One of my summer TV indulgences has been So You Think You Can Dance, which airs Monday nights on FOX and has had a fantastic season. Most ABC, NBC and FOX shows post the day after air on Hulu — which is how I watch most ABC, NBC and FOX shows — but So You Think You Can Dance posts two days after air because it’s live and takes an extra day to encode.
Two days is a long time to delay viewing of a competitive reality show. The longer you delay, the likelier you are to accidentally find out who got eliminated. The live episodes of So You Think You Can Dance started airing in early August right around the time I started demoing the Tablo Dual OTA DVR, and it got me through the rest of the season without a single hiccup or failed recording.
The device is about the size of a Roku player but doesn’t have an HDMI port or a remote. Instead of connecting it to your TV, you stream it to your TV or whatever other device you currently use to watch Netflix or Hulu. The device holds 40 hours of shows, it’s $200 — the cost of two months of the typical cable service — and it’s available (for now) only from Best Buy. (Two previous-generation Tablo models — the 2-Tuner and 4-Tuner — are available from Amazon and other retailers.)
If my six-week demo of the Tablo Dual OTA DVR is any indication, the device will change the way you watch broadcast TV. And if you’re a cord-cutter who gave up ABC, NBC and the others when you gave up cable, Tablo could put those broadcast networks back in your rotation.
With fall TV season upon us, Decider sat down with Tablo developer Grant Hall to talk about how the DVR devices work, who’s buying them, and why over-the-air TV is becoming increasingly popular for cord-cutters. Hall is CEO of Nuvyyo, the Canadian company that designs and manufacturers the devices.
DECIDER: What components are in the Tablo device — TV tuner, memory, wifi radio?
GRANT HALL: Those are the main things. We use a fairly specialized system on a chip that has hardware transcoding capabilities. TV stations broadcast a relatively old protocol called MPEG-2 that modern devices don’t typically support, and we convert that to MPEG-4, which is a much more efficient protocol that’s used by more modern devices. There’s 64 gigs of flash memory, which will store about 40 hours of programming.