DirecTV, the US-based satellite TV provider has been busy upgrading its offerings recently. The company has a very nice Android app that allows customers to view and schedule programming from anywhere, and has released its new Genie DVR that brings added storage and tuners to everyone.
Now the company is expanding its service to offer more than 30 live TV out-of-home streaming channels, including popular channels like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, The Movie Channel, STARZ , ENCORE, Tennis Channel and Scripps Networks. In addition, the company will now deliver a lineup of 100 live TV in-home streaming channels.
“To support the DirecTV Everywhere program expansion, the satellite provider is also relaunching its Android tablet app to support both live and on demand programming across all screen sizes and multiple operating systems. This extends the DIRECTV Everywhere offering across all major devices and screen sizes”, a statement reads.
The expansion is scheduled to roll out tomorrow, November 21st, and the company promises to continue these updates in the future.
Nomad, DirecTV’s answer to the popular Sling Hopper from competitor Dish Network, has been updated and renamed. The newly christened GenieGo, named after the latest DVR (the Genie), has received a new, cheaper price and also some updates.
The big news is the price drop, which brings the GenieGo down from $150 to a more palatable $99. The device initially only transcoded and transferred DVR recordings, but has since expanded its capabilities by also providing (almost) live television in-home streaming. The device also has a history of supporting iPhone with a solid app, but now adds Android into the mix.
“GenieGO™ works with your Genie or HD DVR to let you sync your recorded shows to your laptop, tablet, or phone, and take them to go. No Internet connection needed when you want to watch, so you can enjoy your shows truly anywhere. When you’re within your home Wi-Fi network, you can even stream your recorded shows instantly without having to sync them to your device first”
You can learn more about the GenieGo here and check out the new Android app on the Google Play store. There are also apps for both Windows and Mac computers.
PlayOn has been around for several years now, but for most people it has remained on the edge. However, the app has managed to become more prominent and insinuate itself into more places. It can work with almost any DLNA-capable device and also works with other popular hardware like Roku and Google TV. Since DirecTV’s HR line of DVR’s are DLNA-capable I decided to give it a shot.
There are a few things you need to take care of before getting started. First and foremost, you need to make sure your DVR is connected to your home network — mine is hardwired thanks to an ethernet jack I installed behind the media cabinet and network switch that feeds, not only the DVR, but the HTPC, Netgear NeoTV and Blue-Ray player.
Now you will need to install the PlayOn server on a computer on your home network. The free version contains home media access, Pandora, YouTube and HBO Go (subject to your subscription). The paid service contains about 60 additional channels and costs $19.99 per year.
Enable the “My Media” feature and then point it to the folders where your media — pictures, video and music — is stored. It may take a bit of time to catalog everything.
Now, on your DirecTV DVR click the “Menu” button, browse to “Extras”, click “Music & Pictures” and you will find a list of the available channels and files from your PlayOn server.
Under many of the stations you will find sub-headings, including subsidiary channels like NBC Sports under NBC. While it work great with a DirecTV DVR, it really is more for those who are looking to cut the cord and PlayOn with a Google TV box may just be the way to go.
DirecTV subscribers are often frustrated by the lack of benefits to current customers, while the service continues to advertise great deals, like free NFL Sunday Ticket, to new subscribers. Well, right now the satellite company is throwing a bone to current users by offering their brand new Genie HD DVR for free.
The Genie is the latest upgrade to the receiver / DVR and it offers a long list of benefits that make it a much better device than the current HR 23 and HR 24 hardware. Those older receivers featured two tuners, meaning you could either record two shows at a time or record one while watching another. They also featured a fairly sizable 500 GB hard drive, which provided plenty of storage for most people.
If, however, you find yourself, as my family has, receiving messages that you need to cancel a recording because you have more than two things set, or because you are watching something while two other shows are scheduled, or running out of space during an big event like the summer Olympics, then you may want the Genie. The new DVR offers an incredible 5 tuners and 1 TB of storage. In addition, all of the previous version’s features are also included.
So why not upgrade? Well, there is one stumbling block that may turn off some customers. You will need to agree to a brand new two year contract just like the one you got way back when you first signed up for the service.
If you don’t mind the extra two year agreement, or simply can’t live anymore without more tuners or more space, then this is a no-brainer. If you aren’t worried about these things, or planning to cut the cord, then you should probably skip this deal.
