Blog Post

Channel Master is developing a whole-home DVR solution for cord cutters

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Channel Master, known for its over-the-air TV antennas as well as some early digital video recorders that go along with these antennas, started shipping its new DVR+ this week — and the company is already looking to bring additional functionality to the device. Channel Master EVP Joe Bingochea told me at the CES in Las Vegas Wednesday that his company is looking to introduce a small companion device in the next few months that will turn the DVR+ into a whole-home digital video recorder.

Channel Master sells its new DVR+ for $250. For that price, consumers get a pretty neat box with a very clean design as well as a programming guide — something for that TiVo charges around $15 per month, depending on the individual plan.


However, the device also has its downsides. It only comes with 16 GB of onboard storage, which means that consumers have to connect an external hard drive to record more than a handful of TV show episodes. It also doesn’t support Wifi, and instead offers an Ethernet port and the option to buy an extra wireless adapter. And at least for now, the DVR+ only comes with one streaming app — Vudu (s WMT) — but Bingochea said that others will follow soon.

Channel Master has been positioning the device as a solution for consumer that don’t want to pay any monthly fees at all, and Bingochea also said that many of his company’s customers are more used to the traditional channel grid used by pay TV providers. That’s why the company also isn’t including ann app store. Instead, it lists Vudu right alongside other channels in the channel grid.

Bingochea said that whole-home DRV functionality was one of the most-requested features, which is why the company is now developing an adapter that can be connected to other TVs in the house to stream recordings from a DVR+ over the local network. The device won’t allow out-of-home streaming, but Channel Master cooperated with EchoStar (S SATS) on the development of the DVR+, and as a result, it is compatible with Sling’s Slingbox 500.

22 Responses to “Channel Master is developing a whole-home DVR solution for cord cutters”

  1. grandsmothers

    I’m interested in this, but it should be pretty flawless to beat the $40 models on Amazon like Homeworx. These have mediocre guides, poor remotes, and don’t display correct channel numbers on the device, but otherwise get pretty good reviews.

    The cost to add Wifi *alone* for the Channelmaster DVR+ is $40. So already I am tempted to just buy the Homeworx and see if it’s sufficient. Another disappointment is it appears the Channelmaster is still using the super old MPEG-2 compression technology. Now that’s probably because it’s not doing any encoding, just saving the raw stream, and I should really be mad at the US standards which allowed MPEG-2 to become part of ATSC (our broadcast standard) when no one else in the world uses such an old and bloated compression scheme, but it would give us WAY more storage space if the DVR encoded mpeg-4 files (and at $250 it seems it could have that ability).

    Personally I am happy with my Windows Media Center with Hauppauage usb stick tuner but I am looking forward to reviews of the DVR+ and may purchase as gifts for family members / parents. And I am always glad to see innovation in this market. I don’t miss cable at all (except for HBO)!

  2. Amish guy

    If you have to have Peterc408 tell you that the key is to look up the FCC website…you really don’t have a clue of what this is about. I live in the middle of nowhere, 60 miles from the nearest metropolitan area. Before it went digital, depending on wind and weather, I could get 56 channels. That has dropped to around 35 since the digital broadcast changeover. I am one of those freaks that has never had a cord to cut. My kids used to tell their friends we were Amish. Roster is absolutely right…this unit does not need to do anything else. It does just what it is supposed to…it replaces my old VCR that is stuffed in the closet. If I want to spend a spring evening working out in the yard before it rains the next day…I can push a button on and the TV show I wanted to watch is recorded so I can sit down and watch it after the sun goes down. If my grandson’s team is going to be on the news I can program a timer and record the broadcast. This is what we have been waiting for… I can wait to get mine.

  3. Jimbo Tron

    The HD signal is encoded via the Over The Air signal. The rf input is for the connection from the OTA antenna to the box. The box records the OTA signal “AS IS”.

    If you have never seen a “REAL” HD broadcast over the air, check it out. The picture quality blows anything Cable, Uverse or Dish/DIrecTV can give you.

  4. If they can get and seamlessly integrate the premium streaming services on here; Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, NHL, MLB, WatchESPN, etc., they will have a cable killer. One of the problems with cord cutting is the caps the cable companies put on Internet usage. If you can, however, record many of your favorite shows for free over they air, you can eliminate some of the need for streaming.

  5. Peterc408

    Here is the key, find out what you can get with an antenna.
    There is a good site from the FCC that will give you a good idea of what you can get.
    Also note the type of Signal. UHF channels are easy to grab with a small cheap antenna. It is the Hi-V, or High band VHF that requires getting a bigger antennas. Also you can discover the distance to the broadcast towers. This will help you again find out what kind of antenna you need to buy and if you need a gain box. Bye Bye Cable. Don’t fall for the package deals. Check out OOMA for phone service. All I pay for is internet, everything else is (close to) free!

  6. I hope that you can record to a network drive, plus have the ability to record to an h.264 format with a naming convention suitable for PLEX consumption. If that’s the case, I’m sold!

    • You people seem to be missing the fact that the main purpose for this device is to record tv and watch the program on that tv. It’s a simple device to do one thing well: record and playback tv, just like a VCR – something most you you commenting here have never owned in your life.

