Cord cutting — getting rid of cable or satellite TV in favor of online video — certainly sounds appealing. Subscription rates continually go up and often include channels that people don't even want. But making the break is hard. If you're a fan of HBO shows, you'll be waiting a year to see them on disc or download. You're also shut out of most live content, including sports.
An antenna gets a lot of the live TV back. The major networks are required by law to transmit all their programming for free, including HD quality.
Antenna maker Mohu thinks combining broadcast and online video in one box, with one remote and interface, will be appealing enough for more people to cut the cord. The company exclusively told Tom's Guide that it plans to debut such a device by the end of the year, though it declined to specify a name or price for the device.
The Mohu device will be much more like using your old cable box than using a smart TV or a set-top box like Roku or Apple TV.
"We are taking a different approach than other providers, and we're not wanting to turn the TV into a computer," said Mohu's president, Mark Buff. Instead, the experience will be about the same as using a regular cable box. "Power on, power off, channel up, channel down," he said. He also explained the interface will feature the kind of program-grid interface common to cable TV.
That interface, however, will point to both broadcast and Internet video. The Internet options will be "open," Buff said, allowing people to access any online video sources they like, such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. (In contrast, Apple decides what services can run on its Apple TV, which is the most popular set-top box in the U.S., according to research firm NPD.)
Whether the Mohu box can make cord cutting appealing is hard to tell. Sales of HDTV antennas are brisk, at least for Mohu. Buff said that its sales increased seven-fold in 2012, to 500,000 units. And he expects sales to double again this year. (We've tested Mohu antennas and gotten good results, even in Manhattan.)
But Mohu isn't the first to try the combo device. Former set-top maker Boxee introduced in late 2012 its Boxee TV (later renamed Cloud DVR) device that included online video, a TV tuner and an online service for storing recorded TV. The service was still in beta when Boxee closed up after being acquired by Samsung in July.