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.