TiVo Demos iPad Video Streaming

Dave Zatz —  January 10, 2012 — 40 Comments

Hm, looks like TiVo’s got their own Apple-esque version of “one more thing” going on at CES this week. In addition to discussing the next Premiere DVR software update and Comcast Xfinity On Demand deployment plans, TiVo is demoing DVR video streaming to their iPad companion app. Wow!

They’re describing this using terms such as “conceptual” and “prototype” — and are obviously not ready to discuss if or when this may be released, what sort of content may be permissible, which partners and hardware are granted access, etc. But it’s a very interesting direction to see them moving in. Coincidentally, earlier this week, I shared some thoughts on the possibility of Slingbox functionality:

 I can’t imagine TiVo will ever get into the placeshifting game (for retail) units as they’re very careful not to alienate broadcasters or potential MSO partners at this phase of the game. And placeshifting is still somewhat contested and would compete in some sense with a provider’s TV Anywhere initiative. But I could see them baking it in for a smaller MSO like RCN that may not be equipped to build or want to invest in their own serverside/headend solution.

We’re hounding TiVo for additional technical details and some visual evidence. You can bet we’ll update our coverage if/as we learn more.

Update: TiVo has delivered. As you can see from the prototype photographed above, we now have a better idea how they could conceivable move content from a DVR to a mobile app using what appears to be a networked accessory. They’re offloading transcoding and streaming duties, perhaps similar to how the the DirecTV Nomad operates or what the Motorola Televation does for Comcast. Of course, having this functionality integrated directly into a DVR is a much cleaner solution. But even DISH Network dumped their integrated Slingbox in favor of a Sling Adapter upsell.  

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40 responses to TiVo Demos iPad Video Streaming

  1. If this goes anywhere, I hope they’re also working on Android (esp. Kindle Fire) support…

    I have one TiVo box, but two TVs; would be nice to watch TiVo recordings on that second TV without first having to export the file… Streaming to the Kindle Fire or an iPad would be a reasonable option as well.

    Would be intelligent for them to only let it broadcast in the same local area network, to avoid placeshifting concerns…

  2. Hopefully TiVo will also update TiVo Desktop so you can stream to or from the PC.

  3. Peter, Actually I just looked at my notes. It doesn’t specify iPad, just mobile companion app. I’m heading out for a bit and will continue to try getting TiVo back on the phone – not the easiest thing during CES. ;)

    Brennok, probably not the greatest ROI to invest in TiVo Desktop. The apps should be prioritized. Also, as far as content protection, I think folks would feel more comfortable with a limited mobile OS for presentation.

  4. video or it didnt happen

  5. Yeah, no kidding. I’m not in a position to shoot a video, but others in Vegas will. I did confirm my suspicion, the demo is indeed on an iPad. However, I assume this sort of thing would ultimately end up on the major platforms and TiVo just released an Android app. Still hoping for a bit more technical detail and a photo to run. We’ll see. If not, others will surely publish something notable before CES concludes.

  6. Very cool! Could use my iPad as a TV while working out on my treadmill. Or watch TV while on the toilet. The possibilities are endless!

  7. $10 says they block jailbroken devices.

  8. This actually makes me want to get a TiVo again.

  9. Oh I don’t disagree Dave. It would just be nice to see a TiVo Desktop based off the new HDUI which was essentially the iPad App on the Desktop even if Streaming was limited to the TiVo from the PC.

  10. MEH! Yet another device to attach? Forget it! I was hoping they were either pumping the raw MPEG2 streams to the iPad or they were transcoding them down to a lower bitrate by using the MPEG 2 encoders built into the TiVo.

  11. Oh, Tivo, how I used to be excited by you. I even got DirectTv at my new house in 2004 because of your excelent DirectTivo at the time.

    Then, HD came, but no HD Tivo came. And I waited, and waited, and waited. I looked at the Premiere, and all the other models, but couldn’t jusify the $400 + and $12 a month. So I waited some more.

    This past September, I switched to DirectTV HD DVR. The 30-second skip fast forwards through commercials (doesn’t skip them) and the “record series” thing isn’t as awesome as yours.

