The timing seemed appropriate last Sunday when NBC blocked all online streaming services from showing the Golden Globe Awards (the broadcaster failed to secure those rights from the producer). Unless you had cable, the only way to watch the broadcast was through an antenna.
Just a few days earlier, the over-the-air antenna had become the unsung hero of CES, the tech industry’s annual mega trade show in Las Vegas. Tech companies large and small are now integrating antenna support into their products in fascinating new ways, having realized that even in the age of streaming video, this free source of broadcast TV should not be ignored.
Most of the antenna tech on display at CES fell into one of three categories.
First, there’s the networked antenna tuner. Instead of plugging an antenna directly into your television, products like the Mohu AirWave (above) and Tablo Live (below) let you set up the antenna wherever reception is best and then stream the signal over Wi-Fi to apps on your phones, tablets, PCs and streaming boxes. (The $150 Mohu AirWave includes the antenna and tuner in a single unit, while the $100 Tablo Live is just a tuner that connects with any antenna.)
Aside from improving reception, a networked tuner can de-clutter your living room and it spares you from setting up a separate antenna for each television. It also lets you stream on screens that don’t accept antenna input directly, such as phones and tablets.
CES also brought some new broadcast DVR products. With Tablo’s upcoming Droid app and USB tuner, Android TV devices such as Nvidia Shield will be able to store and play recordings from over-the-air channels. Think of it as a simple do-it-yourself DVR and streaming solution, with more apps and cheaper service ($4 per month, or $40 per year) than a TiVo.