TiVo Premiere To Access Xfinity On Demand

Dave Zatz —  May 9, 2011 — 40 Comments

tivo-premiere-comcast-ondemand

Remember the mysterious screengrab that TiVo accidentally released at the Premiere launch? Well, a year later, they’ve finally come clean. Comcast, er Xfinity, On Demand will be made available to TiVo Premiere DVRs in select markets – and San Francisco is up first. Although no specific ETA was provided beyond “early next year.” Presumably, the companies are getting it done using back channel communication methods, facilitated by SeaChange, and similar to those seen with RCN, Suddenlink, and perhaps what’s coming to Cox.

From TiVo’s press release:

TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO), the creator of and a leader in television services and advertising solutions for digital video recorders (DVRs), and Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA) (NASDAQ: CMCSK), one of the nation’s leading providers of entertainment, information, and communications products and services, today announced they have entered into an agreement to enable access to Comcast’s robust library of Xfinity TV On Demand content on TiVo Premiere set-top boxes sold at retail. Under the agreement, Comcast will make its Xfinity TV On Demand service accessible on TiVo Premiere set-top boxes in many of its largest markets. In each of those markets Comcast and TiVo plan to partner on promotion of this new service in retail and other sales channels. Comcast will install TiVo Premiere set-top boxes with its cable service at no additional charge for its customers when the service is available in those markets.

40 responses to TiVo Premiere To Access Xfinity On Demand

  1. Holy Moly! Now This is what would get me to upgrade to a TiVo Premiere.

    We’ve been a Comcast house for many years but have never had access to the On Demand content because we’ve never bothered with a Comcast cable box.

  2. Woo-hoo!

    Comcast now has an ETA. That means Verizon VOD could get an ETA someday…

  3. Or, hell. If Verizon doesn’t pony up to the table, and one of the other wireline providers in my area does, I can always switch away from the sweet wire with no real hassles…

  4. Is it just my reading, or does it sound like Comcast will also be reselling the TiVo Premiere hardware too?

  5. Really amazing what a little fright of anti-trust law can do to comcast…..

  6. MZ, yeah I can’t quite tell what this entails either. If moving in that direction is part of the current or future plan, it could easily replace the failed Motorola TiVo Comcast experiment with something more compelling and more economical for everyone.

  7. I’d love to be able to get rid of my cable box which I keep solely for On Demand, but I have a feeling it will be a while.

    I take “soon” to mean next year and “later” to mean a few years later. Though if it’s like their last partnership, it will never show up anywhere other than San Francisco.

    I hope it doesn’t use the same system as the Xfinity TV iPad app since the app frequently says I don’t get programs in my area (or they don’t show up), when I can go to my cable box and select the program from there.

  8. Reading the full press release it does sound like Comcast will be reselling the TiVo Premiere to customers in supported areas, as well as supporting retail units. Keen.

    So that’s RCN, Suddenlink, Cox, Charter, and Comcast (and technically DirecTV if they get their act together) – pretty good coverage of the top MSOs: http://giz.lv/j38hHh

    I bet Time Warner Cable is at the top of the target list for TiVo’s MSO sales team right now. I hope this puts some pressure on RCN, Suddenlink, and Charter to support VOD on retail units as well, and not just their MSO-provided boxes.

  9. Michael Burstin May 9, 2011 at 10:04 am

    That is what has been preventing me from buying a Premier box. Right now, I have a S3 in the living room but have a ComcasTivo box in the bedroom so I can get to OnDemand in at least one location. I’d love to dump that POS box for a real TiVo (even thought its still better than the standard Comcast software running on the box).

  10. Wow, about time! I knew they could do it! This is going to REALLY help Tivo in pushing units (from those reluctant to loose on demand). Plus it helps Comcast sell more VOD content (pay stuff or not). It’s a WIN-WIN that I’ve been saying all along.

    Now if giant Comcast can do it, so can everyone else. Let’s set the pace for this feature to become standard. We all know that Tivo software shoehorned on Motorola set tops failed miserably. Never really made it out of the test market. I’ve been saying all along that they should just use the real thing with an on demand connection added in.

