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Vendors Sharpen Cord-Cutting Tools

The number of consumers who’ve cut the pay TV cord is still small, but it’s increasing at an accelerating rate. So is the number of available technical and product options.

Both Plex and Nuvyyo have added to that list with products tailored to fit the needs of cord-cutters. They appeared on the scene soon after the U.S. pay TV industry shed about 762,000 video subscribers in the first quarter of 2017, a worst-ever result for the period, according to MoffettNathanson.

Among them, Plex added a free Live TV component that’s available to all customers who subscribe to its Plex Pass service.

Consumers can activate that live-TV component by tying the Plex app to a video source, such as a digital over-the-air TV antenna, and integrating local HD broadcast channels that can be played back on iOS devices and Android TV devices, starting with the Nvidia Shield. Plex plans to add Android mobile devices and Apple TV boxes soon, followed by other streaming platforms.

At launch, Plex’s live TV service, which includes an integrated programming guide, is compatible with several antenna and digital tuners, including WinTV-dual-HD, WinTV-HVR-955Q, Digital TV for the Xbox One and all SiliconDust HDHR models for North America, as well as a mix of tuners that support TV broadcasts in Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia.

About 55% of Plex users are based outside the U.S., hence the reason for broad tuner support, Keith Valory, Plex’s CEO, said.

A live-TV component has been the most-asked-for feature by subscribers. The service costs $4.99 a month, $39.99 a year or $119.99 for a lifetime pass, and includes access to a DVR service. Plex won’t disclose its subscriber numbers, but the company has more than 13 million registered users.

Tablo, meanwhile, broadened its own lineup of DVRs that capture over-the-air TV signals and are targeted at cord-cutters with the introduction last week of the Tablo Dual.

About 20% smaller than its predecessor, the Tablo Dual integrates two tuners and bakes in 64 Gigabytes of onboard DVR storage, about enough to hold about 50 hours of HD programming.

The earlier-generation Tablo doesn’t have on-board storage, but does let users add capacity by attaching a USB-connected storage device. Tablo Dual users also have the option to add up to 8 Terabytes of storage using a separate device.

Grant Hall, CEO of Nuvyyo, said the Tablo Dual’s on-board storage aims to reduce friction and lower the total cost of ownership.

The Tablo Dual became available in the U.S. on June 4 with a suggested retail price of $249.99. It’ll be available at select Best Buy stores and at Best Buy’s website. Nuvyyo is also selling it direct via its site in Canada for C$329.99.

The previous-generation two-tuner Tablo DVR sells for $219.99, and a four-tuner version fetches almost $300. Hall said most Tablo users implement attached storage.

The Tablo Dual also includes a 30-day free trial to an optional TV guide data subscription that regularly sells for $4.99 per month, $49.99 annually, or for $149.99 for a lifetime subscription. Hall said there’s a “very high take rate” on the optional subscription, which includes remote access features and 14 days of guide data.

Most Tablo users are cord-cutters who connect it to a TV antenna to receive local broadcast stations. The device captures those signals and sends them wirelessly to other devices on the home network. Tablo today supports Roku player, Xbox and Nvidia Shield consoles, Apple TV boxes, Chromecast streaming adapters, Amazon Fire TV devices, web browsers, smart TVs from LG, and iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

Plex and Nuvyyo are far from alone in this product category, as their new products will compete for share with others that include Dish Network and its AirTV Player), TiVo’s Roamio OTA, and ChannelMaster’s subscription-free DVR+.