      Yes you can connect this to the internet and you one “app” so far and perhaps more to follow. But this device was designed to be dumb so that if you don’t have internet and aren’t a cord cutter because you never got cable in the first place, you can record your shows and watch them later just like you did with your VCR.

      You people keep complaining that it doesn’t do more and more and more…. WTF does it need to? This isn’t supposed to be a computer media center its an electronic version of the VCR so just let it be that!

  7. This is an awesome DVR. My in-laws have no internet and no cable. This gives them a nice guide and a great DVR.

    This is also a great DVR for people who do not want the world to know what they watch or how long they watch. PSIP + OTA = Privacy. I have an idea for a Channel Master promotion…

    DVR+: We don’t care what you watch

      • Janko, I own and have reviewed both the DVR+ and the DVR v1 ( and am familiar with the tablo. In my opinion, the DVR+ is a completely different animal.

        For starters, the DVR+ is a set top box. Neither of the other devices has any output connections. You need some other device to get the programming from the Simple DVR or the Tablo to your television.

        The DVR+ does not require any phone or internet connection. People complain that the DTVPal DVR was orphaned, but they still fetch interest on ebay because they don’t actually need any kind of support.

        The DVR+ has better pause/rewind/fast forward/slow motion than either of the others.

        I think the other two devices are a good whole house DVR — something to sit on your network collecting shows to be played back at another time from multiple roku equipped televisions, tablets, or PCs, but that the DVR+ the only one that you should sit in front of.

        We have an EchoStar (DTVPal/DVR+) DVR and a Roku on each television and four Simple DVRs in the basement. The set top DVRs are used all day long and the other devices are supplemental. Great uses for the Simple DRV include…

        – remote access
        – collecting and sharing programming for my whole house
        – adding programming from a separate antenna/market

        Hope that helps.

  8. Go to the Channel Master website and check the connections on the back of the device. The signal input is RF only — in other words, NO HDMI or Component input. In view of that, how good can the resultant recorded programs look?

    It seems to me that in order to make truly high-quality HD recordings, the recorder must have either an HDMI or Component input — something that few, if any, equipment manufacturers are willing to include for fear of lawsuits by the MPAA, the Hollywood studios and the television networks.

    HD recorders (both Blu-Ray and hard drive-based) with HDMI and Component inputs ARE commonplace in Japan and have been for years. But apparently, we in the U.S. aren’t entitled to the same privilege of being able to retain HD copies of the output of our own domestic entertainment industry.

  9. Fatbob03

    I think it is great. I have held off purchasing one of these devices for years because of the tivo tax. Use a HTPC with WMC for a DVR and it works well. The problem is as previously stated. I am the tech genius in my house and if it was just me using the device it would fine. It works most of the time. The downside is that Microsoft is moving away from supporting or expanding WMC. We still have issues with the programming guide data also.

    My concern with this device is the guide data. How accurate and up to date will it be since it is free. Here is hoping that this doesn’t have the same amount of limitations the DVRPals had. The last one had a major heat issue and this slim design worries me.

    If you look at cost. Your talking $250 plus say $85 for a 2TB hard drive. Not sure what drives are supported. So your in for say $325. If you bought a Roamio for $150 and lifetime service your at $650. Double the cost.

    I like the and how you can daisy chain to expand your tuner pool. But you have to have both an external drive and roku or similar. Same with Tablo but the 4 tuner for $250 sounds interesting.

    Final point is after years of being left out in the cold we finally have a market for this. I know no one will believe this but I have never had cable or satellite. Not as a kid and not now. We the bevy of streaming services and the expansion of OTA options I am feeling optimistic.

    • Ken Fortin

      Usually the main source of excess heat is a hard drive buckled into the same box with the rest of the tronics..That’s why they are calling for an external usb drive to store what you want to store..With 2 tuners and HDMI TV input ,1080/720 p it should be a nice network tv addition..

    • You might be the “tech genius” in your home, but you certainly aren’t one when it comes to television.

      The EIT (Event Information Table) is extra data that is broadcast with a television signal, much like Closed Caption Text in the VBI stream. EIT provides program data for the current show and future shows which can be then used to view on-screen program information, such as title, length, description and more. This can also be gathered to build a program guide for current and future shows on all your available channels. Most cable and satellite services use an Electronic Program Guide, or EPG. Even many modern digital televisions can have a program guide by gathering and storing EIT.

      EIT is typically available over digital television signals, either terrestrial, cable or satellite. With terrestrial signals, each channel provides it’s own EIT. Information is usually only available for the upcoming 24 hours. With satellite, the EIT is broadcast on it’s own stream, or an Aggregate Event Information Table (AEIT), and contains information for all the channels broadcasted, and can provide scheduling information for more than a week.

      Each broadcast station writes and broadcasts their own EIT.

