The Death of Streaming NTBs

The barrage of announcements about NTBs that are used to stream content from OTT services in recent weeks may mark their high-water point.

Now that the five major net-top box makers have launched new models, it’s time to ask once again, “Why are they needed?”

Pressured by competitors’ lower prices and increased features, makers of TV set are beefing up the smarts of their smart TVs – adding more and more apps for accessing OTT entertainment and Web sites.

For a start, every UHD is a smart TV with a long list of apps that are by and large the same ones that appear of NTBs that are used to stream OTT content. Hisense UHD

Has the UHD 4K TV set like this one from Hisense killed off the NTB?


There is an unconfirmed statement by Walmart that it will by year end 2015 not sell any TV that is 32 inches and larger unless it is a UHD set, which would of course be app-loaded smart TVs. If it’s not by year-end 2015, it’ll certainly be by year-end 2016.

That means all TVs will be UHDs, which do not need an external NTB to access OTT services.

Since purchasing a Samsung UHD TV in summer 2014 – writes The Online Reporter’s Charles Hall – I have rarely if ever used a NTB – the only exception being the Apple TV, which I access from a PC or tablet to play music on the whole-home stereo system and/or the living room’s surround sound system.

It’s an advantage that the Apple TV will always have as long as Apple never allows other NTB makers to access iTunes – something that doesn’t appear likely. iTunes, with its ability to access the iTunes store and its synching capability with all Apple devices, has become for most their go-to music app. Apple would like it to become their go-to video app but iTunes offers nothing video-wise that consumers can’t get elsewhere including on their smart TVs.

It’s not that I don’t have NTBs because I do – In addition to two Apple TVs (one for the whole home system and one for the surround sound system), Chromecast, Roku, Google TV, Blu-ray players, Amazon Fire, TiVo DVR – even the little-known LG Upgrader, oddly the only NTB that is still used because it is connected to a non-smart TV in a master bedroom. But that TV’s days are numbered because it will be replaced by a UHD TV in early 2016 that will, no doubt have all the entertainment apps I want.

That’s not to say I won’t keep buying, using and evaluating various new NTBs because that is what we do for a living. There’s a TiVo Bolt sitting on the table right now, waiting to be installed. But what gets used are the apps on the Samsung TV.

There is one case that can be made for NTBs and that is if, as rumored, Apple and Amazon get the rights to stream live TV channels. That would bypass the pay TV companies and their STBs but is …

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The Online Reporter is the weekly subscription-based strategy bulletin about the enabling technologies of broadband, Wi-Fi, HDR, home networks, UHD 4K TV & OTT services; identifying trends in the Digital Media space. Only a fraction of our material here is published here. To see 4 free copies, follow the links above or go to

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