Channel Master Launches New DVR For Cord Cutters

Dave Zatz —  September 15, 2011 — 14 Comments

channel-master-dvr

Channel Master previously championed the now defunct EchoStar DTVPal DVR under their banner… and obviously found some success bringing digital VCR capabilities to the over-the-air crowd as they’re launching another fee-free DVR. The new Channel Master TV, aka CM-7400, primarily targets high def antenna broadcasts (although it’ll also tune clear QAM) with the added benefit of over-the-top Vudu content. No, not just Vudu video on demand. But, also, Walmart’s entire Vudu app platform that includes a variety of Internet-sourced content like Pandora and Twitter. Given Channel Master’s existing relationship with the people of Walmart, it’s probably not so surprising they’d strike a deal.

Channel-Master-TV

While I couldn’t make it into NYC for Pepcom’s holiday preview last night, Liliputing’s Brad Linder did. And snapped several photos for us. As you can see, the dual tuning, 320GB Channel Master TV is fairly compact and much more attractive than the DTVPal DVR it presumably replaces. Not only has the enclosure been redesigned, the UI looks quite different. In fact, the company rep tells Brad the new product isn’t affiliated with EchoStar.

channel-master-record

Despite Channel Master’s new solution, Megazone still feels that the OTA-capable TiVo is a better value. Remember, TiVo is also targeting this demographic with a few recent promotions. Although MZ suggests cord cutters simply pick up a Premiere with Lifetime service for $600 over the $400 flat fee Channel Master TV. But, we need to know a little more about the CM-7400′s EPG and recording capabilities. The prior generation model was simply a glorified VCR, only recording by time slot – versus by program title, or new versus repeat, etc. For many folks a “digital VCR” is sufficient. But there’s obviously a better way. Also, the earlier unit sources guide data over-the-air. In my experience, the data was highly unreliable – both in terms of content and even being present. Not to mention, a limited amount of days covered. Without true DVR capabilities, accurate and significant guide data might not be much of a requirement. But these two things together might justify TiVo’s recurring fee or additional upfront cost for those that appreciate and understand the distinctions.

This market could be expanding further, though. And Boxee is one potential competitor who may be exploring the idea of integrating both over-the-top and over-the-air DVR capabilities to this space… Stay tuned?

14 responses to Channel Master Launches New DVR For Cord Cutters

  1. Well, I think we found our guide answer… for those who want reliable guide data, the Channel Master TV product will run an additional $100/year. Which makes TiVo’s $10/month cord cutter service fee much more attractive, especially given the 14 day guide and additional capabilities. Those on a stricter budget will still gravitate towards the basic VCR features of the Channel Master. But, again, I suspect we’ll soon see more competition in this space.

    http://www.channelmaster.com/kb_results.asp?ID=1234

    With Channel Master TV, basic television guide data is transmitted free-of-charge by the broadcaster and our device receives this info and appropriately inserts it into the on-screen guide. While this info is basic and all depends on what the broadcaster decides to send, it is free. This being said, there may be times that some channels will not broadcast program information or it may be limited, but again, there are no fees for this. If you desire additional program information, Channel Master TV will have a Premium Guide upgrade for a fee of $99.99 annually. The Premium Guide offers additional program information including a 7-day viewing and recording window.

  2. All this talk about how the DTVpal DVR is a digital VCR because it doesn’t have name based recording just shows that you haven’t used a VCR in years (or a DTVpal DVR). With seven day TVGOS and one touch recording the small inconvenience of not having name based recording is well worth not paying for TiVo or cable. Just heard someone tell how their name based DVR filled the hard drive with reruns, and the 30 second skip beats the fwd on a Motorola. As far as the CM-7000pal (DTVpal DVR) is concerned, it is still available and still a good deal at $280-$300. I don’t see the CM-7400 being a good deal unless they add TVGOS and/or YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix.

  3. Wow, I haven’t had to rely on OTA program guide data in some time now. Last time I did I was using a Sony VCR with the “SmartFile” labels, which allowed the VCR to store a directory of what was on the tape on a bit of memory built in to the label. Allowed it to store the name of the show that was recorded if it knew it. Was kind of neat at the time, but that time was a LONG time ago.

    Obviously its going to depend what channels are available to you in the clear over cable or OTA, but if you’re able to use this for any channels that are NOT local, I presume you will NOT get any guide data for those.

    I don’t know that recording by name is all that critical honestly. But not knowing what was recorded so it can be displayed in your “Now Playing” equivalent… wow that would suck.

