Remember how Dish kind-of, sort-of, possibly-accidentally quietly announced it had new streaming hardware on the way? Well, that device — the AirTV player — is today finally a real thing, with a real price tag, that you can buy if you want.
The AirTV, previously only mentioned as a device you could use to watch Dish’s Sling TV streaming service, now has its very own website. And that site answers one of the biggest questions everyone had about this mystery box: how much does it cost, exactly?
The answer? $100 if you want the internet-only version, or $130 if you want to add over-the-air channels in too.
Price-wise, that means the AirTV is pretty much directly in line with the competition. The Roku Premiere+, which supports 4K and HDR content, runs at $100. The Amazon Fire TV, which supports 4K streaming but not HDR content, sells for $90. And the Apple TV costs $150 or $200 depending on how much on-board storage you want, but integrates with your other iOS devices.
Functionally, the AirTV player is also pretty much in line with the competition. It’s an Android-based box that you plug into your TV, connect to your home internet, and use to watch streaming TV from whatever services you happen to subscribe to. Where Dish hopes to stand out with its hardware is the over-the-air integration.
That $40 dongle — $30 if you’re buying it with the AirTV player — connects to basically any digital HD antenna you can buy. That means you can watch local broadcast programming (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, etc.) live without paying for cable and without switching inputs on your TV. The programming just becomes integrated into the listing guide on the AirTV, there to click over to when you browse.
In a way, it’s your classic cycle: free, broadcast-through-the-air TV is indeed basically the way you and/or your parents used to watch 35 years ago back when 25″ was a big screen and the box had knobs on it. The difference is, now the signals are digital — and now you probably want to mix and match your local news with some Amazon dramas or Netflix documentaries. So Dish is hoping consumers will want to buy the AirTV to do that.
Settling on local network distribution agreements has remained something of a stumbling block for major streaming services, including Dish’s own Sling TV, so integrating it into the hardware as seamlessly as possible may be a good bet.
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