We recently read a news story about a TV streaming service from SilconDust, makers of the HDHomerun a device that allows you to take your over the air TV signal and broadcast it over your network to mobile devices as well as set top boxes like the AppleTV.
Milton Scritsmier of Boulder Colorado was kind enough to write in with his experience of the service. It was a bit longer than a typical email but we wanted to share it with our listeners so we turned it into a segment on the show.
I've been using it for the last month and overall I'm happy. It should only be considered by people who can get OTA broadcasts. But if you do, it has two big advantages the other streaming TV services don't.
One, because OTA is free, you don't have to pay for local TV stations in the SiliconDust package. You get all the broadcast networks offered in your area, not just some of them. The money saved this way can go for the other channels SiliconDust offers in its package (it currently costs $34.99 per month). I'm pretty happy with the channels provided, but it's not heavy on sports.
Two, you can use your own network storage device as a DVR. This means you are not limited in the number of shows you record nor how long you keep them since it only depends on the size of the disk you have. The number of simultaneous viewers of recorded shows is limited by only what your NAS and your network will support. The shows are recorded in H.264 and can be viewed on all kinds of equipment and players. It also means you can skip over commercials any time you want. The quality is better than what I've seen with DirectTV Now, the only other streaming TV service I've tried. Because SiliconDust's equipment works with Plex, you can use it for remote viewing of shows on any device that supports Plex.
It does require a significant outlay in equipment to get started beyond the monthly fee. I paid $150 for SiliconDust's HDHomeRun Connect, which lets me record four OTA shows at a time in addition to whatever is sent to me over the internet. To activate the SiliconDust's DVR service there's a $35/year annual fee. You need some kind of set top box like an Amazon FireTV to run the HDHomeRun app which displays the shows on your TV. If you don't have an antenna for OTA, you'll have to pay for that as well. I live in a remote area and a year ago it cost me $500 to have a professional mount an antenna on my roof and calibrate it. Finally, to record the shows you'll need some kind of NAS. This can cost $200 to $300 for a low-end one if you don't have one already and it needs to be one supported by SiliconDust (for example, WD's NASes work well).
The other big downside is that the user interface is still in its early days. For example, it sometimes gets lost when navigating the schedule. Because the HDHomeRun app has to run on set top boxes and other devices without sophisticated remotes, the user interface is not ideal like it is on a TiVo. But the user interface is not laggy like it is on some other streaming services.
Because of the OTA and equipment requirements, I don't expect SiliconDust's streaming TV service to become one of the majors. But many people who have cut the cord may already have many of the pieces. I already had most of the equipment mentioned above and I cobbled together a NAS from a 7TB external drive and a Raspberry Pi super-clone, so the initial outlay was not that much for me.