    Like you I had mixed experiences with the guide data when I relied on it. It was typically only 3-day data, and would sometimes disappear for a while only to return a few days later. And often enough it was slow to update, so if a show was rescheduled, it wouldn’t know.

  4. This is promising.

    For quite a while, I’ve been thinking that really, all I need is a Boxee with the ability to record OTA. We get so many channels OTA (including Al-Jazeera English!) that really, all I want is Boxee (or Roku, but Boxee handles locally stored content better) and the ability to record my OTA broadcasts. Stick the whole thing into a package that looks like one of those Aspire Revo 100 computers and sell it at a decent price, and I will cut the cable.

    Hell, just compatibility with recording OTA broadcasts from a HDHR would be perfection itself.

  5. Snappy, I suggest you do a little more homework before throwing jabs like that. First, I was an EchoStar employee (Sling Media) when this device was introduced as the TR-50. Second, I did indeed possess a DTVPal DVR until I threw it in the recycle bin last fall before moving. So I’m pretty familiar with its capabilities and shortcomings. While I recognize many are satisfied with this solution, I strongly suspect the majority of our regulars would be underwhelmed with its performance (in relation to its cost). Having said that, the 7400 sounds much more advanced – the guide data will be similarly limited (without upgrading), but I suspect the recording functionality has been improved. I expect to learn more shortly.

  6. The bargain hunters will probably pick a single-tuner DVR w/ HDMI out (guide data for free via OTA) for $199 instead (same size hard drive)

    For not much more money (say $50 off a future woot) you can get the Tivo Premiere.

    I’m betting Tivo will let you activate any Premiere OTA-only for $10/month.

  7. TiVo lost $19 million last quarter. How much longer will they be in business? When they go under TiVo DVRs will not have a program guide, which means you will have a dead DVR.
    Channel Master does need to cure the guide problem. The fault appears to be with TVGOS (specifically with the TV Guide brand). TV Guide does not spend the money to fully populate it’s guide service– I know because I can see upcoming programs listed on the individual station guides on TV channels that TVGOS lists as “no information”. Someone needs to put pressure on TV Guide. Alternatively, having a guide feed from the web from TitanTV for example would be great.

  8. TiVo has something like 600 million dollars in the bank… So while I’m sure there are reasons to choose Channel Master over TiVo, I wouldn’t base my decisions based on that point. However it is notable and something many potential TiVo customers contemplate before making (or not) an investment.

  9. “However it is notable and something many potential TiVo customers contemplate before making (or not) an investment.”

    I’d suspect that even if TiVo were to go into some form of bankruptcy years in the future and stop making equipment, or more likely, if it were to be bought out for the patent portfolio, providing guide data to existing boxes would remain a marginally profitable niche for whatever reorganized company remained.

  10. A few Replay owners hinted they were ready to sue and Replay backed down on discontinuing the guide data.

    For a product that hasn’t been sold at retail for over 5 years!

    Don’t think Tivo guide data will be going away anytime soon.

  11. Given $10/mo fee for OTA users and prevelance of TiVo hardware deals, Premiere seems like a no-brainer on month-to-month basis compared to this CM with more expensive upfront hardware costs and similar subscription costs.

  12. There are folks who are absolutists about NO MONTHLY FEE, no matter what the benefits of a TiVo. These are the the hard core “budget” cord cutters who’ve said things like, “I’m not paying $19.99–or limited TiVo promo of $9.99–for FREE TV.” There is NO persuading these people. They just see the $10-$20 per month PER TiVo–”$40 per month for FREE TV” going OUT the door every month, not what they get in return for it, and they are willing to endure it as a digital VCR and live quite well with its limitations, even the troublesome previous Channel Master DVR was beloved by those folks, and I don’t expect them to jump at Channel Master’s $99 per year guide enhancement. And is that enhancement per DVR or per household? If per household then it would beat a TiVo cost-wise, but if per DVR than just as BAD as a TiVo, financially speaking.

    Lastly, one thing about these cord cutters is that aren’t anywhere near the vast majority of TV viewers in this county who MUST have ESPN, TNN, TBS to get those coveted live sports that aren’t shown ANYWHERE else, even the play-off games are no longer on OTA, just cable sat. We won’t go into the channel or two the WIFE can’t live without, nor the kiddies. Cord cutters are still a very small, but wisely frugal, group who were fools to pay for cable sat in the first place.

  13. The reason I will buy Channel Master is I DO NOT DO per month payments when any alternate is available. It is really that simple.

  14. Hi Dave

    We’ll be formally announcing in a couple of days but I just learned the Channel Master TV Premium Guide will actually be $49.00.

    Thanks
    Kim

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