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Dish’s New AirTV Device Is a Connected Tuner for Free Broadcast TV

Dish is doubling down on cord cutting: The company’s AirTV subsidiary introduced a new device Wednesday that allows users to watch free live feeds from broadcast networks like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox on TVs and mobile devices around their house and on the go. Later this year, AirTV plans to add DVR functionality to the device as well.

AirTV, as the device is simply called, retails for $120, and comes with a $25 credit for Dish’s Sling TV streaming service. That combination is no accident: Sling TV has since its launch primarily focused on cable channels, and shunned broadcast networks for its most popular bundles.

The AirTV device is a networked TV tuner, which means that it doesn’t plug directly into a TV, but instead streams local programming over Wifi. AirTV now allows Sling TV subscribers to pipe in local stations directly into their Sling TV app, adding free broadcast TV to Sling TV’s cable network bundles.

Consumers who don’t want to subscribe to Sling TV can also opt to watch their AirTV’s local broadcast feeds in a dedicated AirTV mobile app, or sign up for a free Sling TV account without paying for any of the service’s bundles.

AirTV integrates two TV tuners, which means that households can watch two separate programs simultaneously. The device connects directly to an over-the-air antenna, and comes with Wifi and Ethernet connectivity for network access.

Networked TV tuners like these aren’t entirely new. HDHomerun has been making similar devices for a number of years, and cord cutting-focused DVR upstarts like Tablo have been using networked devices to record and stream broadcast programming for some time as well.

Speaking of which: At launch, AirTV won’t have any DVR capabilities, but a spokesperson confirmed that this functionality will be added later this year. Consumers who attach an external hard drive to the device will then be able to record broadcast TV, and access their recordings alongside Sling TV’s cloud DVR recordings in the service’s app.

 

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