Free over-the-air TV forms a huge part of what we cover here on Cordcutting.com, and for good reason. Surveys show that cord cutters are increasingly awakening to the potential of OTA TV, which offers many cord cutters the chance to watch local news and major network broadcasts for free.
Surveys show that cord cutters are increasingly awakening to the potential of OTA TV
But OTA TV has its drawbacks. You may not have to pay the cable company, but you also won’t have your familiar cable box – or its ability to record programming and access the TV guide.
That’s where companies like Channel Master come in. A new generation of DVRs is changing the way we look at OTA broadcasts. Now, consumers have the ability to record their favorite network shows, sporting events, and local news and play them on demand, blurring the line between OTA and on-demand cord cutting solutions.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at one of these new types of DVRs. The Channel Master DVR+ is an OTA DVR that also includes some OTT support. Here’s our complete review.
The DVR+ itself is a pretty straightforward-looking thing – a thin black rectangular tablet. In the box, you’ll find the device itself, a power cord, a remote control, and an instruction booklet.
To do its job, the DVR+ needs to be set up like this:
That’s an antenna attached to the DVR via coaxial, and the DVR attached to the TV via an HDMI cable. You can watch live OTA TV through the device (via the HDMI cable) as well as record. The HDMI cable and antenna are not included.
To record content and show TV guide information, the DVR also needs an internet connection, either via ethernet cable or Wi-Fi dongle (not included). To store as many recorded shows as you’re likely to want, the DVR will also need an external hard drive connected via USB (the device itself comes with just 16GB of storage). The hard drive is also not included.
It’s a little frustrating that so many other things are needed for this setup, but not included. You’ll need to buy the antenna, hard drive, and ethernet cable or Wi-Fi dongle (optional) separately.
Once you’ve set it up, the DVR+ is a very pleasant device to use. Setup is simple – scanning for channels and choosing your location is all done through a quick step-by-step menu the first time you turn the device on. I used my own antenna, and it detected all the channels that it usually does. After confirming that I wanted to use the USB storage device and a wired network, things were off and running.
You can navigate through channels with the remote, which can also be programmed to control your television, making things nice and simple. The guide is pretty effective – not all channels have guide information, but the vast majority of them do (and all of the major networks are covered).
Choosing to record a show is as simple as hitting the “record” button. You can also select a show first to bring up a menu that lets you choose to change to that channel, record the show, or record all the shows that include the words in the title (in other words, record the series – though this method seems a little less precise than what is available on legacy DVRs).
I had no problems at all recording what I wanted to record, and the saved shows were easy to access. There didn’t seem to be any way to search through them, though, which could make it tricky if you recorded a ton of stuff.
The DVR function uses the same antenna feed as the live TV, so any disruptions in reception that happen during recording will be preserved in your digital copy.
In addition to the product’s core OTA features, the DVR+ also gives users access to OTT services like Sling TV and YouTube (sadly, most major players – like Netflix and Hulu – are not available). These services appear right in the channel guide, occupying numbers in the 900s.
Those aren’t the only non-traditional channels available. A bunch of channel numbers above 200 and below 900 are occupied by Channel Master’s own streaming channels, part of a service called Channel Master TV – which brings us to the next section.
Channel Master doesn’t just rely on the OTA broadcasts and OTT apps. In addition to offering a TV guide for OTA broadcasts and access to YouTube and other OTT services on the DVR+, Channel Master has an OTT service of its own called Channel Master TV. Channel Master TV creates online channels from available web videos, much in the same way that Pluto TV does.
Channel Master TV is a nice touch, and it hints at the massive potential of this product. Being able to get streaming channels in the same place as you access OTA channels is a huge step towards combing OTA and OTT into one simple cord cutting solution.
For now, though, Channel Master TV is mostly unfulfilled potential. The streaming channel selection is quite weak compared to Pluto TV – a lot are just news clip aggregation channels – and the programming isn’t broken down on the TV guide screen (each channel just gets a description, without any program guide). That’s not a huge deal, since the live streaming channels were never the DVR+’s selling point in the first place.
The Channel Master DVR+ retails for $250. Remember, that price doesn’t include a Wi-Fi dongle, hard drive, or antenna. It’s a little pricier than competitor Tablo’s product, which goes for around $220 (Tablo’s product comes similarly unequipped with antenna or hard drive).