  10. The lack of whole home DVR is one of the big barriers for me as to this product. Their plans to solve that is a huge step. I’ve used a homegrown PC solution for quite awhile and just recently converted to Simple.TV, which is working great so far (much better than the experience from the review posted to “Cord Cutters” more than a year ago). It’s good to see that real, out-of-the-box solutions for this problem for cord cutters are finally becoming available. DVR+, Simple.TV, Tablo, and Aereo are all developing compelling solutions. I wouldn’t be surprised if more companies get into the market.

    This is a huge indication that some investors see cord cutters as a growing and potentially lucrative market. The cable/satellite companies must be starting to realize they face a real problem. I think 2014 will be the year which sees massive cancellations of cable/satellite and even more cord shavers, who keep basic, but ditch all the extras.

  11. ChickenLittle

    This thing has a single tuner???? Are you kidding me? I was excited to see this story pop up as I think Channel Master does have their eye on the cord cutter market, but what’s the point of having a single tuner whole home DVR? If I have 4 TVs, I need to be able to watch 4 live shows in 4 locations at the same time! 2 should be minimum at this point!

    • How ignorant are you? This is an Over-theAir scenario, aka cord cutter situation, where you are using a television antenna to pick up signals. Yet you are going to complain that this item might only have ONE tuner? You’ve got 4 tv’s and you need to be able to watch 4 different stations at one time on each tv? So all of your tv’s are sitting next to each other or in different room? First off tv’s have built in tuners, so right there you can watch all of those 4 different shows. You have no need for a DVR.

  12. Matt Ackeret

    You do not have to pay monthly for a Tivo. You can pay lifetime (of the device). Consider it part of the purchase price and amortize it over time.

    (BTW, I still appreciate any competition!)

    • Mister_Salty

      Sure, you can pay a lifetime fee — $150 for the TiVo mini or $400 to $500 for other models. And when the hard drive dies you’re back to square one. Or, you can pay absolutely nothing for the DVR+, and when your hard drive dies, replace the drive for $50 to $60.

      I got one of the first DVR+ units that shipped and I’m loving it so far.

  13. Macgyver777

    This is that standard problem…. You can do this with off the shelf PC hardware and record OTA all day long and then stream on your local network to devices like Xboxes and Roku’s but the setup and keeping it running requires your own tech Genius. And even if you get it all working, better have a remote access so you can fix it when your wife calls and can’t watch something.

    I am considering cutting the cord myself. Kids watch Netflix like crazy on the BlueRay or the Roku or their tablets. (Nabi 2 and Nabi Jr.). but the one thing I cannot replace if we lose Dish is the Disney Channel. I wish you could purchase just Disney on the Roku as a subscription. Right now those Roku aps only work if you have a Cable Provider that is linked to them.

    I think if some cable channels start offereing thier channel as a la cart, then many cable cutters will never look back.

    I love my 722K DVR, as with the OTA module I have 4 HD tuners, but I can only watch in in HD at the main unit. The Hopper looks great but Dish doesn’t have my locals in HD. So who knows what is the best way to go… This does look interesting.

    • My kids complained about the loss of Disney, Disney XD, and Disney Junior when we cut the cord last April, but they’ve all moved on since then and, frankly, are watching better programming now than then. When we cut the cord, I would have guessed we would have subscribed to those if they became available. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t now. Frankly, I suspect that’s the experience of a lot of families. For that reason alone, Disney should seriously consider offering such subscriptions sooner rather than later, because after a few months away, the kids’ tastes change.

      • Peterc408

        Check out Futubox. They have Disney XD channel in English! They have a lot of content in French, Italian and German, but don’t let that put you off. There is a ton of channels in English and it streams pretty well – and inexpensively.

  14. If I could get another broadband provider other than Comcast I’d be all over this. The problem for me is that a portion of my monthly fee savings will be offset by Comcast charging me a higher monthly fee for Internet services.

    • Peterc408

      IT works with QAM – which is the non-encrypted part of Cable, but the whole idea here is getting rid of those greedy guys who no longer provide value to anyone living in a major metropolitan area. I get 88 Channels in San Jose; Most in HD. I haven’t paid a cable bill in 5 years. I created an entire media center to do basically what these guys have done.

      • It does not work with QAM. Only with broadcast ATSC.
        “Not compatible with existing cable and satellite connections. Requires a basic TV antenna to receive free over-the-air broadcasts.”

  15. This is exactly what I have been looking for. Add Netflix functionality on the main unit AND the extenders and I am sold.

    We cut the cord about six months ago, and I haven’t even noticed it except for the fact that my combined phone/internet/tv/Netflix bill is now $150 per month cheaper. My kids watch Netflix, instead of the same re-run on the Disney Channel again and again and again. Ooma handles the home phone. I get my news online. Everybody’s happy.

    The extra costs of the monthly fees to use a Tivo – they even charge a monthly fee for the extenders – is a huge dealbreaker. We had one for a while, but it really was highway robbery to pay that much just for channel listings.

    I have been using Windows Media Center with xboxes as extenders. That works very, very well with a hdhomerun as the tuner, but Microsoft has moved away from that model too. The other advantage of this system is that it appears to be plug and play – something that I can recommend without becoming tech support for the recommended.

    When the xbox dies, I am moving to this with two extenders.