Streaming Saturday: DISH’s AirTV Player

Has DISH combined streaming and antenna TV channels in one guide with its AirTV Player? Perhaps, but it’s still too soon to tell all the details of this new device.

DISH (formerly DISH Network) recently unveiled its new AirTV Player set-top box on its Sling TV website. While this operates much like the current Sling TV system, there is one major difference with the AirTV Player – it allows users to watch live, OTA network programming as long as they have a TV antenna. With free local TV on the menu, users of the AirTV Player have more choices as to which viewing packages they wish to subscribe.

The AirTV Player has a huge advantage over current Sling TV subscriptions. Unlike the standard Sling TV subscription, AirTV lets you watch all your local TV channels for free as long as you have a TV antenna. This, in my opinion, is a huge advantage over what Sling TV currently offers in terms of local TV programming. This might be an enthusiastic overstatement, but the addition of free OTA TV it possible for AirTV viewers to get more TV viewing bang for the buck.

Currently, Sling TV users have to pay for additional packages to watch network TV. For example, ABC is available for $5 add-on to Sling TV’s Orange subscription package. Fox and NBC are available in select markets for $25 per month in Sling’s Blue programming package. CBS is currently unavailable to Sling TV subscribers, and more than a few channels are traded off between the two packages. If a TV antenna at your home is able to receive your local ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates then you can forget about having to pay for these channels with the AirTV Player.

Frankly, I’m optimistic about the AirTV Player, but I must be cautiously optimistic. Stuart Sweet is always looking to poke holes in my enthusiasm for all things streaming. I can almost hear him now. He’d like say, “The only addition is that the box incorporates your local TV stations but only if you already have a TV antenna. And you still have to pay for Netflix.” At least that’s what I think he’d say. He’s just as likely to surprise me with criticisms I haven’t even thought of yet.

Somewhere between my wide-eyed enthusiasm and Stuart’s cynicism is the truth about the AirTV Player. It’s impressive that Sling TV factored local, over-the-air TV programming into the equation. That said, this device isn’t even on the market. It’s suspected that the AirTV was unintentionally leaked because it’s already been pulled from DISH’s website. The company also canceled a press conference at CES that was rumored to have been about this device. The true test of AirTV’s value will be in the users’ experiences, and we won’t have any of those for a while. There is this AirTV Player FAQ sheet if you ant to know more about Sling TV’s (perhaps) latest streaming device.