Tablet TV prototype

Tablet TV prototype

Aereo lost its Supreme Court case, and if you want to read more about that, check the post above this one. Meanwhile, I wanted to mention a few choices you’ve got for streaming TV over the internet.

(Mind you, as I type this, Aereo still has its signup page active and FilmOn still lists a few dozen out-of-market over-the-air TV channels, so we might be waiting for some lower-court injunctions to take effect before they go away.) Update: On Saturday, two days after the ruling, Aereo signed off and FilmOn began requiring a subscription to view its US OTA channels. John Eggerton has the full story at Broadcasting & Cable.

For sheer versatility, nothing beats a Windows 7-based Media Center with a TV tuner. Getting it to stream is a little trickier; perhaps Remote Media Center is the answer? I’ll have to fiddle around with that one day.

I was very impressed with the Tablet TV prototype that I saw at the NAB Show a couple of months ago. I pointed out a couple of flaws: Its telescoping antenna was vulnerable to accidental bending (if my experience with telescoping antennas is any guide) and there was no way to plug in an exisiting TV antenna. But from what was working, Tablet TV had a nice interface for live OTA TV and maybe even a DVR. It’s something to look forward to.

Today, DVR+ maker Channel Master announced that it would offer Aereo subscribers a discounted package that includes an OTA antenna, a DVR+ receiver, and a USB WiFi adapter. That offer’s good through July 6; click the link for more information.

If you have a New York City address (cough), there’s always NimbleTV for the NYC affiliates of the major OTA networks, plus whatever package of Dish Network channels you want to buy. NimbleTV says it passes through subscribers’ payments to the content providers, or something like that, so it probably won’t be affected by the Aereo decision.

(Speaking of Dish, its Dish Anywhere service with the right receiver can stream OTA TV too. But that’s a fairly expensive alternative to Aereo, which was designed to attract viewers who didn’t want to subscribe to pay TV.)

My current favorite OTA delivery mechanism is my rooftop antenna and Simple.TV, which performed as flawlessly for me from across the Atlantic as it does on my home system. It requires an extra link such as a Roku box to make it to your TV set, but it streams fine to my phone or tablet anywhere. Simple.TV’s system for helping viewers schedule shows is still the best I’ve seen so far. Find an antenna and check it out!

NFL Network booth in Times Square

© 2014 Depositphotos / zhukovsky

I spent some time in Europe the past few weeks. It’s great to hang around in London and watch Sky try to lure subscribers with the very notion of relatively inexpensive pay-TV, because the set of free channels is so broad and culturally expected. (Yes, I know that Britons pay the equivalent of about $10/month as a license fee already.) It was also a great way to stop pondering Aereo for a while.

I don’t like to write depressing stories, and my take on Aereo is just that. As I wrote in a Broadcasting & Cable comment, I expect that corporate interests will compel the US Supreme Court to block Aereo, although I expect the justices will need to find a way to do so without breaking various cloud computing precedents. Therefore, my guess is that the court will rule narrowly that Aereo’s multiple-antenna setup is the same functionally as a single antenna, so it loses. Waiting for the Aereo decision, expected any day now, is for me just waiting for the shoe to drop.

Today, The Washington Post reported that an Aereo victory would “change how we watch football”. The timing of that story is interesting, considering that the New England Patriots’ web site carried an independent story with similar talking points hours later. Then the Consumerist came along to debunk the Post story, saying that the NFL would not be significantly damaged. I don’t think either side of this argument got it right.

At present, Aereo only serves subscribers in a particular home TV market. Even if a valid subscriber is on the road, Aereo won’t let him watch TV from home. (On the other hand, my home-based SimpleTV receiver performed like a champ, letting me watch my local shows from a Paris hotel room. But I digress.) The Consumerist seemed to take this as a permanent restriction, so local viewers would only be watching the local stations they could get over-the-air anyway. But FilmOn, which piggybacks Aereo’s justification, streams out-of-market broadcast TV now and would probably carry more Fox and CBS affiliates as soon as it could. And Aereo might do something like that after its legal clouds are gone.

Then the Consumerist suggested that because it’s not easy to switch between distant OTA channels, then NFL Sunday Ticket should remain untouched. No, you just don’t get it. A very large percentage of Sunday Ticket customers are folks who love one out-of-market team and watch to watch that team’s every game. Once in a while, the idea of a slightly less expensive Sunday Ticket, limited to one team, is brought up then quickly discarded. Letting that chunk of subscribers walk away to Aereo or FilmOn would cost real money. But the online model is so tech-driven (for now) and so dependent on reliable high-speed internet that such mass migrations wouldn’t occur for years.

If Aereo wins, I’m sure the networks and sports leagues will run straight to Congress to get new protection laws. Should the NFL move further to pay-TV (remember, it already moved Mondays and some Thursdays), it woud just join every other major US sports league in abandoning OTA TV. At least we’ll still have the FIFA World Cup, in Spanish.

Southwest Airlines plane on several different-sized screensA few weeks ago, I posted a list of Frontier Airlines’ inflight TV channels, but I never got around to posting a list of the TV channels that I had available on my Southwest Airlines return flight.

