Blockbuster Pulling On-Demand Support From TiVo

Dave Zatz —  February 18, 2012 — 21 Comments

tivo-blockbuster-ondemand

It’s become clear why TiVo no longer bills their Premiere DVR as the “One Box” given app stagnation and partner defections. And DISH Network’s Blockbuster up next:

We have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that, as of 3/31/12, the Blockbuster app will no longer be available on your TiVo DVR. We are updating our technology platform and will not be able to continue supporting your device. You won’t be able to watch movies from Blockbuster On Demand on your device, but you can still watch on any of our other devices or stream via PC or Mac.

The Blockbuster video on demand app remains available on various TiVo models, yet the registration page has been eradicated from blockbuster.com.

blockbuster-tivo

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom as updated Netflix and YouTube apps are coming to the Premiere platform later this year. Additionally, TiVo looks to be opening up a new SDK - perhaps taking more of an Apple or Roku app store approach. Combined with Blockbuster’s departure, I’d hope this would be enough to encourage Amazon to refresh their archaic TiVo presence, which lacks Prime Instant Streaming… unless, that is, they’re dedicating resources to a Kindle set-top box.

UPDATE: I’ve corresponded with both DISH Network, who owns Blockbuster, and TiVo on the matter. Many instances of the Blockbuster On Demand application (TiVo, Vizio, Western Digital) are powered by Sonic… and Blockbuster’s relationship with them concludes at the end of March. Blockbuster is working on a “more scalable and reliable infrastructure” – with both TiVo and DISH hopeful of resuming their relationship later this year.

21 responses to Blockbuster Pulling On-Demand Support From TiVo

  1. Thanks for the email alert, Steven!

  2. Dave,
    Just a nit but I think its a safe bet that updated Netflix and YouTube apps are really coming this spring rather than later this year which implies late (Q3,Q4) this year to me. I realize TiVo has a long history of missing dates but they have been pretty accurate (recently) on execution estimates that are in their control.

    I think the issue with an updated Amazon app relates to TiVo’s relationships with MSOs. I have substantiated information from one MSO (off-the-record) that they consider Amazon a threat to their VOD business. On the other hand, they view Netflix as complementary since Netflix doesn’t compete on new releases which is the bulk of MSO revenue. I’m not sure Amazon views it as worthwhile to devote the engineering resources necessary to update the app when they are probably deriving little revenue from TiVo Stand-Alone users renting Amazon videos.

  3. Yep, nit picking. If I’d said “late this year” I might agree with you… whereas “later this year” should imply some point beyond this month or the next. And in the linked post I clearly state that TiVo is hopeful of bundling the refreshed apps with a “spring” update.

  4. Agreed. Its a nit. I didn’t follow the linked post since I had read it previously but you make a good point.

    Regarding support for SDK and Apps, I know that there is significant frustration from at least one of their current MSOs about the lack of apps and the pulling of apps. I’m encouraged that TiVo has hired a new manager to deal with this. He appears to have some reasonable credentials. http://blog.mozilla.com/jay/2011/11/29/its-been-an-amazing-ride/

  5. My understanding is that Amazon does the development for all of its VOD clients out there. Hence, most of the effort to update the TiVo client is on Amazon not TiVo. I did story on this and other challenges for Amazon’s Instant and Prime service recently. Sam, I believe, you hit it on the head why Amazon hasn’t done the update.

    Dave, I don’t think Amazon is building a kindle set top box since they like to promote the Roku and they just upgraded the Amazon client for Roku. Not a move Amazon would make if they were coming out with their own set top box.

  6. The email said they had some good news and bad news… What was the good news? :)

  7. Gabe, Sam, I agree Amazon probably doesn’t derive enough direct revenue from TiVo rentals to motivate them. However, Prime Instant isn’t about direct revenue, it’s about building out their ecosystem/halo. But there still may not be enough TiVo Premiere customers to matter. Regarding an Amazon set-top box – I’d lay even odds. I’ve been percolating post since prior to Jeremy’s and referred to it elsewhere when saying a Kindle smartphone would be a better strategic bet. We’ll see.

    Scott, the good news… Blockbuster is still in business? ;)

  8. I never used the Blockbuster offerings on TiVo. Why pay tax on the same video you can get from Amazon without taxes. Amazon also had HD and a wider choice of content.

    John G.

  9. Considering there are better alternatives on the TiVo and Blockbuster didn’t have HD downloads I’m surprised anyone was using Blockbuster on TiVo. I doubt anyone will miss it.

    As for Amazon, their Prime streaming interface is a mess on other platforms: no queues, no remembering last tv episodes played, etc. They really need to overhaul their interface. Hopefully they do so and include TiVo.

    Really thoug, other than lack of Prime, TiVo is the best device for Amazon do to the higher quality downloaded videos rather than the lower quality streaming ones. I’m sure many people wouldn’t notice the difference though.

  10. RCN offered Blockbuster alongside their own VOD so its a loss for them. I’m not sure about the other MSOs. Other than that I agree that Amazon is my go to source for high quality HD video on TiVo. There is an Amazon Macroblocking issue in the current software that @tivodesign promised a fix for in the spring release.

  11. I think the good news they left out is that Apple’s upcoming Mountain Lion OS update includes the AirPlay feature, which will render all of these issues irrelevant for anyone with a Mac and an Apple TV.

