Editors Note: This interview with Antennas Direct CEO Richard Schneider was published on Jan. 21, 2020.
Antennas Direct may soon develop hardware to integrate ATSC 3.0 and streaming services.
“We have a huge list of things we want to do,” Richard Schneider, president and founder of Antennas Direct, said in an interview with The Cord Cutting Report. “ATSC 3.0 is coming out. We would like to make a transition device to help people be able to receive and benefit from 3.0 — either a dongle or set-top box.”
Schneider discussed details about new products on the drawing board in the wake of purchasing antenna-maker Mohu.
Antennas Direct has been working on purchasing Mohu, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, for about 11 months, according to Schneider.
The purchase was announced last week.
Schneider would like to see the company release an ATSC 3.0 set-top box or dongle by 2021, but added that Antennas Direct needs to find a partner to work with.
“We could stick a chip in the box and call it a day — that’s not the hard part,” he said.
The two brands will remain distinct, and become the largest manufacturer of consumer TV antennas in the U.S.
ATSC 3.0 rolls out in 2020
A major shift in free over-the-air television is already underway.
ATSC 3.0, or NextGen TV, is rolling out in about 60 cities this year. The new broadcast standard promises to deliver a number of major upgrades, including 4K picture resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR), and Dolby Atmos.
NextGen TV will have much better reception compared to digital signals now being used. At the same time, 5G wireless internet options are beginning to roll out nationwide.
“I’m very excited about ATSC 3.0 because I think it’s going to merge a lot of these technologies,” Schneider said.
ATSC 3.0 and the right hardware to go along with it could prove to be a major turning point for cord cutting, Schneider said.
‘Holy Grail’ device
If the company does create a NextGen TV device, it would bring together the combination of services already widely used by cord cutters or cord nevers.
“So this is what our customers do: they cancel cable, get a subscription to Netflix and get an antenna,” Schneider said. “It would be nice to have — instead of sending them to different places — having all these different services and keep one point of control.”
Making easy-to-use hardware will be key, according to Schneider, saying it has to be “a device that your Aunt Mabel could use.”
“That’s sort of the Holy Grail,” he added. “In our mind, that’s what is holding cord cutting back.”
Schneider also said his company would like to produce a DVR for antenna users.
Antennas Direct already produces a TV tuner called ClearStream TV. Mohu produces the Mohu Airwave, a similar product that works with Roku, Fire TV, iOS and Android.
Many details about how the two companies will integrate are still being worked out, according to Schneider.
“Mohu has been very successful in the indoor antenna space while we’ve never been able to break out as successfully as they have,” Schneider said. “They have really dominated that territory. Antennas Direct has made really outstanding with outdoor antennas. So now, we’ll be able to pool our resources in terms of research and development.”
New Antennas for 2020
Antennas Direct plans on debuting some new antennas later this year that will improve VHF reception. The company is also focused on developing smaller indoor antennas that are aesthetically pleasing, according to Schneider.
“Digital broadcasting, for all its wonderful attributes, can be a bit finicky,” Schneider said. “We have been able to take a lot of the size and weight out of antennas in terms of what existed in your grandparents day.”
Streamlining production will be another area that Antennas Direct will have to examine in the coming months, according to Schneider.
Antennas Direct does all its research and development with engineers in St. Louis, the company’s home base, and Utah. Antennas Direct antennas are then constructed in Taiwan, Schneider said.
Mohu builds its antennas at a factory in Raleigh, N.C.
Schneider said indoor antennas by Antennas Direct may eventually be re-branded as Mohu antennas and produced in the U.S.
“We will have to see what products are going to go to North Carolina,” he said.
Schneider said that he’s most excited that the combined forces of Antennas Direct and Mohu will be better at spreading the word that free television is still a thing — and growing.
“It’s a wonderful compliment to streaming,” he said. “Most people don’t know it still exists.”
According to eMarketer’s latest pay TV forecast, about 25 percent of households will drop traditional TV by 2022.