A first look at Simple.tv’s HTML5 app


Simple.tv made a splash at CES with the announcement of a budget-priced DVR service that’s geared toward the cord-cutting crowd. The company will start selling its DVR by the end of spring for $149, and Simple.tv CEO Mark Ely told me during a recent meeting that the company’s iPad(s AAPL) and Roku apps will be available as soon as the first devices ship.

However, Simple.tv is also working on an HTML5 app for Boxee, Google(s GOOG) TV and other connected TV platforms that will be made available soon after, and he shared some first screenshots exclusively with GigaOM.

Take a first look at Simple.tv’s HTML5 app below:

Ely cautioned that the HTML5 app is still a work-in-progress and that things may look different once it gets released later this year.

Simple.tv’s DVR will come without a hard drive, instead utilizing USB drives that customers connect to the device. It will stream video within the local network as well as to mobile devices on the go. Ely said that the company is saving every recording with three different bitrates to accommodate different streaming needs. Simple.tv does so by HTTP live streaming, also known as HLS. The company hasn’t settled on final bitrates yet, but Ely told me it is currently testing 5Mbps for its highest-quality 1080p stream.

Customers will get basic recording capability for free; Simple.tv will charge $5 per month for an advanced EPG. Simple.tv isn’t the only company trying to make money with DVR services for cord cutters: Boxee seems to be working on DVR capabilities for its live TV dongle as well, and TiVo(s TIVO) has been doing a number of promotions geared toward cord cutters in recent months. Ely, however, told me he’s playing in a bit of a different league, because Simple.tv is not competing with Boxee or TiVo as a platform. “I’d much rather be the app that you launch,” he said.



So, it looks like this thing is just a box with an ATSC tuner inside, and software that allows it to record to a user-supplied attached USB hard drive. (I initially mistakenly thought that they were basically an internet streaming cable company.) I agree that they need to make a dual tuner model available sooner than later, but even buying two will be cheaper than building an HTPC for this purpose (something that I did recently) as long as you already have a box that will play the content recorded, like a Boxee/Roku/Game Console/etc. (which I do).

Brian Cavanaugh

I have a much better solution, it’s call a computer… If you are spending this kind of money why not get the best solution? Hook up a $400 htpc, with a network tv tuner for $100 and you are good to go! The user interface is much better, DVR space is unlimited, you can access OTA and the entirity of the the internet, plus it’s $0 a month forever!! I have been doing this for a while, and have found it to be far superior to any other options…


This is an interesting product, but the $149 price does not include the ability to record series. To get that – something that is IMHO, absolutely critical for a DVR – you need a $4.99/mo subscription.

It also doesn’t provide the ability to playback directly on a TV – is an HDMI out port really that expensive? To get it on a TV you need a roku, a google tv box, or a boxee box.

And after all of that is said and done, it’s still just a single tuner DVR.

I had hoped this would provide some OTA DVR competition for TiVo. But to replicate the functionality of TiVo I’d have to buy extra equipment. It’s still cheaper than a TiVo w/lifetime subscription, but not much. And I don’t see any option like out of monthly subscription fees like TiVo provides with it’s lifetime subscription.



Ok, so here’s the numbers. To replicate a dual tuner TiVo Premiere on a TV, you’d need:

2 simple.tv’s at $150 each
2 USB drives at $50 each
1 Roku at $50
Total = $450 and you still have a $5/mo subscription.

TiVo Premiere: $100
TiVo Lifetime: $400
Total: $500

It’s not a very good replacement for a TiVo. OTOH, if you want to watch most of your TV on phones, tablets or computers, it’s probably a better option.

Dan Sagisser

I think you guys have a really valid point. For me the math works out really different though. I really want to be able to watch in multiple rooms, and devices at the same time. For that on tivo, you would need two tivos, with two life time subscriptions… which is about $1000… and possibly some streamer box, that isn’t out yet.

It sounds like with this service, I’d be able to do it for $400 (I think you only need one USB drive, from what I’ve read)… and if you already have a Roku, or spare USB drive… it’s even cheaper.

Dan Sagisser

I’m in the same boat. I keep hoping they’ll switch it to two tuners at the last minute, but I’ll probably still give it a shot.

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