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As of midnight tonight, DirecTV customers will lose access to 26 Viacom channels including MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and more, unless DirecTV and Viacom can negotiate an agreement. Each side is trying to paint the other as the bad guy on their Facebook pages (links below). If you go to any of the sites of the channels that are controlled by Viacom an ad will pop up shouting that DirecTV is taking away the channel from the consumer. DirecTV says this isn’t so, that Viacom wants too much money and isn’t willing to negotiate in good faith. A couple of weeks ago, Dish customers lost access to AMC in another dispute. As usual the dispute is about money and what the content is worth. DirecTV is complaining that Viacom wants consumers to pay 30% more on channels they already receive, while Viacom counters with the argument that the increase is equal to only pennies a day per consumer.
These types of disputes seem to be popping up almost monthly. Meanwhile the consumers are stuck in the middle again, just wishing they could keep watching their favorite shows. Now they will have to find these shows online either through legal sites such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, which means waiting till they are available or illegally thru a site like Pirate Bay. If this trend continues cord cutting may become more popular. So the very thing that they are against is the thing that they are pushing the consumer toward.
Rumors are circulating that the new HD user interface will start rolling out to DirecTV subscribers beginning November 1st. It’s been quite a while since DirecTV has done a complete revamping of their UI. For the past several years we have only seen minor tweaks and updates. Now, users of the HR20 and newer boxes, including the HR21, which is the most widely used version, are about to get a whole new experience.
DirecTV describes the new features as a “dazzling new look and feel, lightning fast scrolling, visual browsing experience, and personalized recommendations”. You can read about each feature by visiting DirecTV. They have also released a video tour of the new UI, which should really get subscribers excited.
Given that DirecTV has posted an official page showing off the UI and even posted a video tour, it seems safe to assume that a release is very close. If not November 1st then it should be sometime right around then. Likely it will be a gradual roll-out, so not all users will see it on day one, but once it begins, it should go quickly. The video tour is posted below.
Recently I wrote an opinion piece wondering if Smartphones would soon replace universal remotes like Harmony. For a while now, I have been using myRemote on my Droid X to control my Windows 7 Media Center-based HTPC. Recently I have also been trying out DirecTV Remote Pro to control my DirecTV HD DVR. Unfortunately, there is no official DirecTV Remote Control app for Android – or iOS, webOS, Windows Phone, or any other devices. Their official app is great for browsing shows and setting your DVR to record something when you are away from home, but it’s not something you can use to control the box from your sofa.
That’s where DirecTV Remote Pro comes in (there’s a free version too, but functionality is severely limited). The app is priced at $4.99, but right now they are offering it for $1.98 for a “limited time”. As for the nitty-gritty statistical information, here it is. The app has an overall four and a half star rating from 327 reviews, the current version is 2.2.3, the latest version was released July 11, 2011, and it requires Android 2.1 or better. Your DVR needs to be connected to your home network – there is an ethernet port on the back. You also must have WiFi enabled on your phone.
Once you have the app installed on your Android device you can start it up and it should find your DVR and prompt you to name it. If you have more than one in your house then you will name each and be able to switch between them. Click the “Menu” button on your phone and the choose “Select Receiver”.
Once clicked, you will get a list of the DirecTV boxes that are currently connected to your home network. Click the one you wish to use and the app will take control of that device.
Now, we get to the remote control itself. It is layed out exactly as the peanut-shaped DirecTV one is. The top half contains the Stop, Pause, Play, FF, Rew, and other buttons. In addition, there are three icons across the very top – the remote control (home), a star (to mark a show as a favorite, and the menu (which takes you to a list of your recorded shows).
It also contain a key feature that DirecTV’s physical remote can’t replicate – the channel, time, show, and episode name that is currently playing. Click the “current show”and you will be presented with more detailed information, such as ratings, genre and overview.
Once you drop below the top, the remote becomes almost an exact replica of it’s physical brethren. You will find the Up, Down, Left, Right, Select, 4 colored buttons, and all of the rest in the middle.
The bottom also contains the expected – Previous, Change, and keypad.
The Bottom Line
While it’s a shame that DirecTV has not done this themselves, I have to say that I doubt they could have done it any better. The only possible thing they could have brought to the table is integration with there official app. I found no functionality lacking and it is every bit as fast and responsive as the physical remote. If you are a DirecTV subscriber, and an Android user, then this is a must-have app. It takes the actual remote and adds an extra dimension.