Sling TV, Dish Network’s over-the-top TV service for cord-cutters, has been regularly expanding its programming slate since its national launch last month, but the big gap in its live TV lineup continues to be broadcast-television networks.
Mohu Networks, a maker of high-performance digital antennas and a new $149 device called “Channels” that blends OTT with over-the-air TV signals, is positioning itself to help bridge that gap.
According to Mohu founder and CEO Mark Buff, Sling TV’s original app worked on Mohu’s device, and Dish’s engineers are in the process of certifying it. Sling TV has not yet announced Mohu as an official device partner, but so far it has extended support to the Roku platform, Xbox One, iOS and Android mobile devices, and the Amazon Fire TV box and Fire TV Stick. It will soon add the Nexus Player, a device that runs the new Android TV operating system.
If Mohu gains a foothold with Sling TV, it could be the first device maker to offer an OTA-TV product that meshes with Sling TV.
Mohu, which cut its teeth designing and building omnidirectional, flat antennas for military ground vehicles, started to work on Channels in 2010 after realizing “there was a cord-cutting movement on the rise and people were switching to HDTV antennas for content,” Buff said.
Mohu Channels, a successful 2014 Kick-starter-funded project (it generated more than $144,000 through 1,284 backers, blowing past its initial goal of $35,000 in just two days), supports over-the-air TV and OTT services such as Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, stitching them into a unified user interface.
Users can assemble channels and essentially personalize the guide based on viewer preferences. For example, they can make Netflix the “channel” that appears at the top of the guide. Mohu links the Channels device to a wireless remote equipped with a specialized QWERTY keyboard and air-mouse technology, though the company is considering other types of remotes.
Buff acknowledged the Mohu guide, which obtains guide data from the over-the-air broadcast stream, isn’t as robust as others on the market, “but it’s free.”
Channels works with Mohu’s antennas (it bundles Channels with its “Leaf 30” antenna for $169) or with digital rabbit ears made by third parties.
Mohu launched Channels on March 9, initially selling the product directly through its e-commerce platform. The logical next step, Buff said, is to offer it through retailers. The company already sells TV antennas through Amazon, Sam’s Club and Best Buy, among others.
Mohu is also entering a market that is becoming increasingly crowded with wellknown brand names. Among its competitors is TiVo, which is selling the Roamio OTA, a model for cord-cutters that mixes in OTT and sells for $49.99, plus a $14.99 per month service fee. Channel Master also sells a line of subscription-free “DVR+” products designed to work with OTA antennas, including a new, $399 two-tuner model that sports a broadband connection and 1 Terabyte of internal storage.
Looking ahead, adding an internal DVR to the Channels platform “is a serious consideration,” Buff said. For now, Channels has enough internal storage to buffer up to 30 minutes of video and allows users to “sideload” video content from any USBconnected storage device.
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