    But it works.

    Now, you tell me that at some point in the future you might build slingbox into your ipad app?

    Oh, Tivo. When we were young, this would make my heart race. Now that we’ve aged, while you’re still sexy, the promises promises of a rosy future still can’t make me switch.

    I signed a two year deal w/ direct TV. If you’re still around at the end of it, and still sexy, maybe we’ll hook up. But I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford you then.

  12. Also… looks like coax is being fed into the device? IS this a standalone thing? I don’t think it depends on the TiVo for anything and this is a completely separate device, with it’s own tuner?

  13. Philip, I am probably wrong, but I swear I read the iPad doesn’t have native Mpeg2 support. I know it has come up multiple times on TCF and I want to say this is always been one of the reason given that it would be difficult to do.

  14. Wow. Thanks for the photo Dave.

    If this transcoder were equipped with proper video output hardware as well, it could’ve conceivably functioned as an extender too… Tivo! Make it happen (if it hasn’t already and we just can’t see it.)

    But even as a plain transcoder, awesome!

  15. Looks like coax, power, network… and a Bluetooth dongle on an extension cable? The latter has me totally confused.

    But based on the coax and Ethernet I’d guess they’re using MoCA to get the video stream into the box over coax, then the stream is going out over the network cable. This could be using one of the new Broadcom or ViXS Sling-enabled MoCA transcoding chipsets.

  16. Brennok, agreed… then they should have waited for a slicker approach. As it is, if you are a cable customer with SDV and need extra space (external drive), you have two things hanging off the TiVo, now this makes a third.

    They should have gone with a dedicated H.264 encoder chip and waited to introduce this.

  17. The way it was presented to me, this “transcoder” allows a DVR to stream. I could have misunderstood and it’s a stand alone device, but that’s not the sense I had. Then again, they’re being somewhat cagey on the tech as it’s a prototype at this point. As more journalists and bloggers cycle through for their briefings, I suspect we’ll learn more.

    Brennok, you don’t necessarily need a native MPEG2 decoder – others have built them. It’s less efficient, but doable. The bigger problem is the sheer size of uncompressed MPEG2 HD video.

    Philip, not sure if current Premiere hardware can encode H.264 – it probably can and it can definitely decode. I assume TiVo would be most worried about disrupting core DVR functionality by bogging down the processor, drive, whatever. Also, TiVo is a company that seems to prefer selling accessories like the 802.11n adapter and Bluetooth QWERTY remote.

  18. Brennok & Philip – I disagree. I’m glad they went this route. Like the Nomad I’m guessing this does NOT attach to the TiVo, but rather connects to coax anywhere, like next to your router where it can have a dedicated Ethernet connection. With the Nomad content is streamed to it over MoCA where it is converted. I bet they do the same thing there – from the photo it looks like there is a coax connection to this box.

    Doing this allows it to pair with the TiVo Premiere Elite. Maybe it can also talk to a Premiere over the Ethernet – or you can put an ECB on the Premiere to give it MoCA.

    No need for new hardware. And no need to increase the BOM, and therefore costs, of the DVR itself for a feature most customers will likely never use. In time, as costs decrease and placeshifting is just another feature on the SoC, we’ll see it baked in to more devices. But this offers flexibility.

  19. I kind of wish this would all just stay in the unit itself.

    While I can see the advantages of the separate box, there is a point where you start to feel silly with having a tuning adapter hanging off one USB port even though it really ought to be able to talk to the cable company directly either through COAX or ethernet, and then you have this box hanging off even though you figure the unit should be able to just stream the data out via ethernet. Add in an external hard drive and you’d have three things hanging off the back (I don’t know if TiVo supports USB hubs or not).

  20. The iPad 2 has way more than enough horse power to decode MPEG2 with a pretty naive implementation, provided you don’t care about battery life. Having said that, MPEG2 on iPad is a performance and patent pool licensing quagmire, whereas h.264 has built-in HW decoders and Apple has paid all the patent licenses on it.

