A new kickstarter project is due to launch called 4SeTV, which brings multiview capabilities to anyone for both a tablet and your TV.
The box is addressed at a market closest to Sling boxes; it brings in an antenna and allows consumption on IP connected devices. To use it:
- A box with a terrestrial receiver (ATSC, for the US market) connects to your antenna.
- You can then view the TV signals on your tablet through an app; this allows tuning into individual chanels or creation of 4 channel multiview layouts.
- This multiview, as well as tuned individual channels, can also be streamed to a DLNA-capable TV or to a Chromecast device - with the tablet capable of controlling the signal.
We've seen a number of value added terrestrial boxes launched in the US market, mostly focussed on DVR storage. Of course, the most successful retail DVR in the US market is TiVo. TiVo's stream adapter (retailing at $129 as an add-on to a TiVo Roamio box or built-in to the Roamio Plus at $399 or Pro at $599) allows tablet viewing as well as sideloading. Sling (mentioned in the intro) is now owned by EchoStar, and integrated with Dish's Hopper and Joey set-top boxes, as well as being resold to cable operators through Arris's Whole Home solution. Sling's retail multiscreen add-on's support TV connections while using IR blasters to control cable or satellite boxes. The Sling M1 with Component/Composite retails at $150 while Sling TV with HDMI connections retails at $299. Of course, a number of other boxes have tried to launch in this market and failed. Notably, Boxee's Cloud DVR failed (just before the Boxee team's acquisition by Samsung). Simple.tv (and affiliated box manufacturer SiliconDust) continue to work to crack the market. Channelmaster also offers the DVR+ (manufactured by Echostar), which doesn't have adequate tablet capabilities.
Multiview isn't an entirely new feature. Most operators set-top boxes and some TVs with broadcast reception allow picture-in-picture mode. DirecTV has DoublePlay that let's you watch two programs side by side. AT&T's U-verse likely leverages multiview the best (to our knowledge), with a News, Kids, Sports, ESPN Game and ESPN Full Court multi-views part of their standard programming line-up. Cablevision's Optimium had launched Quick Views leveraging ActiveVideo technology; we're not sure if they're still active. In addition, NFL Red Zone and some other sports networks broadcast a single channel that allows consumers to stay tuned to multiple games simultaneously. However, those fall short of user controlled multiview.
The 4SeTV product is a compelling offering for consumers using free-to-air (FTA) terrestrial programming and wishing to bring TV to other rooms on their tablets, and especially those looking to improve their multi-game sports capabilities for busy game Sundays. Multiview as a feature has been inaccessable to most of the TV watching public - let alone with the ability to use a tablet to keep an eye on what's happening while using the big screen to see the action. Unfortunately, the inability to connect to cable or satellite, leaving ESPN and other sports networks inaccessible, makes this a bit more of a technology demonstration than a viable product for many consumers.