Recently our friend Dave Zatz, of Zatz Not Funny, found a product page for an unannounced streaming set-top box from Dish. While nothing is certain until a product is officially announced, it looks like Zatz nailed it regarding the AirTV Player from Dish.
The AirTV Player is a small Android TV box that is meant to pair perfectly with Dish’s Sling TV service. Sling TV is an online TV provider that offers many popular paid channels (including CNN, ESPN, AMC, and many more) in bundles that start under $20 per month. While apps exist for the Xbox One, Roku, and other devices, Dish says that the AirTV Player is optimized for Sling TV.
While Sling TV is a nice option for getting access to a plethora of paid channels, getting the four major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) can be a difficult situation. Between the service’s bundle offerings, and complicated licensing agreements with local affiliates, you might not be able to watch all of the major networks using Sling TV alone. That’s where an over-the-air (OTA) antenna comes in. If you live close enough to your local TV towers you can use an antenna to pull in the major networks for free. However, most devices don’t support Sling TV and OTA on the same box.
One of the best features of the AirTV Player is that with an extra AirTV Adapter you can connect an OTA antenna directly to the device. The only other device that supports a similar arrangement that comes to mind is the Xbox One. What sets the AirTV Player apart though is that it integrates the Sling TV guide data with the listings for the channels you’ll pick up from an antenna. Not having to switch apps to flip from a college football game on ESPN, to one on your local ABC affiliate, will be a welcome improvement.
The AirTV Player is an Android TV device, so that means there is a wealth of other apps that can be installed on it too. It comes pre-installed with Netflix and YouTube, but you should be able to install just about anything from the Google Play store on the AirTV Player. If you’ve got a 4k TV you can also use it to stream content in 4k. While not mentioned, it should also support Google Cast. It does come with a basic remote that should also control your television’s power and volume. The remote also has an integrated microphone to support searching for content with your voice.
There are a few questions we need to get answered. Primarily, is there anyway to record OTA content. Our guess is that it doesn’t support that right now. We’d also like to know the HDMI specs, and whether it supports high dynamic range (HDR) video.
Dish’s AirTV Player is available today. You can grab one for $99. If you’d like the AirTV Adapter included, that takes the price to $129. Once the CES show floor opens on Thursday we’ll get our hands-on with the device and try to get our remaining questions answered.