Streaming is here to stay. How do we know this? Because it seems like everyone is launching their own streaming stick that lets you access your favorite streaming services.
Now, Dish is joining that long list of companies with the launch of the AirTV Mini, a 4K streaming stick with a similar design and features to the Amazon Fire Stick. What’s most surprising about this device is that it’s coming from Dish – a satellite service company.
Okay, technically, AirTV is a subsidiary of Dish, but you get the picture.
The Mini is the newest hardware in the AirTV lineup which includes AirTV and AirTV Player (includes local channels).
The AirTV Mini is like other stick streaming devices – it allows you to watch content from your favorite streaming services, like Netflix. But it also allows you to access Sling TV as well as over-the-air channels. It’s an Android TV-powered device that complements an existing OTA setup.
In other words, the Mini does not act like an indoor antenna. You’ll still need an over-the-air (OTA) antenna, like the ones we review on our site, to access OTA channels. You’ll also need an AirTV Wi-Fi enabled network tuner.
The Mini supports:
The remote even has a lost remote finder feature. Sure, it’s not the most important thing, but it’s a handy feature to have for those times when you lose the remote – which is about half the size of an old-school TV remote. It also has designated buttons for Sling TV, Netflix and Google Assistant to save you some time when accessing your content.
Oh, and you can even program the remote to control your accessories, like your television, soundbar and other components.
Now, I’m not here to try and get you to buy the AirTV Mini. Compared to an OTA antenna and other streaming devices, it’s a pricey product – $79.99 for the stick. Other devices, like Roku TV and Fire TV Recast also allow you to switch between your OTA antenna and streaming services. But it does highlight the growing world of OTA setups and streaming services.
Cutting the cord has become mainstream, and more devices are supporting an OTA/streaming setup. In fact, cord cutters have gotten the attention of politicians in the U.S. who are now trying to resolve issues that cable and cord cutters are facing.
A bipartisan effort led by Republican Steve Scalise and Democratic Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo is looking to address TV blackouts and, hopefully, increase competition in the TV world. The bill is called the Modern Television Act of 2019, and it would effectively replace the 1992 Cable Act.
What exactly does this bill do?
For starters, it would extend the “Good Faith” negotiation requirements, and these requirements would also apply to small- and medium-sized cable operator buying groups. This means that small competitors can join forces to negotiate for programming and better prices for cable subscribers.
It would also protect consumers from broadcast blackouts when negotiations fail to extend an agreement. MVPDs would be required to continue carrying a broadcast signal while all parties are in negotiations for up to 60 days. Parties would be retroactively paid for content aired during this time-period.
Additionally, the legislation would repeal transmissions content and compulsory content licenses to allow for free-market contract negotiations under traditional copyright law. Federal, state and local governments would also have the authority to regulate cable rates.
The Government Accountability Office would be required to report certain metrics about the impact of the legislation on consumers and the marketplace every two years. Using this data, the FCC would be required to determine whether the changes had a positive, negative or indeterminate effect. If the impact is negative, the FCC would be required to provide recommended policies for Congress to improve the marketplace.
One thing that wouldn’t change: access to local programming. A local television broadcast channel would still retain the right to require carriage on satellite and cable providers in their local area.
The news comes as TV blackouts are in focus in the media. Nexstar and CBS are no longer being carried on DirecTV platforms, and CBS has noted that sports fans will have to find some other way to access the games they want to watch.
There have been more than 200 blackouts this year alone. If you’re still hanging onto your cable subscription, you’ve undoubtedly been affected by these blackouts. Your bill certainly hasn’t changed, but you’re no longer getting access to the same content you were promised.
The Modern Television Act of 2019 highlights the growing problems cable companies and networks are facing as more people move away from cable television. All parties are just trying to protect their bottom lines, but with fewer cable subscribers, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain let alone grow profits.
AT&T has been a staunch supporter of the legislation, although many broadcast networks are against the changes.
Ultimately, the bill may protect cable subscribers from blackouts and rate increases. But what happens when cord cutters are the majority and cable subscribers are the minority? Will laws have to change again to address the needs and issues that streaming customers face?
I recently read that the four big broadcasters – ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox – have joined together to sue Locast over its local TV streams. The question is: how is this app any different than an OTA antenna? It provides broadcast TV signals.
The networks argue that Locast is retransmitting the signals of local TV stations without permission, and that is why they are breaking the law. What’s interesting about Locast is that it’s a non-profit company that relies on donations to stay up and running. The app is free, but the networks argue that it’s just a way to serve AT&T and Dish customers (the company was founded by a former Dish executive).
The new law introduced in Congress would eliminate this problem, allowing for broadcast TV to be enjoyed by a larger audience.
Big changes are coming in the world of television, but those changes may not be great for cable companies and broadcast networks.