HDHomeRun: The Easiest Live TV Setup
Hooray, I just bought a new NVIDIA Shield. How exciting! Time to set it up!
What’s first? Let’s see, got to sign into Google Play so I can get my apps! This setup process is interesting. I have to open my phone for some reason and type in codes? I guess that’s not the worst thing.
OK, next, Netflix. Password again… shoot, what was it? I could swear that’s the right password… Maybe a different email? Ah ha! That did it.
Next… Hulu. Ugh. HBO? MLB? Password, password, password. Wait, I also need a password to use NVIDIA’s game service? Wasn’t the google password good enough?
The Pain Points of Cord Cutting
In the software service industry, there are a series of steps every user is expected to take to view content. These steps are called “pain points” in the software service industry, because each one is unpleasant and reduces the number of total possible people that might view the content. And unfortunately, for the most part, they really are required. Our apologies to NVIDIA and Google and the rest for singling them out. Pretty much every service requires a sign in, and pretty much every sign in requirement makes total sense. Netflix, for instance, would get in pretty big trouble if they just started giving their licensed content away!
When we developed the HDHomeRun software, we took a hard look at where the standard pain points were in cord cutting, and we asked ourselves if they were necessary. In the world of free, live Over the Air TV, does it make sense to force someone to log in to something? They aren’t subscribing to anything, are they? In the end, we decided to drop every pain point we could.
Getting Rid of the Cord Cutting Pain Points
What we did was relatively simple. We made 2 decisions.
First, we decided to drop all usernames and passwords and credit cards from the setup. We dropped the need for a hard drive. To watch Live TV with an HDHomeRun, you don’t need a password. You don’t need a user name. When you’ve plugged in the HDHomeRun device, all you need is the app itself (and something to run it on, of course, like an iPad or an NVIDIA Shield or Fire TV).
You don’t even need to run a channel scan, assuming you connected up your device in the right order. (See the diagram at the top of this post for the right order.) Plug it in, install the app, launch the app, and you’ve got TV.
Second, we decided to tie our software not to your individual viewing device, but to the HDHomeRun device itself. That means when you install the HDHomeRun app on your iPad after installing it on your Shield, you don’t need to re-authorize that iPad, like you would with Netflix. You don’t need to do any kind of login process at all. You literally just launch the app and live TV starts playing for you. Same thing if you have a Shield or a smart phone. Heck, you don’t even need to use the HDHomeRun app. You can play our streams on VLC or in a 3rd party app or even on a modern Roku through Roku Media Player. All that authorizing is just gone.
The Cord Cutting Tradeoffs: What We Still Need to Solve
In making this decision to be as easy as possible to setup, there were some tradeoffs that we’re still working out. At the top of that list is probably remote viewing. Right now you can copy a recording to your device manually and take it with you, but because we don’t have a log in process for you to say that you are you in the mobile app, there’s no real way to connect back to your home network and stream from home.
The other big tradeoff is that Live TV is so easy that when we add complications like DVR, it can feel even more complicated than it really is. For example, right now you don’t even need to sign in to enable the DVR software service. After you’ve purchased the license, you just click a link. But a lot of people find that concept confusing, because everyone is used to logging in to enable a service. Clicking a link with an activation code feels weird.
And then, of course, there’s the need to setup DVR hardware. We’re still figuring that one out. But we have some ideas, starting with the HDHomeRun Scribe and Servio that we announced at CES with DVR hardware effectively baked into the experience. We’re working out the software side of that experience as well, to make it as easy as possible to set up, but we’re feeling pretty optimistic about the hardware side at the moment.
And fortunately for the power users, this is not a case of trading off simplicity for power. The HDHomeRun Scribe is great for a person who just wants to get going without fuss. And the HDHomeRun Servio is great for the person who just wants a set it and forget it expansion experience. But for those who want a full server or NAS running or love our third party partners, we’re not taking away options! Go crazy! Build a 64 TB server if you want! Run it off a Raspberry Pi, if you are feeling absolutely crazy!
We’re always talking with our users, trying to learn what they want and need to improve the experience. A big part of what we’ve learned is that there really are many power users out there who don’t care if the setup leads the industry in simplicity. They want deep control over their whole system. And on the flip side are folks who are looking for even less complexity. Those sound like competing ideas, but if you actually dig down into the specifics and think creatively, you find quite quickly that those competing goals often work together.
So we’re proud today that we have the easiest cord cutting setup to Live TV in the industry. But we’re most excited to see how we can keep taking steps forward in the future.