FCC Gives EchoStar’s ‘AirTV’ a Lift

Commission waiver on analog tuner requirement opens door for device that will support over-the-air and over-the-top TV (Updated)
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The FCC has cleared EchoStar to import, market and sell the AirTV, a new device seemingly targeted to cord-cutters that will support over-the-air digital TV signals as well as over-the-top content.

The FCC’s opinion and order, released Dec. 1, found that the AirTV, as well as a new USB-based tuner product from Hauppauge, are “capable of adequately receiving all channels allocated by the Commission to the television broadcast service.”

Though TV broadcast receivers must be capable of receiving both analog and digital broadcast signals until August 31, 2017, the FCC said a waiver of this rule was in order for the EchoStar AirTV and Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD products because they are in the public interest. Neither EchoStar’s or Hauppauge’s waiver request faced opposition. EchoStar’s waiver request filing is located here (PDF).

“As EchoStar and Hauppauge point out, a digital-only device has several advantages over equipment using both analog and digital tuners: the digital-only models involve less design complexity, avoid substantial operating costs that are generally associated with additional hardware and software, and consume less energy,” the FCC noted in the order. “These advantages should result in lower costs, which can be passed on to consumers and also promote a strong, competitive marketplace.”

The FCC Media Bureau noted that it had previously granted waivers of the analog tuner requirement to EchoStar (for two models of the Channel Master OTA-DVR and later a DVR with integrated Sling Media technology) and TiVo based on similar circumstances.

RELATED: FCC Grants TiVo Waiver from Analog Tuner Mandate

The FCC waiver arrives after documents about the AirTV had been uncovered. EchoStar has not announced a launch date for the AirTV, but the product will use the Slingbox M1/M2 form factor and cost $149.99, according to ZatzNotFunny, per a “draft” listing on Amazon that provided more details on the product.

RELATED: Dish-EchoStar ‘Sling AirTV’ Nears Retail Debut: Report

Update: EchoStar declined to offer further comment on its product introduction plan for AirTV. 

In addition to enabling OTA-TV, the draft description noted that AirTV will integrate an app for Sling TV, Dish Network’s OTT-TV service for cord-cutters.  

In January, Sling TV launched an app on Channel Master’s DVR+ platform, a subscription-free DVR that integrates broadband connectivity (for OTT services) and over-the-air TV tuning capabilities. Sling TV is also being integrated with Comcast’s X1 platform, though the emphasis there will be for Sling TV’s expansive international OTT offerings, and not its core “Blue” and “Orange” subscription tiers.

RELATED: Sling TV to Stream to Comcast’s X1 Platform