Can’t afford that round-the-world trip you’ve always dreamed of taking? Now you can bring the world to your living room instead: WhereverTV, which offers an online collection of international TV channels, is bringing its service to U.S. TVs with a new set-top box. The company’s $199 WhereverTV Receiver connects to your TV, allowing you to watch more than 800 foreign TV stations from the comfort of your couch. But if your computer and your TV aren’t in the same room, you might need a very long Ethernet cord.
The WhereverTV Receiver is actually very easy to set up. You first connect it to your router or modem via Ethernet, then connect it to your TV via composite A/V, plug it in, and you’re ready to go. All of the cables are included, but the Ethernet cable is only two meters long — if only my TV were that close to my router. My router is upstairs and my TV is downstairs, so I ended up dragging my router down the stairs and dragging an extra-long Ethernet cord across the living room. Hardly an ideal situation — and not one that would work if I were planning on keeping the WhereverTV receiver installed past my testing period.
And, I have to say, I might actually like to keep using this product. Once it’s connected, the receiver lets you view about 800 of WhereverTV’s 1,000 online channels on your TV. You can view available channels by county, genre or language, and you can create your own customized list of channels using the included remote. You also can manage your list of stations online at Wherever.tv. The WhereverTV Receiver also includes a link to YouTube. You can search for videos, or view the most popular videos of the day, week or month.
The box, which is manufactured by Neuros, encodes the video coming from your computer so that you can see it on your TV screen. But some of WhereverTV’s online channels — including the UK’s intriguingly-named Single Malt TV – won’t play back using the device, because they use unsupported codecs. WhereverTV’s CEO, Mark Cavicchia, says when channels are not broadcasting live, they may change streams with each show — so you may be able to watch one show on a channel, but not the next one.
Video quality varied wildly; it ranged from decent to downright unwatchable. I attempted to watch a rugby match on Australia’s Big Pond Sport channel, but couldn’t follow the action because the video was so blocky. I had better luck watching the UK’s Sky News channel (which was, like many U.S. stations, showing Joe the Plumber’s press conference). While the video from Sky News was mostly clear, it was oddly letterboxed on my 19-inch widescreen HDTV.
The WhereverTV Receiver could also benefit from an HDMI port and built-in wireless. Cavicchia recommends using an Ethernet adapter that uses your home’s electrical wiring, but that will cost you about $100. He says both features could potentially appear in the next version of the WhereverTV Receiver, which is expected next year.
Cavicchia also says WhereverTV is also looking to expand into handheld devices. Other plans include the addition of paid online services, such as premium channels; he says the company is already working on partnerships. Right now, the Pittsburgh-based company has five U.S. employees, plus a resource center with 13 employees, and it will use funding from Idea Foundry, Innovation Works, and angel investors to expand its staff.
The WhereverTV Receiver is something of a niche product, but it’s fun to use. Watching international TV channels has an exotic feel that you can’t get from channel surfing at home. Even if the receiver itself is too much for you, you should check out WhereverTV’s web site. You may not be able to afford a trip abroad, but at least you can watch some international TV.