Tablet TV, which was beta-testing its over-the-air (OTA) home streaming device in the San Francisco area and other locations, is being made available nationwide with several additional features added in. Some of those additions create a compelling case: The device may give new insight into the viewing habits of both OTA and online video across platforms by individual viewers.
The company began accepting orders last week and began shipping on Nov. 15 through Amazon.
Tablet TV Plus picks up OTA signals and streams them to enabled devices within the user's home. But it also has a few features the original Tablet TV device didn't: Users can also stream online video channels and services through an Internet connection, view a split screen, record OTA content for time-shifted viewing and simultaneously access Internet and social media sites while watching television through the device. The new device includes Chromecast and Airplay capability so viewers can watch content on their big screens.
Luc Tomasino, chief marketing officer and launch director for Tablet TV, said that the additions were a result of feedback during the device's trial run in the San Francisco market. "We took that feedback and improved app performance," he said in an interview with FierceOnlineVideo. While the most-viewed programs are still those presented over the air, "people really want a complete experience and we needed to build on the app's capabilities, which meant including the OTT capabilities as well as putting the picture up on the big screen."
The Plus device doesn't yet include Android compatibility (the older Tablet TV app still works for Android users, however), but it does work with iOS tablets.
The new device also represents a step forward for traditional TV broadcasters. Granite Broadcasting is one half of the joint venture that developed Tablet TV; Motive Television provided the technology behind the product. As a Granite DMA, San Francisco made a good launching pad for the device. The company also tested in other areas such as New York during the runup to the nationwide launch.
"Motive TV has brought the technology to the table and Granite has brought the broadcaster participation in this," said Tomasino. "They've been very supportive and it gives very good validation to say that a broadcaster is behind this."
The Tablet TV Plus device may also give Granite -- and others -- new insight into viewer behaviors around OTA and OTT programming. "The app is able to record activity -- anonymously, of course … but we are able to garner activity in terms of what people are watching," Tomasino said. "We're going to be testing this out. We have had introductory talks with Rentrak and Nielsen and will be able to provide them with test data on how people are behaving across over-the-air and internet-based activity."
Tomasino said the company has already identified two common types of users who are attracted to Tablet TV's capabilities: cord-cutters looking to add an OTA option and "on the go" viewers who want to watch their local TV stations while they're away from home. "For instance, TV production crews who have to go on location for extended periods of time" and who want to catch up on local news back home, he said, or "parents who are waiting for their kids on Saturday during their games and want to watch the football game."
How popular the $90 Tablet TV Plus is with consumers remains to be seen, but launching ahead of the holiday season may provide a sales boost. The physical device may also soon have to compete with completely virtualized linear OTT services -- while broadcasters haven't yet figured out exactly how to stream their content via local television markets, companies like NewsON are streaming local news and licensed content directly to devices.
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