• A truly free OTA DVR?



    You'd think it would be easy. DVR technology is mature enough that someone should be able to build a DVR for antenna users that doesn't have a monthly fee. We've tried and tried to bring you such a DVR, and whether it's been cost, supply problems, or something else outside our control, we've never quite hit the right note.

    That could all change soon, if our longtime friends at Channel Master follow through with plans they've submitted to the FCC. According to Dave Zatz at ZatzNotFunny, Channel Master is partnerting with Echostar (another one of our old friends) for a new OTA DVR.

    Will this mean that finally, we'll see that inexpensive, reliable DVR we all want so desperately? Let's hope so. In order to succeed among antenna fans, the DVR has to be a truly pay-once type device, in other words no monthly fees and no service charges. TiVo has included antenna support in almost all of its DVRs, but the monthly fees and high cost of entry make it a tough sell to cord-cutters.

    On the other hand, it would be really great if a DVR could use a free guide service like TitanTV to help schedule. If the thing is really just a glorified VCR it's going to be hard to justify, especially to folks who have gotten used to the convenience of cable or satellite DVRs.

    Finally, it would be nice if the device could just dump your shows in their purest digital form onto a flash drive or onto your network. It would be even nicer if the DVR acted like a media server and streamed to other connected devices on your network. Neither is very likely; the legal issues involved and the cost to implement these technologies would probably stop production. Still, it's nice to dream.

    According to Mr. Zatz, FCC filings show the Channel Master K77 DVR series DVRs as digital tuner-equipped DVRs, but there is little other detail. Sometimes FCC filings have a lot of detail but this document shows that the DVRs are in a much earlier stage, where the FCC is allowed to approve or deny certain capabilities. Since the K77 does not seem to have analog tuners (which are hardly used in the US) it needs a special dispensation from the FCC in order to be sold here.

    It's very hard to know when, and if, the Channel Master K77 DVR will be available. One thing that is for sure -- when it does come out, Channel Master and Echostar will be looking to sell it through longtime partners, and that means Solid Signal. We'll bring you all the news as soon as it's available!

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    Comments 3 Comments
    1. PhoenixAZ's Avatar
      PhoenixAZ -
      The only question I have is how and where will it get its guide data from?
    1. Stuart Sweet's Avatar
      Stuart Sweet -
      We will find out. Generally Channel Master DVRs use freely available guide data sources.
    1. wizwor's Avatar
      wizwor -
      With regard to guide data, echostar used Rovi's TVGOS service with the DTVPal DVR. This worked fine until Roki pulled their in-stream servers earlier this year. The DTVPals use PSIP now. Since these devices will work OTT as well as OTA, I suspect TVGOS will be part of the package.

      It's silly to dismiss the K77s as a glorified DVR. SolidSignal should know better. From the waiver app...

      K77 will provide consumers with access to new, competitive, cost-effective choicesthat combine over-the-air television content – including dual-tuner watch-and-record capability – with over-the-top streaming content functionality from providers such as VUDU and Pandora, all in a sleek, ultra-thin, energy-efficient form factor.

      Could you rewind, pause, slo-mo live programming on a VCR? Could you store hundreds of hours of programming on a vcr? The echostar DTVPal was a great device and I, for one, am ecstatic that echostar is returning to OTA.