    TiVos are all already plugged into networking and power, having another box with this sort of complicated setup is just silly. What makes more sense is making a USB dongle with an h.264 encoder chip and nothing else, then the TiVo would just pump the stream out to it via USB and get the h.264 stream back which it would use from streaming. It would also be a lot cheaper than the box they have wired up. There are a bunch of cheap h.264 encoders and SoC’s with h.264 encoders that could be used are relatively cheap.

  21. Louis: A USB encoding dongle is exactly what I was thinking too, something like the Elgato Turbo.264. Ideally that extra box in the picture is either a prototype or perhaps a (separate) streaming client for “remote” TVs…

    With so many TVs and DVD players (and HDMI dongles) now adding video streaming and app support to TVs, it would be awesome if whatever TiVo did for video streaming would “just work” to stream to not only iPads but also to remote TVs, ideally with little (or no) extra hardware needed. A TiVo streaming client should be able to run anywhere a NetFlix or Vudu client runs!

  22. Do you have to be in the house, or is this truly streaming anywhere (e.g. like a Slingbox)?

  23. Hey Dave,

    i just want to thank you for all the updates on TiVo. Not just related to CES, but also in general. You’re the ONLY reliable source IMO.

    The 2 main interests to me are plasma PQ and TiVo. Too bad you are not there, maybe we’d get more on TV’s, both CNet and Spike seem more interested in EVERYTHING else and only talk about OLED and 4K. You could even see people BEGGING for info on Panny on their social net posts in the background on Spike, LOL!

  24. Will happily take this in whatever form they can deliver it assuming it ever actually comes out. Don’t care if its a dongle, or network device, or what. Sure it would be great if it were integrated, but then I’d have to buy yet another Tivo.

    This would be BETTER than a Slingbox, all things being equal, in that just like a Dish sling-equipped DVR you wouldn’t have to take over the UI from the person who is actually in the room to stream from the DVR. You’d just pick what you wanted and stream it.

    That said it assumes Tivo can get the VBR stuff done properly so that it works over different bit rate connections from lousy 3G to crappy hotel Wi-Fi etc. Something Sling does incredibly well. And of course supports streaming outside the home like Slingbox does. Will be interesting to see how/when this plays out.

  25. The difference I see between this and DirecTV nomad, is this Tivo implementation looks like it could do it in real time, on network, is that correct?

    Nomad has an internal 8GB drive (IIRC) and transcodes everything there. Then you offload the files from nomad onto your device for offline play. So if your in the car or out where there is no wifi signal, your ipad can still play stored videos.

    Does this do streaming AND offloading, or one or the other, or what?

  26. So there’s something wonky with my photograph. Check out Engadget’s visit to TiVo today for better pics of the hardware… and the TiVo transfer UI. Along with the updated Netflix and YouTube apps coming this spring.

    http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/11/updated-tivo-netflix-youtube-interfaces-and-ipad-streaming-hand/

    At least TiVo can’t blame me for Photoshopping the photo… as they snapped it for us. ;)

  27. If this box is just a transcoder, but has a separate storage system, then it is very inefficient.

    Why not have a box that is, essentially, a recorder, a server and a transcoder, and then have a thin client hooked to the TV?

  28. Steve-O,

    Yeah that might be ideal, actually but it would of course rely on the home having a really solid network connection that could constantly transfer multiple streams to multiple TVs simultaneously without fail. Any variance would mean some buffering and increased latency in responses to commands–there’s a reason most VBR systems have sliders to move you through the content rather than FF/REW keys. I presume something like this would work fine over MoCA or Fast Ethernet, but probably not be reliable enough over Wi-Fi. Makes it a tough sell probably.

    Placing DVRs in each room that are used for most programming with occasional transfers from other rooms still has its place…

  29. Steve-O: This box is just a concept, but it appears to be only a transcoder. But I’m not sure where you’re coming from. The concept here is a box that streams content from a TiVo, which is MPEG-2 format most of the time, and transcodes it on the fly to H.264 for mobile devices. This is not meant to stream to TVs, etc.

