Prediction: Amazon will release a networked OTA TV Tuner with built-in DVR for Fire TV in 2018

Frankly, it seems almost certain to me that Amazon will release new hardware this year that allows Fire TV and Fire TV Stick owners to watch over-the-air broadcast television using an HD antenna. I believe such a device will not connect directly to a Fire TV, but rather, it will connect to your home network over Ethernet or WiFi so that all of your Fire TV devices can access the available channels through its built-in TV tuners. I also think it will have a hard drive built in so that it can act as a DVR to record and time-shift programming, in addition to several other possible capabilities.

Ever since Amazon first began offering a Fire TV bundle that included an OTA HD antenna in 2015, it seemed likely that there would one day be a way to use the antenna directly with the Fire TV, instead of just with the tuner built into your TV as it’s currently intended to be used. Amazon has kept that hope alive by continuing to offer an HD antenna bundle with their latest Fire TV hardware.

While discussing time-shifting and whole-home streaming from a single antenna during an interview last week at CES with Jared Newman from TechHive, Amazon’s head of Fire TV Marc Whitten said, “We’ve been very impressed with how popular [the antenna bundle] is, and I think it’s a good tell that there’s more innovation that could be done… with how you mix over-the-air and over-the-top content into a really elegant experience.”

There have been past indications that Amazon has at least considered adding TV tuner support to the Fire TV, but recently it seems more likely than ever that it’s actually going to happen.

Amazon announced yesterday that a Channel Guide for live streaming content is coming to all Fire TV devices. While the focus right now is on integrating more Amazon Channels that offer live streaming content into the guide, I can’t think of any better way to use the new feature than to also list OTA broadcast channels from a TV tuner in with the streaming channels.

Minus the DVR capabilities, Amazon already has the software component of such a system, thanks to their Fire TV Edition televisions. Those TVs running Fire OS can already tune to channels, display program guides, and even pause live OTA television. With a stand-alone TV tuner, Amazon can fairly effortlessly enable all of those features on all existing Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks.

It has been reported that Amazon has canceled their plans to release a cable TV service and will be focusing on expanding their Amazon Channel lineup. While they have been able to get CBS on board for select markets, it’s unlikely the other major broadcast networks will follow suit anytime soon. This makes OTA television through an HD antenna a critical component to make Amazon Channels a complete option for cord cutters.

Similar to a Tablo or HDHomeRun, I envision an Amazon-branded box that can be placed anywhere in your home where it receives the best HD Antenna signal, as long as it can also be connected to your home network. It would likely have 2 or 4 TV tuners built in so that multiple household members can watch and/or record OTA content simultaneously. By not being connected directly to a Fire TV, it would be accessible over the network through all Fire TV devices in the home and possibly through mobile devices via the Amazon Video app.

I believe it’s crucial that the device also has a large hard drive, that is at least 500 GB, which would be used primarily for recording OTA content and for pausing live television. Having a large local hard drive linked to your Amazon account could also augment many other Amazon devices and services, such as providing offline pre-downloaded “On Deck” video storage for Fire TV devices, like is available through Fire tablets.

Amazon recently removed the ability to upload your own MP3 music library to their cloud. A local Amazon-linked hard drive could restore some of that functionality by streaming your local personal music library to connected devices, such as the Amazon Echo. Additionally, the hard drive could be used to augment Amazon Drive functionality, such as being a place to locally store recordings from Amazon’s Cloud Cam security camera, instead of relying solely on expensive cloud storage, as the camera does now.

A local large-capacity hard drive linked to an Amazon account could be used in numerous ways with existing and future Amazon devices and services. Packaging one with TV tuners built in seems like the perfect way to introduce such a device in a manner that makes sense to customers.

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62 comments
  1. Tom says:

    I for one,, would love to see such a device. Would make sense for me to get an antenna then. ;)

  2. Antony says:

    Why would Amazon do this when you can simply buy a 2 or 4 tuner Tablo DVR right now that does all that? I have a Tablo DVR hooked up to my wireless router and stream live OTA and recorded content to all my TVs and devices as well as access live and recorded content anywhere in the world. The Tablo works slick with the free Fire TV app for Tablo.

    • Tom says:

      for me, it would be because i would rather keep it in my Amazon echo system I have already in place. Things in the same echo system generally play nicely together easier than trying to work things in.

    • Travis says:

      Because the Tablo costs in excess of $200 plus the monthly subscription fee for the guide without a hard drive. I can see Amazon including the guide with prime and a drive at that price point.

    • AR says:

      i looked into both tablo and HD HR
      the HR line is so totally confusing and poorly marketed that i just gave up trying to understand the requirements

      i already have 3 fire sticks and 4 dots not to mention 3 fire tablets

      i would rather buy something that is integrated with the ecosystem

      google is already trying to push a cable service through cancer tube red
      they were even giving out free CC to try red for free one month trial

      they have google home able to link to a CC video as default video playback device if there are more than one GH and more than one CC
      they can be assigned to respective default playback devices

      living room GH defaults to livingroom CC , bedroom GH defaults to bedroom CC, etc.

      now if amazon integrates voice control through alexa and echo devices and does the same that would be beautiful for me

      being able to control all the tv’s with fire sticks through the dots with alexa to change channels

      and i can bet it will be competitively priced
      h
      hopefully they make it cheap as a HD HR with a HDD or give an option to buy it empty and add your own drive and also offer a cable card model too

    • Kirk says:

      I can see the possibility of Amazon either partnering or buying Nuvyyo (Tablo TV) and integrating it into their ecosystem.

    • Keith says:

      Um… because that’s a piece of hardware that costs more than the fire tv itself?
      If we’re going to ask that why not just say why don’t we build a proper htpc?

    • Keith says:

      Maybe. I feel like Amazon should’ve already done that. Remember Google TV? That had a tv tuner and my thinking was this would be the direction all set top boxes would go. But so many years, so many devices from Apple, Google, Amazon and its pretty rare.
      Kinda pissed. I bought a good antenna (70% off) and if I want to integrate it Im looking at 100 or $200 for a tablo or other tuner.If cutting the cord gets too expensive it becomes pointless.

      • Kirk says:

        @Keith
        I agree initial equipment costs can be expensive. 2 years ago, I broke down costs of setting up an OTA DVR vs Satellite Directv. Luckily, I had the $$ to do such a conversion. But my overall savings of an OTA DVR initial cost vs Satellite continuing cost is substantial.

        It all depends on what kind of comparison you are doing of course. If you are a cord never then it is an extraordinary cost burden; if you’re a current cord cutter without OTA DVR then it is a somewhat costly burden for the equipment. But then again having DVR equipment in house has always been costly.

        Here’s a breakdown of what I paid for setting up my OTA DVR back in 2015.
        $300 TabloTV (4 tuner)
        $100 Usb hard drive (for the Tablo)
        $100 2nd Gen FireTV box
        $150 Lifetime EPG subscription (per Tablo ACCOUNT/not device)
        $120 Antenna equipment

        $770 total is not chump change. But, comparing it to my then current Satellite bill of $125/month ($1500/year); It was a cost that would pay for itself after the 1st 7 months of operation/ownership. The rest was just going into MY savings account.

        Of course, there are other costs if you want other channels (ie PSVUE, SLINGTV, DTVNOW, etc) which will eat into that savings. I am still in the black when compared to my former satellite billings.

        I already had Internet ONLY from AT&T, a wired home network, and a 1st Gen FireTV.

        Again, I am NOT disagreeing that the initial cost of having an OTA DVR is expensive. I AM disagreeing that owning such equipment is POINTLESS.

  3. Brad C. says:

    Nice article! But, all I’m asking for is a darn enthusiast version of the Fire TV; on par with the new Roku Ultra or better yet, the Nvidia Shield — and it needs to be a device with a built-in ethernet port and not a dongle-type thing that hangs from the back of my TV. Hopefully, their new box/cube Fire TV is what I’m looking for.

    In addition, Amazon immediately needs to update the GUI for their app. I am so tired of having to scroll through every movie or TV show in my library just to get to the one I want to watch. As a web/mobile developer myself, it amazes me how poor the user experience is with their app. You’d think because it’s Amazon, they’d have the best of the best in terms of app develoers, or at the very least, devs that are knowledgeable in regards to proper UX design! They could certainly learn a thing or two from Google’s Movies & TV app or the Vudu app.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Amazon! I’d love nothing more than for these things to happen ASAP. I love the Amazon echosystem (see what I did there) and would rather build my video library with them than Google or Vudu. I also love the idea of movie/tv watching integration with Alexa! However, I refuse to settle for an inferior streaming device like the current line of Fire TVs.

    Amazon, are you listening? Build a proper streaming device and you’ll have my money!

    • Travis says:

      You do know the voice search works really well, right?

      • Jim says:

        Not really. It’s a source of comic relief most of the time in our house.

      • Brad C. says:

        Honestly, I no longer possess a Fire TV. I owned the 2nd gen version but gave it to my daughter a couple of years ago as it does not support 4k.

        I refuse to buy the new Fire TV as it’s a dongle and I don’t like the idea of having my streaming device hanging from an HDMI port. I’m sure I could find a way around this if necessary; however, among the list of other issues or lack of features with the new Fire TV, more importantly, this version of the Fire TV is lacking an ethernet port, which makes it a no-go for me.

        I’m currently using the Nvidia Shield which is great, but lacks Alexa support.

        I would just like to see an enthusiast version of the Fire TV for individuals like myself that are looking for a higher end streaming device. I don’t think that I’m asking a lot considering this is Amazon we are talking about, which has numerous cutting edge tech device like the Echo.

        Frankly, it baffles my mind as to why Amazon doesn’t already have an enthusiast Fire TV device available.

        • Ruben Garcia says:

          The second gen fire tv does support 4k just not hdr/60fps. The third generation is a downgrade is more a 3rd gen firestick

          • Brad C. says:

            Thanks. And yes, you’re right, but my TV supports HDR/60fps. And I completely agree about the 3rd gen being a downgrade.

            I’m really hoping that the Fire TV Box/Cube is a solution to my problem.

        • ZANDE MARV SEELEY says:

          Simply affix the dongle with sticky back tape.

  4. TechyChris says:

    Great take on this type of tech. I assume this would be a WIFI as well as Ethernet connectable device, as my router is in the middle of my home far from any windows (as I suspect a lot of users would be).

    Beyond the initial cost of the device I also assume this to be subscription free as the original purpose of cord cutting was to save $$$.

    I live in the northeast and currently have 36 channels via OTA to supplement my FTV, I have no problem pressing my remote input button to switch back and forth so I wouldn’t pay an additional monthly fee for the convenience of an integrated channel guide and DVR capabilities, seems to defeat the purpose of “Free TV”.

  5. Charlie says:

    Like it! Have been thinking about a HDHomerun Connect and hard drive hung off a PC, but maybe I’ll wait to see if this happens.

  6. Don Black says:

    You they should just buy HDhomerun. The infastructre is already created and software integration would not be so hard and they have the servers for the DVR content to be stored.

    • Charlie says:

      Unfortunately, Silicon Dust does not have DVR servers. They charge 35.00 for the technology, but you have provide your own storage by way of HDD or NAS.

    • AR says:

      i would never buy it silicone dust sucks at marketing their product, lon sideman is like their only spokesman
      the product is line is totally confusing and so are the requirements if could have figured out what i need to make it work i would have bought it already but SD marketing pure is $hit
      it just seems to me it would run into hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars and require all kinds $hit to be constantly running
      yeah no thanks i will wait and see if this pans out

      • Masterblaster says:

        Wow you don’t like Silicone Dust marketing and it makes it garbage. It sounds like some “Apple fanboy” style criticism against Android.
        Sorry for you, but the HD HomeRun is so simple to install and use. Personally use it for years on a home theater PC and recently on a Nvidia Shield TV.
        But I welcome Amazon to sell a better product and service to compete with Silicone Dust. Competition is always good.

        • AR says:

          i didn’t say they make garbage ,i said they can’t market for $hit
          i can’t even figure out how it is supposed to work or what additional hardware i need to make it work, but seem slike waaaay too much
          and when you look on the forum all you see is problems
          probably the most poorly markets device ever to exist

          nobody can even agree on what you need t make it run the while thing is a $hit mess

          • fred says:

            You just need a computer and a Fire device, pretty simple

          • Lonster3000 says:

            It’s not rocket science. You plug in an antenna, plug in an Ethernet cable from your router, install their app on your various devices, enjoy. Ok there is some setup involved but really nothing that complex. It also works great with Plex, although I still can’t use it to watch live tv through Plex on my Apple TV.

  7. Brian says:

    I don’t think they will go the hardware route with storage. They seem to be content with going the cheap route, memory tends to be more on the expensive side. Probably going the cloud route, could be why they stopped allowing personal cloud music. Free up space for cloud DVR service. Although making a somewhat cheap Ethernet tv tuner sounds allot like them. Only thing is there is no way for Amazon recoup money from it like other devices. Through ads and being able to purchase items through it.

    • AR says:

      i don’t think so at least i hope not
      but i recently got my 1st dash buttons to try and hack for IOT
      after doing some research it seems these things are waaaay over engineered
      they are wasting tons of money on ridiculous hardware for these things, nothing cheap about them, yet they are disposable
      it is really weird and leaves a lot of people baffled , wifi bluetooth LE , microphone , over abundant storage, etc.
      they could have used cheap off the shelf esp8266

      you are right though how could they recoup their money?
      maybe through making people want to adopt the whole ecosystem and get roped into buying more supporting devices like echos and fire tv’s?

      or who knows they could implement some sort of ad overlay system

      or just offer cloud backup for DVR recording as an extra service ?

      • Jon says:

        I dont see cloud DVR for any sort of antenna setup, not only is there possible legal requirements to consider, but the bandwidth for the recordings would be massive. A recorded show from an antenna is quite a bit bigger than a similar quality/length Prime stream. I know I do not have the bandwidth to record to the cloud, but I can watch Prime videos.

    • AFTVnews says:

      @Brian
      I expect it to have a spinning hard drive and not flash/SSD storage. That said, I don’t see it as being a cheap device that they expect to sell millions of. I think it’ll be $200-$300 minimum, depending on the drive size.

      If Amazon Channels is their main answer to cord cutting, which it seems like it is since they dropped the plan to release a subscription cable service, they need to have an answer for people who can’t live without their local channels. That’s the place for the Tuner/DVR box. Amazon Channels will never have all of the hundreds of local channels, so they need a solution for that, even if it’s a niche product.

      As for a cloud DVR, the only way I can see that being a thing is if they do content matching and “unlock” streaming content. Many companies have gotten in trouble doing that, so I don’t see them just making such a feature available on day one across all content. They’d need to make agreements with networks to allow such a service. For example, maybe select CBS shows will have an option to be “moved to the cloud” since there is already an Amazon Channel for CBS. You wouldn’t actually upload your DVRed video, but if you recorded a specific episode of a show that they have sufficient rights to, you’d be able to delete it locally and still stream the episode through Amazon Video. Again, I don’t see this happeneing initially, but maybe some day.

      • Charlie says:

        Silicon Dust is releasing a Connect type device with 250GB of onboard storage about mid year and I think the price will be about 200.00. I do think I’m more inclined to buy a legacy Connect and run the DVR from a HDD I have lying around connected to a PC as a first step into the pool.

        Intrigued though I would be I cannot see me spending 300.00 to buy any Amazon TV device.

      • Brian says:

        I really don’t see anyone buying a device like that from Amazon at that price point especially if it only worked on Fire devices. Amazon would be better off partnering with HdHomerun. And supporting mpeg2 decoding. They have to know how to do it, because their TV’s run OTA. The fire players are currently sub par when watching TV on them with HdHomerun, because of lack of ability to de-interlace. If only they could make playback buttery smooth like on the Shield TV. And have an app like Live Channels with integrated app compatibility.

  8. Tim S says:

    I pulled the trigger Black Friday week, after months of reading and waiting, and purchased the Element TV w/Fire OS built-in.
    I love it ! I connected my coax from my roof antenna, and OTA and Prime Video, etc are all integrated into the HOME screen.
    I can pause, rewind OTA TV.
    So this this Element Fire TV edition has everything I want, except DVR.
    I’m hoping Amazon will upgraded this TV to Fire OS 6, which I read in Sep. 2017, has Pip and DVR using external USB….
    If they push Fire OS6 to this TV, I will give them 5 stars !!!

