AirTV’s Mitch Weinraub Describes Consumer Benefits of Integrating Over-The-Top and Over-The-Air Video

06 January 2017

AirTV and Technicolor Build Android TV-based Device to Offer Seamless OTA and OTT Platforms

AirTV

AirTV

  • AirTV L.L.C. was launched at CES 2017 to offer an Android TV based service via the AirTV Player device that integrates over-the-top (OTT) and over-the-air (OTA) video platforms.
  • The open Android TV platform was chosen for the AirTV Player because it gives consumers access to the full contents of the Google Play Store and enables AirTV to add new services without having to undertake custom development.
  • AirTV chose Technicolor to help it develop the AirTV Player because of Technicolor’s ability to provide a good product at a good price in a very short timeframe.
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AirTV and Technicolor Build Android TV-based Device to Offer Seamless OTA and OTT Platforms

AirTV

AirTV

  • AirTV L.L.C. was launched at CES 2017 to offer an Android TV based service via the AirTV Player device that integrates over-the-top (OTT) and over-the-air (OTA) video platforms.
  • The open Android TV platform was chosen for the AirTV Player because it gives consumers access to the full contents of the Google Play Store and enables AirTV to add new services without having to undertake custom development.
  • AirTV chose Technicolor to help it develop the AirTV Player because of Technicolor’s ability to provide a good product at a good price in a very short timeframe.

Mitch Weinraub, Director of Product Development for AirTV

Mitch Weinraub, Director of Product Development for AirTV

Mitch Weinraub, Director of Product Development for AirTV, explains how Android TV underpins AirTV’s first product, the AirTV Player device, enabling it to bring together over-the-top video and over-the-air TV broadcasts.

Mitch, please explain what AirTV does and what you are planning to do as you venture into 2017 with your new team.

Weinraub: AirTV is a new brand that is dedicated to integrating over-the-air technology into the entertainment experience, making it simple and easy for customers to access all their content.

How are you going to market it with your offerings?

Weinraub: The first product we are releasing is the AirTV Player. That’s a new streaming device that enables the customer to take what has been a fragmented viewing experience and integrate its components for their own entertainment purposes. It brings together Sling TV, over-the-air channels, Netflix, and the Google Play Store in one device with one user interface.

This sounds like a direct-to-consumer play. Is that correct?

Weinraub: Yes. It is being made as a direct-to-consumer play. And at around a $100 starting price, the AirTV Player is a very affordable way for consumers to get into this space. They can get the equipment, get it into their home and start to play with both the over-the-air signals, select which over-the-top streaming services they are interested in, and figure out the programming that’s right for them, whether that is Sling TV or any of the other services that are out there.

My understanding is that, at the core of this device, is Android TV technology. Is that correct?

Weinraub: Yes, the AirTV Player is an Android TV device. We have taken that platform and created our own screens and our own launcher on top of it.

Why did you decide to take the Android TV approach to this particular offering, and how do you see this category of Android TV devices evolving?

Weinraub: I think one of the best things Android TV brings us is the Google Play Store. It allows us to get access to whatever is the latest and greatest that the consumer wants without us having to go and do a custom design, a custom build, a custom evolution of whatever the next technology is.

This way our customers get access to the content we are providing but they can also get access to virtually everything else because it will appear in the Google Play Store and they can run it on the box.

Do you see this displacing the more traditional approaches to set-top boxes?

Weinraub: In our view, right now, there is a place for both approaches. Android TV devices with the Google Play Store embedded have a role in where technology is going. Android TV really works for some consumers. In other situations, there is still a need for a proprietary set-top box that provides the full bundle of features U.S. consumers have seen for a very long time.

Would it be fair to say this is a response to the over-the-top players that have entered the market and created some disruption?

Weinraub: I think the primary use of this box is to watch Sling TV, which is leading the way in OTT delivery. Our goal was to create a box that gave a really good viewing experience for that kind of environment. It is not necessarily going to replace all other means of watching television. It is there really to bring the streaming experience up to the level that customers would expect.

From an operational perspective, describe what AirTV can offer that will address the complexity and frustrations that people have using what is available today.

Weinraub: One of the biggest concerns consumers have with streaming services is the lack of access to their local channels. That is one of the biggest customer complaints when they try and cut the cord. So we have seen a resurgence in people looking at over-the-air broadcasts and figuring out how they can bring those into their entertainment experience.

What we’ve done with this box is to help them on that road. We’ve put together a system that allows them to integrate their local broadcast channels — which many Americans can receive for free just by putting up an antenna — with pay TV services, with streaming services, and wrap all that up in one really user-friendly interface.

From a technical standpoint, how does that work? What role will the Android TV environment play in pursuing that technical strategy?

Weinraub: What we have today is a streaming TV box with an adaptor, which customers can buy — either when they make the original purchase or as an add-on at a later time — that plugs into the back of the box and serves as a tuner to pick up the on-air channels.

When they plug that TV adaptor into the box, the box automatically recognizes it and, if the customer plugs an antenna into the adaptor, the box will tune the channels to their local market, display what channels they have access to, and embed those channels into the same user interface that presents them with the channels they get over the Internet.

That sounds pretty straightforward. Now, as you look at this particular category and compare it to more traditional set-top boxes, does it create more or less complication from a technology management perspective? What are the differences from a technology management standpoint?

Weinraub: In some cases, it makes life easier and quicker because we can rely on a large community of Android TV developers. We can rely on a platform that is being managed by others for multiple purposes.

On the other side, if there is stuff we want to do that is very specific or very proprietary, we are working on top of an open platform and that might be a bit more complicated than using a traditional platform.

So we see both sides of it, but we think that, in this environment, Android TV works well for the consumer. It makes for a very light operating system that the consumer can put in a small footprint in their home and get access to a wide range of content.

I understand you are working with a broad partner community, one member of which is Technicolor. What role has Technicolor played in helping AirTV pursue its Android TV strategy?

Weinraub: When we decided to move forward with this type of integrated streaming box, we looked at a couple of different potential partners and spent some time figuring out the right way to do this. Technicolor was able to come forward with not only a good product at a good price but deliver in a pretty good timeframe, an amazing timeframe in fact.

We were able to work with Technicolor to turn this box around from initial specification and concept to market availability in about nine months.

Where do you go from here? Clearly there is a lot of momentum behind Android TV. You’ve added that interesting twist of incorporating over-the-air services for the consumer to enjoy. What happens next? What can we expect to see from AirTV?

Weinraub: I think we’ve taken a big step forward in moving customer-engaging television into the new environment and letting customers have a usable way to get access to all the content they want. I expect that to continue to evolve. I can’t tell you exactly in which direction, but we know consumers have high expectations for the television in their living room and our goal is to make sure we give them the pieces they need to go down the road of over-the-top and over-the-air streaming services and bringing those into the home.

AirTV is also providing an antenna install service called AirTV Pro Install. Customers can get one of our technicians to identify and set up the best available indoor or outdoor antenna solution for their home and wire it into their system.

That’s available whether or not they have an AirTV Player. As more and more Americans rediscover over-the-air television, we think there will be a growing market for that service.

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