OTA DVR stands for Over-the-air Digital Video Recorder. Basically, this is a digital video recorder (think Tivo) system that allows you to record programs from over-the-air broadcast signals.
Long ago, before there was such a thing as cable or satellite TV, everyone watched TV by attaching antenna to the television set and pulling in a signal that transmitted by a rabbit ear antenna.
These signals are still being broadcast in most of the country, although the format and the quality are much improved. Instead of fuzzy analog images like before, stations are now broadcasting in 720p or 1080i high definition digital signals. In many case, the bandwidth and image quality is equal or even better than what your cable or satellite provides. Plus the antennas don’t look as dorky anymore (hopefully you have a better TV too!)
Why Do I need a DVR if I have Streaming?
When I first cancelled my cable subscription (“cut the cord”) and setup an antenna way back in 2011, the main thing I missed was the DVR that was previously provided by the cable provider. I could still get all the local broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS). When ESPN became available through streaming on Sling TV (it’s also now available on Sony’s Vue), then I had access to pretty much everything I needed. However, I still missed my DVR because:
- I couldn’t skip commercials anymore! Basically, if you’re streaming, they can force you to sit through as many commercials as they want.
- The skip-forward/skip backward functions are pretty crappy in every streaming app I’ve ever seen, especially compared to the responsiveness of a DVR. I’d rather watch a recorded TV show from a broadcast channel versus from a streaming service just because of this.
- Not all streaming channels work that well, especially when watching live sports events. There are glitches, dropouts, and sometimes the resolution gets lower (and I have 100Mbps internet service). At least in my case, the reliability of the streaming signal is not as good as the reliability of the antenna signal. The Antenna signal is slightly less reliable than a cable signal, but the antenna is free, so I find it to be a good compromise.
Anyway, that’s my rant about why DVR’s are still nice to have. If you got this far, then you’re probably want to know how to get your own OTA DVR. Checkout my guide here.