Since the rise and fall of Aereo, over-the-air (OTA) television has faded a bit from view. Now Microsoft is ready to shine a spotlight on OTA once again.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) announced today that it's bringing OTA TV to the Xbox One in North America. While already available in parts of Europe, the OTA feature is brand-new in the US and Canada.
Users will need an $80 TV tuner from Hauppage and an antenna to access broadcast channels. The feature is available starting today for individuals in the Xbox One preview program, and will arrive for the rest of Xbox One universe in the coming months. Microsoft also said it is partnering with Hauppage to launch a lower-cost $60 TV tuner for Xbox One in the near future.
After trying for years to control "input 1," Microsoft has finally gained some success with the launch of TV apps on the Xbox platform. (See FiOS Snags Xbox One First.)
The addition of OTA, however, in combination with new services like HBO Go and Sling TV, means that Xbox customers will get a much broader set of content options. Users can access on-demand apps, cable channels streamed through a set-top and now broadcast TV, all without changing the video source.
There is a catch with the new service, though. It depends on consumers being able to get good OTA TV reception. Microsoft recommends Mohu-branded antennas for signal pick-up and also points users to Mohu's guide for understanding which OTA channels are available where.
Interestingly, Mohu itself recently announced its own device combining OTA content with streaming video. The Mohu Channels product is available online for $149. (See Mohu Turns Over New Leaf for OTA TV.)
Among the features available with Microsoft's new OTA offering are a customizable program guide, the ability to pause live TV with a 30-minute buffer, second-screen streaming through Microsoft's SmartGlass app and a Snap TV function that lets users watch TV on one side of the screen, while using the other side for gaming and online applications.
Microsoft also announced today that it's expanding support for OTA TV to 11 new countries in Europe. Already available in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner is now available for preview in the following nations: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading