Study after study shows that a good percentage of American TV viewers feel they are paying too much for their service and would love to cut the cord. But that desire ends the second they actually investigate what’s involved and what they’re left with. For anyone who’s not content with just a Netflix subscription, the landscape is pretty bleak: a mishmash of subscription services plus an online “skinny bundle” service that leaves them without a unifying program guide and whole lot less content for not that much less money.
No wonder most decide it’s not worth it.
A number of companies are working to remedy the lack-of-program-guide issue, most notably TiVo, whose Roamio OTA allows users to combine antenna-based feeds from broadcast networks with with any subscription services they might have, providing both a guide and a DVR for potential cord cutters. It’s a great solution, but it’s also $399, which seems to take the cost saving piece out of the equation.
That’s why we’re intrigued by SelectTV from FreeCast, a service that also combines over-the-air broadcasts with subscription-based services but then goes on to add in the thousands of hours of free television and movies available online.
Unbeknownst to most viewers, many networks and other providers have substantial libraries of programming available for free. It’s not always their latest offerings, but there’s a whole lot of it out there, and SelectTV organizes it in an easy to use online program guide that’s just undergone a major design upgrade.
“What we’re doing is making affordable web-based television and entertainment available to everyone,” SelectTV’s CEO William Mobley told TV[R]EV. “There’s too many TV apps for your average person to keep track of, but with our SmartGuide, if you can use the guide button on your cable TV remote, you can find what you want to watch online too.”
By neatly organizing the world of free TV and combining it in a single guide along with skinny bundles and subscription services, SelectTV makes this a viable option for the tech-phobic masses.
The new guide, which comes with a free indoor antenna and costs just $2.99/month, walks viewers through the set-up process, asking them which services they have and then shows them how to get the final result onto a TV, either via Google’s Chromecast or via an HDMI cable.
In addition to being surprised at how many free TV shows and movies are out there, we were impressed with the fact that someone who wanted to cut their bill to zero, relying solely on free over-the-air broadcasts and free online content, could actually have a fairly robust line-up of options, along with a sharp-looking interface to manage it all. That’s a proposition that should prove appealing to casual viewers, families looking to cut expenses and, down the road, to viewers in developing countries where paying for television can take a big bite out of their budget.
We’ve long talked about how outdated, clunky MPVD interfaces are the key reason so many people are dissatisfied with pay-TV, why they feel like they are paying Nordstrom prices for Kmart service. SelectTV has flipped that equation with their new interface, giving users Nordstrom service for Kmart prices (or less!). We think that’s a win all around.