Antenna DVRs are pretty awesome, but they don’t come cheap. I was really impressed with everything that the DVR+ could do, and I really thought it upgraded my OTA experience quite a bit. But once you add in the price of an external hard drive (at least $50), you’re looking at about $300 for the ability to record live OTA TV.
That’s not that far off of the price of a traditional DVR, but there’s less to be recorded when you limit yourself to OTA channels, so it’s not a perfect comparison. The DVR+ isn’t that overpriced relative to the competition, but this entire market space seems a little overpriced at the moment.
With that said, if you have the budget for it, the DVR+ performs quite well. It keeps things simple and does its job well. If you’re willing to pay a few hundred bucks for the functionality Channel Master promises, you can rest assured that you’ll get it.
Fresno numbers are much higher than the national average. Almost four in ten homes with an 18- to 34-year-old resident rely on broadcast-only or Internet-only alternatives.
It’s a huge movement. It’s becoming cool not to pay for bloated cable subscriptions. The internet has made cable obsolete and cable companies know this but they don’t want you to know. Why pay for what you don’t use? It’s invisible clutter. My cable bill was $280 per month and now I pay $77 (not including the subscription services, some of which I was paying for already). You may not save as much as I’m saving because you may not have been paying as much. If you can save an amount that makes a difference in your life and you can meet your home entertainment needs, then why not give it a try? Here’s how I did it:
How much do you pay for cable? The first year with a new cable or satellite provider is generally affordable with the generous promotions, upgrades, and free channels provided. However, after the promotional period ends, our bills always see to creep up a bit more here and there.
Every year the bloating gets larger — an extra fee for that second box we hardly use, all the movie channels that we don’t watch often, the amount of taxes and additional fees we have to pay, and so on.
All of this leads me to my next question. Have you ever thought about cutting the cord on cable or your satellite provider?
By Jill Cataldo CTW Features
April 12, 2016
Dear Jill: I would be interested to hear your thoughts on cable or satellite television. I feel like our cable service is not worth what we are paying for it, but I don’t know what other options we have other than satellite, which costs about the same. I don’t feel like we are ready to completely cancel it, but I also don’t know what to do about the bill continually spiraling. — Robin S.
I’m sure this will surprise no one, but I’m a big fan of free, over-the-air television. Our family never had cable when I was growing up (that was a luxury to enjoy at friends’ houses!) and so my perspective on paying for television is likely somewhat different than those who have never known a world without cable or satellite TV at home. Even now, we have a rooftop antenna on our house, and the antenna has been the primary source of television reception for the majority of the years we’ve lived as a family.
Mohu study puts pay TV near bottom of food chain
Author: Mike Farrell
Digital antenna maker Mohu released a consumer satisfaction study Wednesday that seems to fly in the face of industry efforts to improve customer service, with respondents putting their cable company just a step ahead of Congress and disease-carrying vermin.
According to the survey, 50% of respondents said they held an unfavorable view toward their cable company, compared to 72% that said they had an unfavorable opinion of Congress and 92% that said they did not enjoy the company of cockroaches. No word on where rats, ringworm, or the Senate ranked in the study.
By Sean Pendergast
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 6 a.m.
In team sports, to fans and spectators, ultimate victory is a simple concept. One winner takes home one trophy each season in each sport. Peyton Manning’s hoisting of the Lombardi Trophy, confetti raining down onto the Villanova basketball team after their title-winning buzzer beater — to fans, those are the images of success.
Behind the scenes, though, to the power brokers and franchise owners who move the chess pieces in our sports universe, true “victory” is far more inclusive. To them, success is measured in dollars, and while only one team can lift the trophy at the end of each season, for several years now, the money has piled up sky-high for every single team owner and major college president, regardless of how good or bad their teams have been.
By Anne Badalamenti
Time Warner Cable Outage Strikes Carolinas
Over the weekend, thousands of Time Warner Cable subscribers experienced cable outages, internet outages, and even phone outages. The outages lasted for hours. People were frustrated they were missing Week 16 NFL action, unable to stream Netflix, etc. And understandably given the ever-increasing cost of cable and internet. This type of outage is nothing new, unfortunately. They seem to occur with such frequency that folks acknowledge it’s part of the package when they sign up with a provider like TWC.
