We called it RVU. We called it DIRECTV-Ready. It was a great idea at the beginning of the last decade. Satellite TV without a receiver. That’s how it was billed. But here in 2020, it’s gone. What happened to this once-promising technology?
The original RVU TV
Back in 2011, DIRECTV introduced the 5-tuner HR34 Super DVR. It wasn’t called a Genie yet… that term was about a year away. At the same time it launched, Samsung launched a trio of televisions with what they called “RVU technology.” The idea was that the TV would emulate a client box in software. This would allow people to use their smart TV without any other hardware. It’s still a great idea, but back then the execution was limited.
The biggest complaint with the first-gen RVU TVs, like the one shown above, was that they were slow. And yes, I can confirm that. But that problem went away with the 2013 and 2014 TVs.
By this time, they were branding the TVs as “DIRECTV Ready” and they were. The problem was that the infrastructure wasn’t. In order to guarantee the best possible experience, DIRECTV required a coax cable run to the TV, where you could use an adapter to convert it to Ethernet. Since one of the big draws of RVU was supposed to be no special wiring, this sort of put a damper on things.
DIRECTV 4K Ready: A second chance
By 2016, televisions were being produced with a 4K version of the client in software. As late as 2017, I was still publishing a list of all the TVs that would work with DIRECTV 4K. Again, this was a great idea. You could eliminate the 4K Genie client and just use the TV. If you were using the TV’s smart features, this sounded like a great idea.
Again it was torpedoed by the need for coax wiring to the TV. Most of these TVs had built-in Wi-Fi and owners liked it that way. But you couldn’t use built-in Wi-Fi for the DIRECTV software client and this made for problems. When you connected the Ethernet cable from the coax line, all the internet traffic used it. This created a less stable stream for all the client boxes, not just the TV.
Can you get RVU today?
As far as I’ve been told, AT&T will no longer activate new RVU/DIRECTV-Ready TVs. If you’re still using that technology and you’re happy with it, there are no plans to discontinue it… yet. However you’ll probably lose support for it eventually. Unlike the physical client boxes, the client software in the TV is maintained by the TV manufacturer. There’s no reason for them to update a system that almost no one uses, and so your DIRECTV-Ready TV will lose out on bug fixes that the client boxes get routinely.
The real solution…
I’ve never understood why AT&T couldn’t develop an app for a streaming box. Yes they have AT&T TV NOW, but there’s not a streaming-box-based solution for DIRECTV subscribers. You can use your phone and cast to the TV, but there’s no dedicated solution. It seems to me that AT&T could get this done if they wanted to. Even if we were just talking about the live channels that are offered in the DIRECTV app plus the on-demand selection, that would still be a great option, don’t you think?