Amazon Fire TV possibly gaining support for TV tuners


While continuing my disection of the new softwre update for the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, I noticed that Amazon had added Linux software libraries necessary to support TV tuners. I initially dismissed it because I assumed it was part of the Android core that Fire OS uses, since Android TV is gaining ground as the operating system for TVs and therefore needs to support tuners. However, now I’m starting to believe the Fire TV may actually be gaining TV tuner support in the future.

The Linux kernel in this new software update, as pointed out to me by rbox, includes Linux DVB components which are used for USB TV tuners. The biggest piece of evidence is a comment in the kernel configuration that says “Linux DVB for tv tuners, needs world read/write to allow amazon apps to configure tuners and display their output.”

The specific mention of “amazon apps” needing to “configure tuners and display their output” is pretty strong evidence that the Fire TV will gain some degree of tuner support. Amazon already sells a Fire TV bundled with an HD antenna, so it makes perfect sense for Amazon to add support for TV tuners to their flagship set-top box. A Linux compatible USB TV tuner can easily be made to work with the Fire TV’s USB port with a bit of added support in the operating system.

Apps, like the recently released DVBLink Theater which streams TV from networked tuners, are already available on the Fire TV. Similar apps that work with a USB tuner connected directly to the Fire TV could find success on the platform.

Another explanation for adding TV tuner support to the Fire TV is the possibility that Amazon will be licensing Fire OS for use as the operating system of TVs, or even releasing their own Fire OS based television. Android TV seems to be having more success as a TV OS than as a set-top box OS. Roku’s CEO recently said the most important part of their business is TV licensing. If we’re on the verge of a TV operating system war, which it’s starting to look like we are, you’d expect Amazon isn’t going to want to be left behind. Adding support for TV tuners to Fire OS would be a necessary first step in converting Fire OS into a TV operating system.

With live streaming support coming to the Fire TV, and now this evidence that TV tuner support is being added, it’s clear Amazon is actively working to incorporate all the various ways customers watch television into Fire TV.

  1. Dave says:

    Sounds good to me.

  2. Travis says:

    I’ve said it before, but a FireTV with a built-in OTA tuner and DVR functionality would be the ultimate cord-cutting package. Make it convenient enough for mainstream viewers, and they’ll single-handedly disrupt the entire cable industry.

    • Kind of already have this with Tablo support, right? Remotely controlling and accessing discrete tuners is neither inexpensive nor high performance.

      • Travis says:

        I’m talking about all in one package. Tablo is definitely not a mass market product. It has to be easy, low cost, fast and work out of the box. And no one wants to pay a monthly fee for the guide. Amazon does these things well. Tablo does not.

        • Vonda Z says:

          You pay for the guide no matter what. The guide providers charge for their services and that fee is passed on to the customer in a variety of ways: 1. As a monthly/yearly fee (Tablo, Tivo), 2. As a one time “lifetime” of the user fee (Tablo) 3. As a one time “device lifetime” fee (Tivo) or 4. As a device lifetime fee that is built into the cost of the device when it is purchased (Channelmaster).

          I believe there is limited guide data that comes with the OTA signal, but no where near the 2-week complete with full meta data info that comes with a guide subscription. No one may want to pay for a guide, but if you want a guide, you pay for it in one way or another. Tablo actually gives you the option of not paying for a guide at all – the other devices do not.

          One disadvantage of having your tuner/DVR built into a FireTV device is that you need to have an antenna cable running to all of your FireTV devices (we have 3). You will also need to have enough storage on each FireTV to save your DVR content. With Tablo, you only need the antenna to run to one Tablo unit (which can be placed in a location convenient for running that cable not near a TV) and you only need one device with storage to save all your content and view on any device connected to the network. I didn’t find the Tablo difficult to set up – it worked out of the box at a reasonable price. But it is a whole home streaming solution – so you need a decent network infrastructure to run smoothly.

          • PrimeTime says:

            “You pay for the guide no matter what”

            I am guessing they will just include it into your Prime membership. Just guessing though.

          • Bob says:

            That’s funny, as my windows 7 media center still works just fine, has full guide data, always has, and is totally free.

        • If Amazon puts tuners in the box, keeps the price under $200, and foregoes a monthly fee, I would be pretty excited. They are not going to get TiVo prices for a FTV with a tuner.

          • Ryan says:

            The problem with this is that while we have found each other in a community here, we are still a very small market for devices like this. There is a lot of cost that goes into making these devices and not everyone wants a TV tuner/DVR option in their set top box or streaming stick. The Nuvyyo (maker of Tablo) CEO addresses some of this in a recent interview.


          • Travis says:

            We can already get an OTA tuner with USB support for an external hard drive and basic DVR functionality for $30 or less. What I’m talking about is building that capability into the FireTV. You would need to connect it to an antenna and USB hard drive, which some people already have, but Amazon could bundle as an option. Paying for the guide is just a revenue generation facility for the providers, which is fine. It helps them keep the initial cost lower. But if Amazon can make this simple for the mass market by putting a DVR app on the FireTV and bundle it with an antenna and external hard drive, while including the guide in the prime subscription, they could undercut all the other competitors in this space and have a significant differentiator from Roku, AppleTV, etc.

            I tried Tablo, and after troubleshooting with their support for two weeks, it never fully worked for me. I can’t even imagine trying to guide my mother-in-law in trying to set that up. The reliance on network transmission of video is the achilles heel of that approach. A FireTV (or any other streaming box for that matter) that also provides an OTA signal and can send it all to a TV via one HDMI cable and one home screen interface is the minimum bar for the mass market IMHO.

  3. Brian says:

    Hopefully this means ftv will be getting native mpeg2 support. Android tv got it with Marshmallow. Better compatibility with HDHomerun would be great.

  4. Gerard Pinzone says:

    I’m currently using a Slingbox located at a relative’s house. I pay them for the additional cable box and I can control it remotely through my FireTV. It works well, but I was hoping there’s be other options/competition in this area.

  5. Charlie says:

    Nice scoop!

  6. bombo says:

    One question whether or not we must update to version

  7. luthersman says:

    I can’t wait for this. Ever sense they started the tv antenna bundle, I’ve thought this maybe a future feature.

  8. Greg Lumpkin says:

    Add a cloud based DVR that will stream to the Amazon Video app on my tablet and that would be perfect.

    • Ryan says:

      Being cloud based is what got Aereo in trouble. Don’t think we’ll see that again anytime soon.

      • John says:

        I disagree. Cloud based DVR is here and here to stay. I’m using Playstation VUE TV streaming service on my FireTV and they have full cloud based DVR and it’s awesome. Once Amazon adds TV streaming service I would be shocked if they did not use the Cloud based DVR technology. Hard Drive DVR technology will be ancient history in a few years.

  9. Oswald says:

    The Hdhomerun view app finally works properly. The mpeg decoder, with the new update, can now be enabled in settings. Even the drm channels play well. So, that does lend credence to what you found in the code. Good News.

  10. Tony says:

    I don’t see what more this provides to your home HDTV with built-in ota qam tuner/antennae- already getting all the locals directly to the HDTV.
    TV tuner card seems more important for PCs and XboxOne with dvr functionality. Unless you plan to use a Firetv for dvr functionality, but then a larger HDD will be necessary (I only use a small 32gb flash drive).
    Maybe also it’s a little more user friendly to never have to change the input of your hdtv to Antennae mode for the non-tech savy in the house. But I don’t see a great importance for this capability other than time sharing dvr functionality.

  11. Fredrick says:

    I would suspect that Amazon will be using this functionality as part of their rumored PSVue/Sling styled live TV streaming service service. It would be an easy way to add OTA channels directly into Amazon’s video UI. They could populate the guide with local OTA channels along side digital streaming channels. Basically, that would keep viewers inside Amazon’s digital ecosystem even when they are tuned to OTA channels.

    If Amazon could offer a decent guide and X-ray type integration for local OTA TV… Hmmm… I’d be pretty happy even with the accompanying ads.

  12. David says:

    I hope this comes about, would love the Fire TV with OTA support. Amazon would probably include the guide with a Prime subscription.

  13. REP says:

    I always like using Fire TV for Sling TV and other apps…it’s fast and easy and the streaming is incredible. I always thought that it’ll be perfect if they allow OTA tuners. I don’t know how they’re going to include Channel Guide in there but if they can do that….it’ll be a must buy device. DVR functionality is a must. Make the user interface integrated along with other apps such as Sling, Netflix….to makes everything easily accessible. This is what everybody want but for whatever reason nobody is able to build all of these contents into one SINGLE user interface.

  14. smithmal says:

    OTA antennas with Android boxes are now a reality. I just received DirectTV’s AirTV box.

    It’s using Android TV (6.1 OS) with the SlingTV interface and allows for OTA integration using a knockoff Hauppauge USB Tuner.

    Out the box, the unit runs well and is easy to Navigate. It is set up to push the user to be a Sling subscriber, but can be used without needing a Sling subscription.

    My OTA antenna brought in +50 stations using a OTA antenna I have installed on my roof (Channel Master 2030) with a downstream signal amplifier added.

    AirTV comes with a decent EPG out of the box. A new software upgrade will occur in mid-Feb of 2017 making the software more accessible for OTA users (currently the OTA menu is somewhat buried) and allow users to add favorite Apps to the homescreen. The unit is Google Play compatible, but I’ve noticed that not many apps come up when searching which is disappointing.

    In terms of hardware specs, the AirTV using a quad-core A53 SOC and has GFX Benchmark scores similar to a FireTV 1st Gen. It comes with 1GB of RAM and about 5GB of storage.

    Although the box is not impressive from a hardware standpoint, it can stream 4K, has optical out, and 2 USB ports to allow for stand alone storage (one is unfortunately taken up by the USB TV Tuner).

    I was easily able to install Kodi right from the Google Play store without issue.

    Cost for the box and the tuner is $130. For $175 you can get a much more powerful Nvidia Shield, but no OTA tuner ability ATM. For $100 you can get a more powerful FireTV Gen 2, but no OTA tuner ability ATM.

    Would love to find a openbox Android TV product that is well supported by a mod community with high end specs (sort of like what XBMC tried to accomplish 5 years ago).

    ATM though, AirTV is the first to really incorporate OTA antenna into its application making it easier for the user to switch from Sling, to Netflix, to Kodi, to Live TV with their included BT remote.

    It’s my understanding that Android 7 (Nougat) will run natively with USB TV Tuners

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