcast programming, and then stream it to phones, tablets and TV-connected devices. Tablo previously released apps for Chromecast, Roku, Fire TV and Android TV, and also announced a new app for LG’s webOS smart TVs at CES this week.

The Tablo DVR is primarily targeting cord cutters, and it’s still a bit of a do-it-yourself solution: Consumers need to attach their own hard drive to the DVR, and there is a $5 a month subscription fee for TV guide data that’s necessary to schedule recordings for up to 14 days in advance.

Still, by tapping into over-the-air broadcast signals, Tablo is offering what Apple itself wanted to do for a long time: Live broadcast television on Apple TV devices for consumers who don’t want to commit to a traditional pay TV bundle.

For years, Apple tried to strike deals with broadcasters and cable networks to offer its own TV service through Apple TV devices. Negotiations went nowhere in part because Apple was looking to include local broadcast networks, which meant that the company not only needed contracts with the big networks, but also countless local affiliates.

After giving up on an all-encompassing TV service, Apple has resigned itself to the idea of TV as an app ecosystem, and is instead offering apps from broadcasters and cable networks alike. Most of these apps do however require consumers to sign in with their pay TV credentials, while others are based on stand-alone subscriptions.

Tablo’s Apple TV app is the first to squarely target cord cutters with live TV on the device, which goes to show that startups sometimes can solve problems that are too complicated for the big guys to tackle.

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