    TiVo already has the TiVo Preview box as a ‘thin client’ for TVs in other rooms. Longer term I’d love to see them go the way of Sling Media and make the thin client a software agent that can run on connected TVs, other STBs (Roku, Google TV, Boxee, etc.), and the like. But I don’t know that TiVo will ever go that far. I think their MSO partners will push them in that direction, as other vendors are already there.

    Down the road this transcoding will probably be built into a Series5 server DVR – the next generation Premiere Elite/Q. But for now it makes sense as an add-on.

    Glenn – 802.11n is good enough to stream high quality H.264 HD. A solid 802.11g connection is really, but you’re much more likely to run into issues. Dual-band 802.11n generally offers real-world performance well above what you need even for raw MPEG-2 HD streams. And with 802.11ac just starting to poke its head out, it will only get better.

  30. This is an instant purchase from me whenever it goes on sale even if it’s limited to local wi-fi.

    Actually, I’m rather heartbroken to learn it’s just a prototype… Knowing TiVo, it could be a long wait for this box to see the light of day :(

  31. What are the odds Tivo would make an accessory FOR an accessory? i.e. A cheap Roku-like receiver for this thing to also stream to TVs? Not likely, right?

    I’m sure Tivo isn’t thinking “extender” here. And for what it is, it’s cool, but I’ve got extender on the brain and this might be the closest [yet, so far] thing we get unless Preview eventually hits retail.

    For what it is, I like it, though. It could be part of something more if they wanted.

  32. So who will be out with the first true streaming of everything on your dvr + live tv for the ipad?! The need for tv’s around the house will go away for our family. I’m fine with a little screen if it’s up close.

    Anyone in the Comcast trial for AnyPlay yet?

  33. Would be cool if this worked in the other direction also. Watch a web clip on your iPad and flick it to the tv.

  34. Mega–

    Agreed. I can generally transfer ’15Mbps’ MPEG-2 HD streams from one Tivo to another over Wi-Fi, and yes I expect that it would work well with h.264 HD at half that. The concern I was voicing is that if you move to a central unit recording everything and streaming to ALL the TVs in your house, you could easily have 3 streams going at once. So now its not 7.5Mbps, its 22.5Mbps. And that I don’t know if you can do on a lot of people’s Wi-Fi, even ignoring dead spots and other issues with Wi-Fi. I think for whole-home DVR solutions you kind of need physical wires right now.

  35. “The concern I was voicing is that if you move to a central unit recording everything and streaming to ALL the TVs in your house…”

    Well, to tease apart two separate issues…

    There is TiVo to TiVo streaming, which should be done via the original MPEG2 big files, and should generally be done via wired connections. (You could get away with doing this with WiFi if you were willing to install a very smart WiFi infrastructure, which the great majority of folks won’t do.)

    Then there is mobile platforms, aka LAN tablet streaming such as TiVo is demo-ing here. For that purpose, transcoding down to a smaller stream and relying on WiFi for the mobile client is obviously the best answer, since you don’t need the perfect PQ when viewing on the smaller form factor.

    (Of course, I assume this demo is a non-starter anyway, since I have doubts that TiVo will be able to secure rights to do such streaming.)

  36. Jack Mehoff wrote: “Would be cool if this worked in the other direction also. Watch a web clip on your iPad and flick it to the tv”

    Yes, that’s called AirPlay, and it’s a standard feature built into an AppleTV.

  37. I actually saw a survey about this the other day…they are proposing a cost of $169 for this box, which I think is outrageous.

  38. If they set it up so it’s easy to stream to my iPad when I’m *outside my own home* (ie: not merely restricted to my LAN) then I think that’s not a bad price. That’s the starting price of a Slingbox, to which this seems to be a worthy competitor.

    If it’s somehow locked down to LAN streaming only, I’m not interested.

  39. I disagree. A slingbox is an indepdendent company/device.

    Given that you’ve already purchased a Tivo, and am paying either a monthly or lifetime fee to them for the service, in my opinion it should be no more than $70 or $80.

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