  9. wolfmanbass says:

    I wonder if the speculated cube shaped Fire TV could have an in-built tuner? which it could then share with other fire devices.

    • AFTVnews says:

      I highly dought it. I think the DVR/hard drive aspect is key to it all and there’s no way they’re going to put a multi-hundred gig drive in that thing. Plus, it limits you to connecting an antenna where your TV is. I think it makes a lot more sense for a tuner/DVR to be a stand-alone device.

  10. Fjtorres says:

    Wouldn’t it be simpler to just release a new FireTV with the built-in OTA/DVR?

    The hardware needed to run the network DVR is going to be close enough to what is needed for a p!ain FireTV that the incremental cost will be minimal. As for design, they can take out the bulk of the design from the TVs. Instead of an add-on it could be marketed as a top of the line Master FireTV for a home video network and the of sticks as supplements/clients. Much like the way the Echo line coordinates.

    By now there’s a big enough installed base of the sticks that getting even a fraction to upgrade to the master box will make it an out of the gate success.

    • AFTVnews says:

      I imagine most people buying the Fire TV don’t care about OTA/DVR. It’s a niche market so by building it into the Fire TV, it makes the device more expensive for no reason in most peoples eyes. It makes more sense as a stand-alone device that adds functionality to the Fire TV.

      Think of it like the Echo Connect. They could have built a phone jack into the back of an Echo Plus, but then most people buying the Echo Plus are paying for a feature they’ll never use. I see the OTA/DVR device as the Echo Connect of the Fire TV line.

      • Fjtorres says:

        It would an added model, not a replacement.
        Those that don’t care about OTA get the basic FireTV, those that do get the newer model.

        My point is that making it a standalone doesn’t add much cost to the cost of an accessory yet it produces a more appealing product. Newcomers buy one product, not two.
        Upgraders repurpose the old one as a client.

      • Masterblaster says:

        Technically the Fire television with the new os could just work with a USB drive plugged in for DVR.

      • Brian says:

        It will be interesting to see if the Channel Master Stream+ catches on. With it’s onboard dual tuners and Android’s Live Channels integration. Although currently they don’t seem to have a license to run Netflix.

  11. fred says:

    Just upgrade to Android 7.0 and let us use Live channels

  12. Dave says:

    I was of the understanding that the Fire TV 3 is supposed to support content recording. Is that not still true?

  13. FS_3 says:

    This would be awesome if they could integrate OTA streams along with Pluto, haystack and even the different pay streams Sling DTVN Philo and such. Just wish Tablo would get off there arse and open it up to be used in FireTv , Plex and or Live channels app.

    • Rob says:

      The closest I’ve come to something like this is using HDhomerun connect, Nvidia Shield and the Live Channels app. The Live Channels app recognizes HDhomerun for OTA signals, and you can also add Pluto, Haystack and Bloomberg as sources. Unfortunately no Sling TV or PS Vue integration. Also, the Live Channels app is pretty buggy, but rolling back updates seems to fix a known issue where HDhomerun tuners aren’t being released when changing channels. Not perfect, but I sure wish the Fire TV had a similar app to Live Channels. Maybe then Google would fix their current app….wishful thinking for sure.

      • Brian says:

        Yeah I love the Live Channels app. But wish they would put more effort into making it a solid performer. You have to have at least the pro or 500GB of storage to run the HdHomerun record engine on it. And the Network Tuner “Beta” is very unstable. It seems to only work on my locals and few cable channels, and tends to loose signal to my tuner. And will even show on my screen lost tuner signal while using another app. But it is pretty solid when using the HDHR app as the source. If only Sling would integrate with it, and offer a non local channels package for whom ever can get OTA and doesn’t need them.

  14. shwru980r says:

    Free OTA guide data combined seamlessly with live streaming channels and the ability to record both OTA and Streaming channels would be the holy grail of DVRs. They will need to make it easy to access the hard drive so that it can be replaced if it fails or upgraded to a larger capacity drive. Then there is the issue of transferring the hard drive to another DVR and being able to watch recordings.

