A new breed of super set-top boxes lets you take command of your pay-TV service, at home and on the go. Satellite TV operators DirecTV and Dish Network led the charge with digital video recorders that let you record five or more programs at a time. These have evolved to let you watch programs on your smartphone and tablet at home and away.
Cable companies and TiVo are getting in on the act, too, with their own super DVRs. For years, pay-TV providers competed on high-definition video quality and programming lineups, for instance, with DirecTV touting its exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket lineup of out-of-market games.
These days, adding new features and functions has become crucial to keep customers satisfied and prevent an exodus to Internet video programmers such as Netflix and Net TV-delivery solutions such as Apple TV. "You've got to find something new to compete with," says analyst Bill Niemeyer of The Diffusion Group, "and this new thing is tech."
Punting DirecTV would be tough for me as a displaced Kansas City Chiefs fan living in the Washington, D.C., area, because of its exclusivity for out-of-market NFL games. But the DirecTV Genie DVR's ability to record five programs simultaneously has come in handy since I upgraded to that a few months ago (it's free for new customers and usually discounted for current customers with a subscription upgrade).
On sport-heavy days, I have recorded two baseball games and three golf tournaments simultaneously, so I don't miss any action. The Genie's 1 terabyte of storage (about 200 hours of high-def content) leaves plenty of room to safely keep a slew of movies and favorite concerts on board, too.
Add the Genie To Go device ($99) and you can stream content to your Android or Apple iOS smartphone or tablet. If you want to plan ahead, you can download programs to watch when you are out and about.
Downloading programs can take five to 15 minutes, depending on the length, but it provides better quality than streaming them, which can be affected by the quality of your home network . But some video from a CMT Crossroads Jimmy Buffett and Zac Brown Band concert streamed to my iPhone at a restaurant was very watchable and listenable. (continued...)
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