May 3, 2023
A bit has happened with over-the-air (OTA) TV since we last discussed it. Ditto with free streaming services. We’ll talk about both in this edition of my column.
ATSC 3.0 (aka NextGen TV) has been rolling out across the country. It brings 4K broadcasts, better sound, reception over longer distances, and even interactivity! Unfortunately, the new standard requires a new tuner or converter – even if your TV can receive the older ATSC 1.0, unless it’s really new, it probably won’t be able to receive the newer broadcasts without said converter. There are some new TVs that are shipping with ATSC 3.0 tuners so if you’re in the market for a new TV be sure to check if it’s compatible with ATSC 3.0. The good news is that if you have an HDTV OTA antenna, you don’t need a new one – current antennas work just fine with the new standard. NextGen TV can also make use of an Internet connection to provide interactive functions like on demand content. In fact several PBS stations already provide OTA on demand content (https://cordcuttersnews.com/atsc-3-0-nextgen-tv-now-offers-free-pbs-on-demand-tv-with-your-antenna/). Some really good information, albeit technical, is available at https://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/atsc-3-0-ota-broadcast-standard-4k-dolby-atmos/.
When it comes to streaming services, did you know that Roku has a free service? It has a reported 350 live channels and over 80,000 movies. There’s an NFL channel with season recaps and classic game replays, and a lot of Warner Brothers/Discovery content – How It’s Made is a favorite of mine. There’s some newer content like Westworld as well as films from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can create an account for free at https://therokuchannel.roku.com/. Two things to note: first, you can’t watch it on your TV unless you have a Roku stick, an Amazon Fire stick or a Samsung TV. There’s no way to “cast” it – you’re stuck watching it on your phone or tablet. Second, be aware that they offer some premium content which will cost you so be careful. For reference, we discussed casting back on May of 2022 – https://go.ttot.link/TFTNT-WatchOnMyTV
Tubi TV offers the same Warner Brothers/Discovery content that Roku offers but you can cast it to your TV. There are a lot of local news channels available including WCPO and WLWT in Cincinnati as well as New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. They have cooking shows like Lidia’s Kitchen and Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen as well as some original content. Check them out at https://tubitv.com/home
Pluto TV has struck a deal with Walmart – if you’re a subscriber to Walmart+ you can get some of Pluto’s usually ad-supported content free. And that comes on the heels of Walmart offering their Plus subscribers a free Paramount Plus Essential plan (usually $5/month). Walmart+ has a number of perks including free shipping, free delivery, and reduced prices on fuel. Add to that the streaming benefits and it’s a pretty compelling package. Read more about the Pluto TV deal at https://thedesk.net/2023/04/walmart-ad-free-pluto-tv-commercial/ and the Paramount Plus Essential deal at https://www.tvguide.com/news/paramount-plus-walmart-plus-deal/. A lot of questions about the Walmart+ membership can be answered at their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) site https://www.walmart.com/plus/frequently-asked-questions
Sling has just recently rolled out Sling Freestream. The thing that’s kind of cool here is you don’t have to sign up for an account. But if you do you can save channels and shows. Like most of the others they have a lot of content that they rebroadcast like episodes of America’s Test Kitchen and some oldies like Johnny Carson and The Carol Burnett Show – these are available on most free services but it’s handy to have them here if you enjoy this service. They even have a few classical performances from Carnegie Hall. You can see some of what’s available at https://watch.sling.com/dashboard/home and get more information and sign up if you want at https://www.sling.com/freestream
If you happen to have a Google TV device you might have noticed that they’ve added a few streaming services to their Live tab including Tubi and Pluto TV, both of which we discussed earlier. They’ve also added some new streams from a private labelled version of Xumo Play, which we haven’t discussed but you can read about at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xumo. You can get the same content from the Xumo Play app or website (https://play.xumo.com/) but it’s handy to have it all available in one place.
That’s all for this week’s column. I hope this helps you upgrade your TV experience, both OTA and streaming.
As always, my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.
Please feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at tony@TonysTakeOnTech.com or just drop me a quick note and say HI! And don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot.link/TGC+L – it should be updated shortly after this column appears online.