  12. If TiVo really wants to make the premiere the centerpiece of one’s living room, then they need to move away from the Apple system. The one box to rule them all approach does work, but the only box to rule them all doesn’t. If they allowed you to stream content from your TiVo to a Roku on another TV or to an Xbox360 or to whatever device you own, then all of a sudden TiVo can win the battle for the primary television center by conceding the battle for the secondary one. Once they open up their eco-system, they’d see all kinds of secondary app support develop. It might relegate TiVo as a “channel” on these other services and TiVo might not be able to earn nickels on our downloads, but by staying content and platform neutral, it would go a long way towards increasing their appeal.

  13. Morac, yeah I can’t imagine many people are using it or will miss it. But the point is that Blockbuster is abandoning TiVo rather than upgrading the app to support whatever their new backend is, offer HD, or take advantage of TiVo’s new development platform. Then again DISH’s acquisition of Blockbuster wasn’t the smartest move and I can’t imagine it will end well for them, regardless of where they try to push Blockbuster On Demand services.

    Davis, now that TiVo does streaming it sure would be nice if we had extenders of some sort – either via dedicated TiVo hardware or, better yet, through apps on other boxes or television sets.

    Richard Lawler of Engadget thinks we may see a rebranded Blockbuster MoviePass video app this summer. I suppose that’s not entirely out of the question. Yet, if that’s DISH’s ultimate Blockbuster plan, their outreach needs some work. Something like we’ve got an exciting new streaming service in the works, stay tuned and we thank you for your loyalty. Even if/when Blockbuster relaunches, I can’t imagine we’ll see them again on TiVo.

    Related, another Twitter follower pointed out that TiVo alluded to some Amazon news this month. Which is very promising and supersedes earlier intel I had to the contrary. Nice. However, as was mentioned, Amazon currently provides a good experience on TiVo as far as picture quality is concerned because we’re dealing with video downloads versus streaming. Hope we don’t lose that if they bring Prime Instant to TiVo.

  14. The biggest problem is these apps on other boxes and television sets don’t support MPEG-2 and TiVo doesn’t have the horsepower (internally) to transcode the linear TV video.

    Jason Wong @TiVo even hinted that TiVo is moving to a more standards-based streaming like DLNA with DLNA approved DRM like DTCP.

    http://www.gizmolovers.com/2012/01/23/jason-wong-tivo-director-product-marketing-talks-about-the-future/

    Gabe at TechOfTheHub also did a good summary of the TiVo streaming box they demoed at CES.

    http://www.techofthehub.com/2012/01/tivos-tablet-and-smartphone-streaming-demo-video.html

    Based on the maturity of the streaming box shown at CES I wouldn’t be surprised to see something offered to retail late this year. It would be awesome if there was a TiVo Roku Channel or an app on a Samsung or Vizio Smart TV.

  15. Has Chucky heard about this? Oh well, the news may make it’s way to rural Idaho sometime in the future.

  16. Just trying to catch up on my backlog of reading, so let me get this straight: there was a Blockbuster app on my Tivo Premiere?

    Second question: what’s Blockbuster?

  17. Revenge for the Dish lawsuits?

  18. AnotherDave, doubt it. It’s just business. And it’s come to my attention that Blockbuster may be dropping support from Vizio/Yahoo TV and Western Digital as well. Which could suggest they’re circling their wagons around their DISH services or it could support Richard’s theory that they may be prepping a new experience and simply retiring the old. I’ve got notes into TiVo and DISH to learn more.

  19. I’ve updated the post after communicating with both DISH and TiVo. Many Blockbuster VOD apps are powered by Sonic and that relationship concludes at the end of March. They’re working on a new infrastructure with both TiVo and DISH hopeful of Blockbuster returning later this year. Blockbuster’s web, Android, and Samsung CE device apps will continue to function during the transition.

  20. I’d say that not only won’t I miss BlockBuster on my TiVo Elite, I’ll PREFER IT. Since I *do* want to see new VOD releases on Amazon in my discovery bar and there’s no way to disable BlockBuster, I sometimes see things I don’t actually want to, since I’d have to sign up for BlockBuster to see them. And I don’t intend to. This way that ‘discovery spam’ will stop bothering me.

    I’d certainly love it if TiVo updated the Amazon app though. Some UI improvements are sorely needed:

    - TV episodes listed in order
    - more pictures rather than text listing new movies etc

    The UI is in actually pretty bad, even if its usable enough if you’ve got a computer or smartphone nearby.

    But the back-end needs some serious work. Streaming rather than downloading. Support for the Amazon Prime free content.

    For now, I just don’t use it much and when I do its on the Roku.

    @DJR: While I agree the Mountain Lion feature is very good news, I still want to know if apps/websites can disable it on the Mac like they can on the iPad. If they can then things like Hulu (not Plus) on your TV etc may be very short-lived for many. Also of course the current Apple TV only supports 720p video, and we’ve yet to see the quality of this streaming. Of course the stock on the current Apple TV is apparently getting short so a 1080p upgrade soon seems highly likely…

  21. ROKU! ROKU! ROKU! Blockbuster needs to get onboard with Roku streaming device players, They’ll reap more profit in monthly subscriptions than ever seen from Tivo.

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