As regulars know, we recently left the cable hegemony behind in favor of Verizon’s FiOS TV…. to overcome switched digital video (SDV) tuning adapter flakiness and a CCI Byte content lockdown that essentially neutered our TiVo ecosystem. And, on the technological front, we couldn’t be happier. (But I may follow up with a less glowing billing and support post, as many of you cautioned.)
We’re a three TV/DVR household, although currently only possess two televisions — one powered by a TiVo Premiere and the other powered by the Verizon FiOS DVR shown above. So the question is, what DVR will power TV #3 when the time comes?
Now that Cox Communication’s CCI Byte “guilty until proven innocent” restriction is behind me, TiVo once again provides multi-room viewing. Although my mothballed TiVo HD and Series 3 may not have the bandwidth to move content wirelessly in real time between DVRs, the way I could Premiere to Premiere. On the FiOS TV front, most of us are still running Interactive Media Guide (IMG) 1.8… which doesn’t utilize a 16:9 UI and multi-room viewing is limited to a DVR hub feeding set-tops. However, testing is underway for version 1.9 and deployment should begin in the near future. And I’m quite interested…
In my mind, the top FiOS TV IMG 1.9 features are the inclusion of a true 16:9 HD interface, support for external storage, and DVR-to-DVR multi-room viewing capabilities. On the storage expansion front, I get the sense that Verizon will offer some sort of officially supported eSATA drives. However, drives won’t need to be purchased through Verizon or even approved. Grab a drive and go. Now original FiOS TV customers may be running older Motorola hardware without eSATA support and it’s my understanding they’ll be able to upgrade their DVRs for free. Whereas folks with newer hardware who happen to want the newest hardware (with larger internal drive and more attractive enclosure) will be subject to a one-time $39 upgrade fee.
The new FiOS TV DVR-to-DVR streaming functionality of 1.9 seems like a no brainer and I was surprised it wasn’t already present. Verizon offers two tiers of DVRs — the hardware is the same, but the price and functionality vary. The typical DVR runs $15/month, while the “Home Media DVR” enables multi-room viewing and relaying content PC-to-DVR for $20/mo. In the new DVR-to-DVR configuration only one unit needs to be at the $20 tier. (Surely there’s a simpler way to sell and explain this functionality?) However, what you end up with sounds very similar to TiVo’s existing MRV service. When what I really want is a unified whole-home playlist. Additionally, let’s move to collaborative scheduling… if one DVR happens to be out of tuners, record my show on another unit. If one DVR is low on drive space, record on one with more available overhead. While this won’t be present in IMG 1.9, I know it’s something Verizon is looking at. And the possibilities make me giddy.
On the iPad front, both TiVo and FiOS TV offer iPad apps. TiVo’s is more powerful and more attractive. But I find myself using Verizon’s more when channel surfing live TV, given the traditional grid guide and “What’s Hot” thumbnails displaying popular shows in my region. (Although it’s not exactly real-time, maybe delayed 10-15 minutes?)
One last note, based on the FiOS TV Twitter feed and unrelated to DVR functionality: the next two HD channels Verizon will offer are Black Entertainment Television (BET) and Fox Soccer Channel (FSC), in that order. Neither do much for me, but I just discovered we receive the Big Ten Network (in HD) and enjoyed a few minutes of Wisconsin/Nebraska wrestling last night (even though it made me feel old and out of shape).