    Now if only Tivo could finish their HD Interface…

  11. Jon Frederick May 9, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I wonder how this will affect CableCard prices. Will a customer buy a Premiere from Comcast, then find a extra line item on their bill for the CableCard?

  12. Nice for those with Comcast. Of course with TiVo who knows what soon means.

  13. Inching me closer to activating the Woot refurb.

  14. I don’t know if Comcast will be selling Premiere’s (the press release mentions installing, not selling) but the press release does say they will provide On Demand “on TiVo Premiere set-top boxes sold at retail”. To me that means Premieres sold directly to consumers (not by Comcast). At least I hope I”m reading that correctly.

    On a related note, according to Multichannel news Comcast and TiVo have ended their TiVo set top deal and their engineering partnership related to it.

    http://www.multichannel.com/article/467974-Comcast_Scraps_TiVo_Set_Top_Deal_But_Will_Open_VOD_Tap.php

  15. Morac, yah it’s clear this applies to retail. But, beyond joint “promotion”, we wonder if they’ll also resell Premiere hardware.

    Good catch on the set-top deal. Wonder how much Comcast was paying TiVo for continued R&D. And when it stopped. The new or restructured relationship suggests Comcast will remain free of patent infringement suits for the foreseeable future.

  16. Morac,

    This is definitely for units purchased at retail, there’s no question about that. But this “Comcast will install TiVo Premiere set-top boxes with its cable service” is a bit vague. The way that phrasing is normally used it implies that you could order service from Comcast and they’d come install it, with a TiVo Premiere if that’s what you want. Not that you’d go buy a TiVo Premiere and then they show up and do the installation for you. Whenever an MSO talks about installing something with their service it almost always refers to MSO-provided hardware.

    So the question here is – is it just retail units, or is it retail units *and* Comcast will also be reselling them too? They may not be MSO-customized units (like the RCN boxes), just standard retail Premiere units sold through Comcast.

  17. The lack of VoD has been a real sticking point when recommending TiVo to friends and family. People really love VoD and if you tell them they get a far superior DVR but have to give up VoD they just aren’t willing to do it and suffer with the Comcast provided DVRs.

  18. While this VOD deal is good for TiVo, the failed software deal would’ve been a much bigger win – had it worked out. Comcast had planned to offer TiVo across their territories as a simple option to their service. TiVo very likely would’ve gained a large number of subscribers, maybe millions, if that dream had come to fruition.

    If Comcast does start offering customers the option of getting a TiVo Premiere when they sign up instead of a cable STB, that might help – especially if they offer some kind of lease or lease-to-own plan like a cable STB instead of up-front costs like a retail TiVo. But if this is a straight retail deal, I don’t think it is going to create a big spike in TiVo sales. It may tip some users, but I don’t think there is some huge number of users holding off buying a retail TiVo because of VOD.

  19. “I don’t think it is going to create a big spike in TiVo sales. It may tip some users, but I don’t think there is some huge number of users holding off buying a retail TiVo because of VOD.”

    Y’know, TiVo doesn’t really have anything to market to the average consumer right now. But let’s imagine that a year from now, they have some VOD deals in place. And that the FCC does their job regarding the tuning adapter fiasco and CableCARD self-installs like they’re promising. And that TiVo gets their platform issues straightened out so the UI is faster and OTT content availability is better.

    I can imagine all that happening within a year from now. And in that imaginary scenario, TiVo would then have a product they could genuinely market to average consumers. They could run TV ads to sell TiVo’s to Dave’s mom. It’s all about knocking down the current barriers to adoption, and only then can you imagine a big spike in retail sales…

  20. My mom had a TiVo, I handled the purchase and setup. She didn’t see the benefit and I’d say that well is dry. However, I have a feeling there’s enough streaming content on Netflix to interest her and we’ve discussed augmenting her Comcast boxes with a Roku for a one time $60 fee.

  21. Dave,
    You might want to add a note so people don’t get to excited about this (and whiny) like they did about HuluPlus on TCF… The press release says “early next year.”