As with the Frontier list, I couldn’t find anything online that actually provided the names of each channel. On a page on the Southwest site, it mentions “17 live channels,” which is a very specific number. As far as I can tell, it’s also accurate. Here are the live channels I saw:

Fox News
Food Network
Animal Planet
Fox Business
Travel Channel
NFL Network (for real this time)

* That is not the MLB Network; it showed live major league baseball games as served up by

As with Frontier, only ABC is missing from the Big Four broadcast networks. There aren’t as many live channels, but I appreciate getting the Travel Channel and the real NFL Network. Southwest also offers a bunch of on-demand TV episodes while Frontier adds a couple of passive channels of TV shows and movies. Based on the lineups alone, Frontier and Southwest are pretty similar.

There are two big advantages for watching TV on Southwest. Thanks to a promotion with Dish Network, which provides the programming, all those channels are free to watch. And instead of being stuck with a phone-sized standard-definition screen mounted in the seat back, these channels are streamed over inflight WiFi to the carry-on device of your choice. I saw a lot of passengers watching on laptops and tablets, all of which had better picture quality than the pioneering Frontier screens.

So there you have it. If you really want to know what to expect to watch for free on your next Southwest flight, that list will probably stay good for the rest of 2014 and maybe longer. Bring your tablet and enjoy the ride.

Simple.TV survey screen captureI subscribe to Simple.TV because I bought a closeout unit with a lifetime subscription included. The service works pretty well, making it easy to find upcoming shows (via local over-the-air TV) to record to the USB drive I plugged into my device, then letting me stream those recordings back to me anywhere on the internet.

This morning, Simple.TV emailed me a request to take a short survey. The survey included the usual satisfaction stuff, such as what I like about it and what features I’d like to add. You know, the usual. Then near the end of the survey came a surprising statement and question: “We are considering offering an optional ‘hosted’ service, to improve your Simple.TV experience. … Would you consider having your Simple.TV ‘hosted’ in a secure location, to give you high-quality streaming of ALL the TV channels in your local area?”

Wow! The only way that Simple.TV could legally offer such a service, as far as I know, would be to set it up just like Aereo, the streaming TV service whose fate awaits a Supreme Court ruling in a month or so. Simple.TV appears to be signalling that if Aereo wins, Simple.TV might jump in as a competitor. I wonder if there are any other potential competitors (besides FilmOn) that are just waiting to get started.

NimbleTV screen shotEarlier this year, our old friend NimbleTV added service from several cable systems in India. Since CEO Anand Subramanian is from Bombay, I always figured that was NimbleTV’s primary goal, and from what I can tell, it’s a strong competitor to DishWorld’s packages for Hindi and other Indian languages.

Then some time last month, NimbleTV quietly introduced a free tier* of US-based, English-language channels. (Of course, NimbleTV does almost everything quietly.) The most remarkable of these is New York superstation WPIX and its two digital over-the-air sub-channels, which carry This TV and Antenna TV. Since these are the only OTA channels included, and since NimbleTV has always stressed paying for its content, I’d guess that NimbleTV must have worked a deal with WPIX.

This could be a milestone in the history of television. WPIX went on the air in 1948. It later became known as the TV home for Yankees baseball games and was distributed via satellite in 1978 as one of the first superstations. As one of the five federally recognized superstations, WPIX is still carried via satellite to Dish Network subscribers across the US and to Bell TV subscribers in Canada. Now WPIX might be the first major OTA station to sanction full-time internet-based delivery of its signals. Assuming again that WPIX sanctioned all of this.

There are a few drawbacks and oddities to NimbleTV’s free tier. The main handicap is the lack of recording ability. Viewers get to watch any channel live, and that’s it. All of the record buttons are still in place, but attempts to use them only prompt suggestions to upgrade. The strangest part of the tier is NimbleTV’s numbering scheme. Bloomberg is shown as 7012, WPIX is 7030, and the other 13 channels are numbered consecutively 7032-7044. That doesn’t match the numbering from any other source, so I think it marks the first time that NimbleTV invented its own numbers. If you know anything about it, such as what was supposed to be Channel 7031, please leave a comment to let us know.

Another nice benefit of the (presumed) WPIX deal is that those channels were added to my basic $30/month plan, based mostly on Dish’s Welcome Pack. I presume that they were also added to NimbleTV’s higher levels of service, corresponding roughly to Dish’s Top 120 and Top 200. Those channels might even be available to subscribers who don’t get Dish’s NYC broadcast channels set, which includes WPIX but not This, Antenna or any other sub-channel.

As a way to introduce prospective customers to NimbleTV’s innovative service, this seems like a smart idea. For any viewer interested in checking out these channels, I can’t see any downside. Click the link and go for it!

Update: Thanks to a tip from a commenter here, I see the WPIX is now gone from NimbleTV’s free tier, less than a month after it started, yet This and Antenna remain. Weird!

*The lineup of the free tier: WPIX, This, Antenna, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, Russia Today, CCTV News, BYU, NASA, Free Speech, C-SPAN, C-SPAN 2, Pentagon, HSN and QVC.