December 26, 2015
The price of pay-tv is proceeding greater for all customers, with a number of Satellite Television businesses and the country’s greatest wire recently saying price increases that’ll take effect.
DirecTV and Tis & AT Uverse, that are today part of the exact same organization, introduced a week ago that their prices may increase Jan. 28, beginning. The increases will be different for clients, but funnel plans various foundation deals and advanced stations might find increases which range from $2 to $8 monthly. New year price increases for DirecTV have grown to be an almost yearly event, using the organization January, increasing costs by around 6 percent.
By Gerry Smith BLOOMBERG NEWS
Friday December 25, 2015 5:13 AM
Your television-viewing bill is going up. Again.
While facing a growing number of consumers who drop pay-TV for cheaper online alternatives, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Dish Network and AT&T all are planning to increase their prices early next year — at the risk of turning off more subscribers fed up with the rising cost of television.
By December 21, 2015
For a bunch of the big cable and satellite companies, it does indeed look like a very merry Christmas and a happy new year are on the horizon — but consumers can be forgiven for feeling a lot more grinchy about it. That’s because all the new nickels, dimes, and dollars that are going to line businesses’ big virtual pockets are coming directly from subscribers in the form of unasked-for price hikes.
By Mitch Lipka | Globe Correspondent November 27, 2015
Q. I switched my television service from cable to Dish because of increased pricing. Then I started getting increases from Dish. I don’t need a DVR service and 128 channels. My question is to you where can I find an affordable television, Internet, and/or telephone company for a senior citizen to enjoy these services at home? – BARBARA PANTOS, WORCESTER
Lloyd “Sonny” Crile traded his satellite TV service for a regular antenna last summer and says there’s no way he’s going back.
“To get the TV channels we wanted (on satellite), we had to take a package giving us about 200 stations,” said Crile, of Oxford. “When we really took a look at what we were watching, other than regular TV, it was only three or four of the 200.”
A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers finds dissatisfaction with bundle is driving customers to join cord-cutting trend
BY RICK BENTLEY
Since 2012, Mark Shirin has been growing his local television empire. His Ventura Broadcasting Company now offers 24 channels broadcasting on KGMC (Channel 43.6), KVHF (Channel 4.1), KVBC (Channel 13) and KBID (Channel 31).
That’s a lot of programming. To help, Shirin has added an on-screen channel guide on KVHF to help viewers keep up with what’s being broadcast on the over-the-air channels.
“We strive to satisfy the requests of our viewers,” Shirin says. “One of the biggest complaints that viewers have expressed to us is that there was not a convenient way to get local program information. While we have gone to great lengths to make program guides available online and on mobile devices via our website, that simply wasn’t always convenient for our viewers.”
The guide doesn’t just list stations being broadcast by Ventura Broadcasting; it features all local TV stations.
In addition to the guide, the channel also will offer streaming audio powered by Biz Talk Radio, a nationally syndicated talk-radio network. Biz Talk Radio broadcasts business related programming.
The other recent addition is BUZZR, a classic game show television network. It is available to TV watchers who use an antenna at KVBC (Channel 13.7).
“While BUZZR is not yet a household name, our viewers will surely be familiar with the great classic game shows on the Buzzr Channel, like ‘What’s My Line’ and ‘Family Feud.’ Many of our viewers not only remember the show hosts, but fondly remember the celebrity contestants that appeared on those shows,” Shirin says.
Other game shows featured on the channel include “Let’s Make a Deal,” “Beat the Clock,” “Super Password,” “To Tell the Truth,” “Match Game,” “Password,” “Blockbusters” and “Card Sharks.”
Over-the-air broadcasts are enjoying something of a renaissance in the cord-cutting age. If you live within range of broadcast towers, a simple antenna will deliver basic channels—including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS—in beautiful high definition for free. It’s the perfect supplement to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Posted on March 25, 2015 by Steve Belk
When I cut the cord, I discovered that an antenna provided me access to tons of live HD programming for free. This allowed me to catch NFL games, the local news, and all the popular network TV shows. However, I lost the capability to record these shows and watch them at a later date when the cable company took my DVR back. I also really missed having the ability to pause live TV and skip those annoying commercials.
Luckily, nowadays there are some good OTA DVR options available that allow you to record, pause, skip, and playback all channels you receive through your antenna. Here’s a look at the best DVR options currently available for cord cutters.