  22. “My mom had a TiVo, I handled the purchase and setup.”

    Of course. I just mean that I could imagine that Tivo could have a product a year from now that they could aggressively market to the non-Dave Zatz-related, generic version of your mom, rather than Dave Zatz force-marketing a TiVo to his own very special mom…

    Why mess with all those boxes when One Box Does It All?

  23. I’d temper this with:

    It’ll be out just after they have TiVo running on those cable boxes at Comcast.

    It’ll be out just after TiVo has shored up their new DirecTiVos.

    Even with this, you still have the silly tuning adapter to screw with. Yes, they could go the route suggested a year or so back with just letting the TiVos communicate with the cable head end via ethernet but I suspect that that’ll be implemented as well as cableCards.

  24. Josh, interesting – I generally stop reading press releases when the disclaimers start, as they’re rarely related to the announcement, and this one was buried way at the bottom. Will update the post, thanks. (I’m one of the Hulu Plus whiners. ;) )

    BradB, it does appear to use back channel communication facilitated by SeaChange and most (all?) of Comcast is tuning adapter free. For the time being.

  25. I don’t think I would categorize most as whiners these days with regards to those who complain about TiVo. Sure there are those who take it to an extreme which is why I find myself only lurking most of the time on TiVocommunity, but TiVo isn’t doing much to help themselves.

    TiVodesign finally responded to someone that we should have another update in a month or two. This is just way too long between updates especially with the lack of communication from TiVo.

  26. Never understood the VOD deal, I’ve got Comcast and their VOD stinks. If it’s free, you should’ve recorded it anyway, otherwise it’s $$$ just like Amazon–which is better anyway. But, if it helps, good for TiVo and “VOD excuse” people.

    I have a HDXL and I won’t buy a Premiere until they…

    1. Start working on that HDUI again. Don’t have to finish it, just get going again after nearly a year of NOTHING!

    2. 3rd (or more) TUNER!!! HELLO!! Maybe that survey finally got it through to them.

  27. Michael Burstin May 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    It seems like there is great confusion in most places that I see. Most of the posts on the Tivo Facebook page and Tivo Blog are people asking whether this can be added to their existing Premier. I think that from reading Megazone (and others) analysis is that this is specifically FOR retail boxes (although Comcast may become another retailer). I think Tivo needs to get out in front of this and clarify.

    #dean-i, as far as the VOD deal, there are a few big reasons to want VOD. I want it because many networks have their stuff available (for free) on VOD, meaning that I can watch it later if I missed it (for example, my cable was out a few weeks ago for an hour in prime time and I missed a few recordings), I can watch if both tuners are busy at the time its on, and I also don’t need the disk space if I’m running low on hard drive space. That is really what I want VOD for.

  28. It seems clear to me existing Premiere boxes will receive this ability. Although I could imagine it requiring a call in or maybe registering the box on a web page to turn it on. In a perfect world, your CableCARD-ed TiVo would self register on the network. But I’m not sure how much there is to get ahead of at this point, since nothing will be available until 2012.

    Regarding VOD, I use it for content discovery. Also, I wonder if Dean has children – I know many parents who rely on it for a constant stream of children’s programming without eating into local storage.

  29. “Morac, yah it’s clear this applies to retail. But, beyond joint “promotion”, we wonder if they’ll also resell Premiere hardware.”

    According to Lawler at Engadget, Comcast will market them to their customers…

  30. Yeah I have little need for VOD, but I don’t have kids. My sister’s kids use their VOD constantly which is why I haven’t been able to sell them on Media Center or TiVo.

  31. “Regarding VOD, I use it for content discovery. Also, I wonder if Dean has children”

    VOD is not just for kids.

    I’m the biggest proponent of local caching that you’ll find. It’s why I’ve got a TiVo. But I do love me some VOD.

    I love ala carte pay VOD from Amazon in the place of Blu-Ray. I love subscription VOD from Netflix for indies, docs, and foreign features, as well as some TV series.