  15. OG Charlie says:

    Built in stoage seems like too much. Wouldn’t be suprised if they included 8-16 GB of flash and required user to add their own drive via usb to keep the initial cost down. Flash would be good enough to allow local pausing without breaking the bank.

    Amazon’s been dumb about pricing lately but they’ve had to notice the rush of sales during the holidays with their marked down hardware.

  16. Mark B says:

    Works me for. HDHomerun DVR software has the worst EPG interface I’ve ever seen for a DVR and Plex with networked hDHomerun has the combination worst reliability and most lack of EPG I’ve ever seen. Want to easily see what’s on in a few hours let alone tomorrow? Sorry have a bunch of giant thumbnails instead.

    TabloTV is the only one with a normal readable interface that doesn’t require you to own a NAS or HTPC from what I can tell. I own an HDHomerun Quattro and find using it as an EPG or DVR very annoying. I very much miss a while back using HD HR Prime with MCE. Unlike Plex”s mess that was Family proof and utterly reliable.

    I say bring it on.

  17. Mark B says:

    Oh and they should transcode to Progressive scan on any 1080i channels. Feel free to Google 1080i HDhomerun Fire TV….

  18. Kmh65 says:

    I bought a WatchAir antenna for $50 that has a FireTV app that gives you a channel guide & Dvr option. No subscription fees. Overall content with it.

    • NashGuy says:

      I’ve looked at WatchAir TV. Have they added the Season Recording feature yet, where you can click one button and record all future episodes of a series? They were saying that feature would be added by the end of 2017 but I’ve heard no more about that. I wouldn’t be interested in buying a WatchAir without that feature. It would be a pain to have to set up a recording each time I wanted to record a weekly episode of a show.

  19. Carter S. Johnson says:

    Amazon needs to get ahead of the curve here and partner with tier one TV manufacturers for theur next UHD HDR #FireTV set. These white label brands, WW and Element are focused on hotel/commercial sales. Samsung stinks at smart TVs, so does LG. Let’s see FireTV OS on their next gen sets. Google isn’t serious about their TVOS
    and these manufacturers need to get a clue.

  20. FS_3 says:

    I wonder if anyone from Amazon development ever pay attention to what people like us are asking for in a new or revised product.

  21. don says:

    that would be very nice addition/option. but where is the fire tv CUBE??? no updates/rumors since fall. the fire tv DONGLE version is not what i want

    • Tom says:

      I am doubting that the cube was real!! I also think they missed the boat with this dongle (FTV 3). I dont want that hanging to break the HDMI port. I also dont want a wifi only device. This should have been an updated dongle. I to , have to agree it was a downgrade.

      I think they for sure need to do something big to correct the black mark of this dongle box. I for one, will not use one.. If they are all like that,, I will never upgrade. when my current boxes go out, then I will have to find something new.

  22. NashGuy says:

    If Fire TV boxes, sticks and dongles are going to be able to play back OTA TV, then they’ll need to have hardware support for decoding MPEG2, which is what current ATSC 1.0 broadcasts are encoded with. And it looks like that capability was recently (or soon will be) rolled out to Fire TVs via software update. Another clue that the above prediction for OTA DVR may come true.
    https://forums.developer.amazon.com/questions/94031/mpeg2-decoding-on-the-new-fire-tv-2017-no-longer-s.html

  23. clint says:

    I hope you’re right about this. For years I have longed for something that integrates OTA with on-demand stuff. closest any company has gotten so far is sling airtv, but it was incredibly lame b/c the OTA antenna wasn’t built in, it was a separate usb dongle, and probably just a rebadged Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-955Q

  24. Chad says:

    Tivo is looking to get bought, they could benefit from Amazons hardware & software expertise, not to mention AWS.

  25. Ray Smith says:

    I don’t think Amazon cares about OTA at all. I purchased the Fire TV Cube. It can turn my TV on and off, change the HDMIs for Satelite and Cable but has zero options for switching to OTA even though they bundle antennas with some Fire TV’s. When I called their support i was told no one else had called them asking about OTA usage and they never thought to test it in the lab. Seeing that why make a whole new class of device when they won’t even do it on a device built to handle it except for lack of support from Verizon. Hell if Android TV ever comes out and supports ota in that fashion, good bye Alexa!

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