RCN Confirms TiVo Premiere-To-Premiere Streaming

Dave Zatz —  May 19, 2011 — 20 Comments

RCN’s Sr. Director of Video Product and Video Operations, Jason Nealis, has kindly spilled the beans. TiVo Premiere-to-Premiere streaming functionality is indeed included in the 14.8 software update. Perhaps even more significant (to TiVo) is what looks to be a consolidation of the codebase. The fact the RCN-deployed TiVo Premiere DVR hardware is running a similarly numbered software version as retail and now includes the HDUI is notable.

From Jason’s RCN release notes on DSL Reports:

  • Support for IPAD APP
  • Support for Multi Room Streaming (versus move of content)
  • Several Bug Fixes and enhancements
  • VOD previews
  • Further TiVo Look / Feel when in VOD Portal

While streaming has previously been alluded to and leaked, not to mention those compelling new clues in the code, we still don’t know when or if the improved multi-room DVR functionality is headed to retail TiVo DVRs. Also the fact that no one on the TiVo Community or DSL Reports has yet mentioned experiencing it, this feature may require activation on TiVo’s end. And then there’s the technology itself. I assume TiVo’s MSO partners would utilize MoCA while retail would require a home network.

(Thanks for the tip, machpost!)

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20 responses to RCN Confirms TiVo Premiere-To-Premiere Streaming

  1. Wonder if this will finally quiet the people who can’t find a reason to upgrade to the Premiere? Probably not, they will just complain that it isn’t coming to the Series 3 and TiVo HD.

  2. Michael Burstin May 19, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Wonder if this will allow Tivo -> iPad streaming? I don’t have a Premier yet, but my GF has a RCN-branded one and streaming would be nice, even if it is only in the house.

  3. Michael, given the file sizes and MPEG2 codec, I doubt the Premiere will ever stream directly to the iPad. At least not until they get that second core going, possibly transcoding on the fly as it streams. But really doubt we’ll see it on this platform. All the cablecos who offer streaming, don’t stream from the box but from their servers… (other than the DISH VIP922 with integrated Slingbox capabilities).

  4. If this is actually turned on and works, including cable companies that set the CCI byte to copy once everywhere like mine, it would be the first actual improvement to core PVR functionality since MRV was introduced in the “home media features” patch in early 2003.

  5. My one fear is they will do away with box to box transfers if they enable streaming. I hope this isn’t the case since I much prefer transfers to streaming and transfers have their own benefits.

    I can’t think of an instance where TiVo has done something like this, but I can just see someone saying to just remove the transfer option with streaming now.

  6. Dave, I know that iPad doesn’t recognize TiVo’s .mpg files, but isn’t MPEG2 decoding a less processor-intensive task then H.264/X.264 MPEG4 files? AVPlayer HD decodes 720p MKV files with ease on iPad 2, so if MPEG2 is easier to handle, it should be possible. And for in-home streaming, file sizes wouldn’t be a big deal.

  7. Heh, nice Jason.

    I haven’t seen him in a while, we met a few times when I was with Livingston and he was with Erols, before RCN acquired them. He’s a hell of a guy. :-)

    Glad to see this stuff is coming.

  8. Ivan, Just speculating here… but I don’t believe iPad has native MPEG2 decoding. If so, on that platform is may not be less intensive, especially given the larger file sizes. But I could be wrong as TiVo’s survey probably represents something under development.

  9. Ivan – The iPad/iPhone (and most mobile devices these days) have dedicated MPEG4/H.264 decoding hardware, it isn’t being done in the CPU. But most do not have MPEG2 decoding HW (I don’t believe the iPad does). Some also have HW support for WMV/VC-1, and may handle additional codecs like Divx/Xvid or VP8/WebM. Apple is big on H.264 so all of their products have native support for that.

    While MPEG-2 is generally less processor intensive than H.264 when done in software on a CPU, that’s not what’s done on most mobile devices.

  10. Brennok, it may be difficult conceptually to provide both streaming and copying options. It’ll be interesting to see how this feature works out. At the very least, I assume they must retain TiVoToGo (in retail) which would obviously be the copy function.

  11. “Wonder if this will finally quiet the people who can’t find a reason to upgrade to the Premiere?”

    Meh. I’m a single media center household. I don’t want the HDUI. And the SDUI in the Premiere has a bug that is show-stopper. (Of course, there is an infinitesimal chance they fixed that bug in 10.8.)

    I’d like to upgrade to a Premiere and run the SDUI, but TiVo hasn’t been making that viable.

    “Probably not, they will just complain that it isn’t coming to the Series 3 and TiVo HD.”