    And I’d love free VOD from my wireline provider for the services I’m already paying for. As Dave says, it’s good for content discovery. And it’s also good for freeing up hard drive space in your local cache. It’d be nice not to have to store every HBO series locally when you’d be just fine with having certain of them available to you through VOD in a windowed scheme, for example.

  32. Fan-f*cking-tastic if they can get it out there. And I do think it would help TiVo if Comcast offered a lease only, no down, TiVo option. If they can get this done I could care less about Hulu.

    And yes obviously Time Warner would be the next big target. Brings along SDV and Tuning Adapters of course as additional complications, but maybe they can replace those with IP.

  33. Dissapointed May 9, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    So, after $43M, Comcast realized TiVo’s software team wasn’t up to the job and pulled the plug. Oh well, Comcast probably sees the deal as a net gain by avoiding lawsuits. This new deal puts the impetus on TiVo, and benefits Comcast subs even more.

    Will customers still need tuning adapters for VoD?

  34. dean-l, I’ll give you a good example of a use for VOD. Comcast doesn’t get BBC America HD in my area (only the SD version), but they put up BBC America programming in HD on VOD. There’s a few other “channels” that are only available via VOD.

    Disappointed, Comcast doesn’t use tuning adapters. They dropped nearly all their analog channels instead.

  35. why does TiVo always say “early next year”. Now TCF will have the haters pulling this out of their arsenal as well, especially early next year when even Hulu+ has not shown up yet.

  36. I have the RCN Tivo Premiere and its a mixed blessing.
    - They have disabled the HD UI interface and those who have been beta testing it still complain that its a bit glitchy and slow. The premiere is really has an underpowered CPU/GPU and could use a refresh.

    - RCN was not allowed to enable Hulu +, Netflix, Amazon VOD although we did get Blockbuster VOD and Pandora?! You could see how those service would cut into RCN’s VOD revenue.. Not sure which side is blocking this.

    - Although we can use the remote scheduling capabilities we don’t have any of the iPad features for Tivo yet.

    - The prices of RCN’s VOD service are pretty ridiculous, we always end up using our TV’s Amazon VOD service instead or even Netflix built into the TV. The one good feature of VOD is the ability to watch premium channel VOD or childrens stations VOD services. Don’t really care about the movie services.

    Anyways.. just some info.

  37. Hey Dave I just saw this story posted at engadget,

    http://hd.engadget.com/2011/05/10/shaw-gateway-dvr-is-the-six-tuner-son-of-moxi/

    So I called Moxi and spoke with a nice dude named David and got the same response when I speak with Tivo about upcoming products, “I dunno”. And why Canada? And do you think this will ever hit retail in the states?

    Thanks

  38. Nice tip, thanks – hope to blog my answer in its own post. :)

  39. mgalicki – RCN is running an early, custom version of the TiVo software. Hence the lack of HD UI and some other things. As you note, they’re beta testing a version of the ‘public’ code with the HD UI and other additions. The Premiere HW actually quite good, but there are two main issues right now:
    1. The CPU is dual-core, but TiVo’s software needs to be updated to properly utilize it. Right now one core is disabled, so it is only running half the chip. TiVo is working on this.
    2. TiVo is still working to optimize the code for performance. Historically their first releases of any major change, like the HD UI is, have performed poorly. They’ll implement it to get it working, then iterate with updates to optimize the code to perform well.

    The lack of Netflix & Amazon (No one has Hulu yet) is due to licensing. Netflix has stated this openly – their agreements with studios do not allow them to stream content to MSO-provided set top boxes, TiVo or otherwise. Amazon is believed to be the same. RCN has said they’d readily enable Netflix if they could, but until Netflix gets new license agreements they can only stream to retail products. (This gets into the sticky mess of licensing – studios license content to MSOs directly to use in VOD, etc. So allowing an MSO to use a box that streams Netflix means they have no reason to license it themselves, which means less revenue for the studio. Somehow it seems Blockbuster managed to avoid such a clause.)

    The iPad app requires the latest TiVo software, and so is tied to RCN releasing the code they’re testing now.

  40. Are there any updates to this yet or is it dead? I was hoping it would happen.

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