We've been talking a lot about streaming services and cord-cutting recently. I saw an interesting comment somewhere questioning whether a service like Sling TV is really cord-cutting since you're still buying a bundle of channels from a TV provider.
It's a legit point, but of course there's another way to cut the cord and that is to take advantage of over-the-air (OTA) TV signals. This is most feasible for those of us living near cities. At my apartment I can get crystal clear HD signals for the major networks and PBS and a smattering of other channels of varied quality. I pull this in with a $40 Mohu Leaf antenna that's stuck to the inside of a 2nd floor window and that's the only fee I have to pay. Of course this is a pretty old-school experience. I turn on the TV and flip through channels looking for something to watch.
Now Microsoft is bringing OTA TV to the Xbox One ecosystem in the US and Canada. (It already has a service like this in Europe.) The company is working with Hauppauge to create an OTA tuner for the Xbox One which will cost $59.99 once it's ready. Couple it with an HD antenna and you've got TV on your Xbox without having to pay a cable provider.
In fact if you're part of the Xbox One Preview program you can start testing the service now, if you're willing to purchase a Hauppauge WinTV-955Q tuner which retails for $79.99.
Since most reasonably new TVs can already pull in OTA signals without an adapter, why would you want to spend $60 to use your Xbox One to do the same thing? Well you get a few cool features. First you get One Guide which lets you browse what's on and what's coming up without flipping through a bunch of channels. Better, you can pause live TV when watching via the Xbox One. The system sets aside about 4 GB of hard drive space that it uses to let you buffer 30 minutes of content. Lastly, you can stream from your Xbox One to Smartglass, Microsoft's Xbox companion app. That means now you can get live OTA TV on your tablet or phone, even if someone else is playing a game on the Xbox One at the time.
In my opinion these features are easily worth the $60 price of admission. There's also the convenience of not having to switch inputs, voice controls if you have Kinect, and if you really want to you can 'snap' live TV into that claustrophobic little side window the Xbox One UI offers.
Now all that said, I think Microsoft really missed an opportunity by not giving us full DVR capability. Wouldn't it be great if you could plug in a nice big external hard drive and record live programs to it for watching later? One of the reasons I've yet to cut the cord (my OTA experience is limited to the TV in my office) is that time-shifting content is crucial to me and that means I need DVR features.
You can get an idea of what kind of OTA programming is available to you by going to http://gomohu.com/xbox and entering your address. Of course that site wants to sell you a Mohu antenna. If you want a less biased opinion you can check http://www.antennaweb.org/ to get the same kind of information.
Assuming you have good coverage where you are, partnering OTA signals (for network programming) with the Sling TV service (for cable channels) turns the Xbox One into a pretty solid cord-cutting machine for $20/month (the cost of Sling TV). Of course the Xbox One also supports Netflix, Hulu Plus and a bunch of other streaming services.
You can learn more about OTA TV and the Xbox One at Xbox Wire, and you can see it in action in this video: