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DirecTV’s GenieGO Gets More Sling-Like

DirecTV’s GenieGO is not yet a full-fledged Slingbox, but the broadband-connected transcoding device is starting to take shape as a do-it-all video distributor for the satellite-TV giant.

The $99 GenieGO, previously known as the Nomad, began its life as a simple video transcoder that allowed DirecTV users to transfer — or “sideload” — shows recorded on a digital video recorder to a tablet, smartphone or PC for later playback. A new software release morphs the unit into a streaming device that can be accessed by customers anywhere — at home or on the go — as long as the sidecar unit is linked to DirecTV’s Genie HD-DVR or HR20 model HD-DVR.

A DirecTV spokeswoman confirmed the GenieGO does not yet redistribute live TV as a Slingbox does, but noted that the latest set of updates gives customers remote access to shows and movies recorded on a compatible DirecTV HD-DVR. GenieGO users can also set up a recording from their mobile device and then begin streaming the content as it’s being recorded to the DVR.

Even with these upgraded capabilities, the GenieGO is saddled with a few restraints. For instance, customers can only take advantage of its streaming capability if they’re accessing it via a Wi-Fi connection. The GenieGO’s storage is likewise limited; it provides access to 20 hours of content at any one time, but customers can expand storage by linking the GenieGO to an external hard drive.

The latest version of GenieGO also allows up to five mobile devices to be synced simultaneously, though out-of- home streaming is limited to one device at a time. Out-of-home access to the GenieGO is presently confined to iPads, iPhones and PCs. DirecTV is expected to extend similar support to the Android platform as well.

The upgrade demonstrates that the GenieGO has some out-of-home streaming potential, getting it a step closer to matching up with the capabilities of EchoStar’s Slingbox. Dish has baked Sling’s place-shifting capabilities into the latest version of its top-of- the-line Hopper HD-DVR.

Cable operators are also delving into video place-shifting. The latest version of Comcast’s Xfinity Player app lets users sideload select TV shows and movies to mobile devices. Comcast has also deployed AnyPlay, a “headless” transcoding box equipped with a Cable- Card that converts live QAM video into Internet-protocol streams for viewing on mobile devices. Access to AnyPlay is limited to the customer’s home network, but multiple industry sources said a firmware update to the device can enable out-of-home streaming, a feature that Comcast likely won’t consider activating until it obtains such rights from programming partners.

Comcast developed AnyPlay with Motorola Home, which markets the device under the Televation brand. AnyPlay’s days as a discrete transcoding device may be fleeting. At The Cable Show last month in Washington, D.C., Arris executives said there were no ongoing plans for Comcast to continue with the AnyPlay hardware, as it makes more financial sense to integrate that functionality into a new line of all-service gateways.

TAKEAWAY

DirecTV has added Slingboxtype capabilities to its GenieGO transcoder, allowing users to stream DVR content to iOS devices and PCs inside or outside the home.