    No complaints here. And I didn’t complain when the iPad app was introduced as Premiere-only. My TiVo HD doesn’t lose any functionality when things get added to the Premiere…

  12. “And the SDUI in the Premiere has a bug that is show-stopper.”

    Chucky,

    I think you meant HDUI. It is still buggy, but the SDUI works fine. I turned it on the second week I had my Premiere and have been using it fine for a year with no problems. It is just as stable/fast as my Series 3, which I still use on another TV.

  13. “I think you meant HDUI. It is still buggy, but the SDUI works fine. I turned it on the second week I had my Premiere and have been using it fine for a year with no problems. It is just as stable/fast as my Series 3, which I still use on another TV.”

    No. I meant the SDUI.

    Chatter is that a high percentage of folks using the SDUI on the Premiere are hitting the bug I linked to above. If the chatter is wrong, I’d buy a Premiere, assuming I could still get grandfathered in at my price plan.

  14. Well I’m still not impressed with Tivo until they finish their HD UI and enable the second core on the CPU to improve performance.

    I can’t get it anyway, unless I break out of my DirecTV contract. I’d love to switch to my local cable operator, as they have a much wider variety of HD channels than DirecTV. Just their software stinks and third party solutions still can’t get video on demand. Hopefully someone at Service Electric Cablevision reads this and gets the idea.

  15. @Dave & MegaZone — I’m well aware that Apple used hardware acceleration for supported video formats (and MPEG2 isn’t one of them), so that’s why I brought up AVPlayer HD which plays a lot of formats (incl. HD MKVs) in software (optimized for A5 on iPad 2). I will try to throw a TiVo recording on it but it’s still be an imperfect solution b/c it’d mean transferring recordings from TiVo -> PC -> iPad. As of yet, AVPlayer doesn’t stream from a PC, unlike Air Video, but I will try using FileBrowser (http://www.stratospherix.com/products/filebrowser/features/)and report.

    @Chucky — I’d love TiVo to finish HDUI as much as everyone else, but don’t find it slower than my old S2 DT. I’ve used Netflix and Amazon in addition to watching recordings and it’s good enough, especially now that I’d learned how to permanently turn off that annoying video window.

  16. @Ivan Y,

    Just use Air Video. It works perfectly. I transfer shows into the Tivo Recordings folder with TTG, and that is one of several folders Air Video will play or transcode as required. Simple as pie, reliable, and no monthly fees.

    Like Dave and Megazone said, streaming to the iPad from a Tivo almost certainly isn’t going to happen. The stuff Tivo is recording to disk for an HD stream is a ~15Mbps (though VBR) MPEG-2 transport stream. Sure MPEG-2 is easier to decode than h.264, but like others have said the iPad performs well because it does the h.264 decode in hardware, not software.

    The Tivo DOES have MPEG-2 / h.264 encoders for analog channels, but it isn’t clear that these can take input from something other than the antenna. Probably not.

    And like I said, the encryption (decoded by the cable card) of most cable channels would be another problem. Not sure how Tivo to Tivo streaming of protected content would work without this though, so this is probably doable. Might require one of the “up to 6″ channels on a multistream cable card, which might mean that streaming on single stream cards isn’t possible, or would prevent recordings from going on in some cases. Then they’d have to run it through the h.264 encoder to encode it at a lower bit rate than typical for cable so the iPad could handle it, then rewrap that into an apple format wrapper (probably the CPUs have enough oomph to do the rewrapping though). Seems unlikely.

    @Dave,

    There’s some interesting stuff on the 14.8 thread about how the version number being pushed out is 14.8U2 and that 14.8P2 was what beta testers of the Hulu Plus feature had, suggesting Hulu Plus *might* be just around the corner when Tivo throws some switch…

  17. Also, if Tivo replaced copying with streaming ONLY when the content couldn’t be otherwise copied I guess that would be fine with me. If they replaced copying with streaming in all cases, that would make my current system unusable in many cases since I have transfers that at least sometimes go slower than the rate of the assets, so they’d have to buffer, potentially too much to be workable.

  18. Don’t you mean MPEG-2 encoders? I thought the h.264/VC chipset was strictly decoders.

  19. Ivan, MKV is just a container format, the contents could be H.264, and often are. Do you know if it uses the hardware to decode compatible video?

    I don’t have an iPad, and plan to buy an Android tablet instead, so I’m not familiar with the software.

  20. Because of the UI stories I was hesitant to go from my S3 to the Premier, but i took the plunge 3 mos ago. It hasn’t been bad. I like the new hdui. A high speed network connection is a must though. It loads quite a bit of info on each page.

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