TiVo Whole Home DVR Extenders Headed To Retail

Dave Zatz —  February 28, 2012 — 47 Comments

tivo-extender

Another compelling nugget of intel out of TiVo’s quarterly call is the upcoming release of an “IP-STB” for both their cable partners and retail customers.

The device will act as an extender for a TiVo DVR hub, such as the Premiere Elite, to stream both live and recorded programming in addition to providing access to Internet apps like Netflix and Pandora. And it’s exactly the sort of whole-home TiVo solution many of us have been pining for since the TiVo Preview was unveiled. Unfortunately, while the Preview can act as an extender for Premiere hardware, it was designed to be offered directly by TiVo cable company partners as a DVR-less set-top cable box. By comparison, this unnamed device (that sounds something like the discontinued Moxi Mate) does away with the CableCARD tuner and will also find its way into retail channels, probably starting with TiVo.com, late this summer or fall.

Dependent on hardware pricing and possible service fees, I could see replacing my existing DVRs with a single Premiere Elite and sprinkling a few of these IP-STBs around the house.

47 responses to TiVo Whole Home DVR Extenders Headed To Retail

  1. Of course, TiVo seem to implied they’ll be subsidizing hardware less – so who knows what these might cost for us early adopters. And based on conversation with TiVo, I get the sense it’ll be another soft launch like the Premiere Elite and the TiVo Transcoder shouldn’t be required unless you want “second screen” access.

  2. Confused about the transcoder vs the new extender. The transcoder will allow you to stream to an iOS/Android device? Where as the new stream will be an extender to a different TV? Will you need the transcoder to be able to use the extender?

  3. Dave – how does TiVo propose to stream content around the house in uncompressed HD? I’m not sure even a wired connection (probably not an easy option for most customers) would be able to smoothly stream HD content to multiple TV’s simultaneously. Is it MoCA? This would also be a complicated non-professional installation.

  4. Adam, The Transcoder is to provide video to mobile devices, whereas this “IP-STV” should be able to receive content directly from a TiVo DVR “Hub” like the Elite. So my next question is… will there be another hub we should be looking for, or was it phrased that way to cover the Elite and the Q? And why the distinction between the Q/Elite and the regular Premiere.

    Ken, that’s probably why they’d go with a soft launch and MAY be why they’d require an Elite or Q (since it does support MoCA). However, you can stream recordings Premiere-to-Premiere now (without MoCA) and Moxi proved it could also be done with live TV. I imagine my wireless network is sufficient. But it could be an issue for many.

  5. Now we just need a price to see how cool this news is.

  6. Are you concerned about how long it will be before they dump the Premiere generation for new things? It seems to me that they didn’t support the Series3 / HD generation with new features for very long.

  7. Yeah! This is a better decision than the Preview, and one more step closer to the AllVid idea — one headless DVR that sits in a closet with 6 digital tuners, the transcode hardware, and a 2TB HDD. With iPads and IP-STBs throughout the house, TV goes with you.

  8. Ken, that’s probably why they’d go with a soft launch and MAY be why they’d require an Elite or Q (since it does support MoCA). However, you can stream recordings Premiere-to-Premiere now (without MoCA) and Moxi proved it could also be done with live TV. I imagine my wireless network is sufficient. But it could be an issue for many.

    I don’t think they’ll require an Elite/Q to stream to this IP-STB. It will take up one of the tuners in the host device so if you are streaming from a two-tuner Premiere you’ll only have one tuner remaining for recording of programs…. certainly not an optimal solution. I would be very surprised if they software limited the host. They certainly will strongly recommend wired ethernet or MoCA and the IP-STB will probably not have WiFi built-in so it will require the external Wireless-N adapter or another bridging device.

    Dave, do we have any idea of whether this box will have MoCA built-in?

  9. Sending multiple streams around a wired connection shouldn’t be an issue at all. Microsoft currently does this with Media Center. I think Aaronwt on TCF has also had the Elite feeding three rooms at the same time while also MRVing.

    It is nice to see them coming out with an extender. I just hope they come out with more updates around whole home such as user profiles, universal My Shows list, and more that give more of a whole home DVR feel for those of us with multiple TiVos.

  10. I just hope they come out with more updates around whole home such as user profiles, universal My Shows list, and more that give more of a whole home DVR feel for those of us with multiple TiVos.

    Brennok, I think User Profiles are likely but universal My Shows list to deal with multiple DVRs is not likely since the TiVo strategy is definitely heading down the path of a single gateway media center device supported by DVR-less extenders. With only one My Shows list it makes their algorithms and maintenance a lot easier. I do expect that they will be working on updates that allow the extender to act almost identical to the user experience on the main DVR box (e.g., pausing of live TV, setting recordings, managing season passes, etc.)

  11. You said this version does away with the cable card? Meaning it watches live tv via a stream from the main device? I only have the regular Premier which only has two tuners but I almost never watch live tv, so it’s not so much of an issue for me. My main hope is that it doesn’t require MoCA. Since they support Premier-to-Premier streaming I don’t know why it would.

  12. You said this version does away with the cable card?

    That’s correct. No CableCARD required. Live TV will likely be supported by stealing a tuner from the host device.

  13. Sam, it’s not yet clear which models will be supported and I might have been off base. Certainly something beefier like an Elite would make a great “hub” with more processing power and tuners than my original Premiere. Also, TiVo isn’t ready to discuss too much of the technical detail this far out.

    Abs, (forced) obsolescence is always a concern with tech. I don’t know how many years we’d get out of the Premiere platform, but I’d like to think we have a few more considering the HDUI isn’t even complete yet. ;)

  14. If TiVo was really interested in this strategy, they’d work with roku, boxee, microsoft, and sony to stream to devices people already have.

    But they don’t really have a strategy. They’re floundering. I fully expect the extender to assure its complete irrelevance priced at $99 with a $5/month service fee and a two year commitment.

  15. I think that it’s a mistake for TiVo to keep heading in this direction. It disrupts their current multi-household rentals because someone who is paying for 2 or more subscriptions now, will likely drop to one subscription and use extenders instead.

    Not a big deal financially for TiVo I’m sure, if this new extender functionality can attract more customers, but other than people who already own 1 TiVo and who might be on the fence about wanting to pay for a 2nd subscription, how many potential customers will this feature really attract?

    It’s a really nice bonus if you’re already a TiVo customer, but the way it’s being marketed, seems to be more of an upsell for current customers than a reason for new customers to try TiVo in the first place.

    If introducing it is a wash financially (your multi-family subs drop, but you only upgrade a few TiVo subs) and its a win for consumers then that’s still nice, but by trying to keep their eco-system locked in, they’re limiting the appeal of the technology behind the device.

    How much more exciting would it have been if Rogers said that streaming TiVo to the Xbox and Roku and the PS3 was about to happen?

    No funny cable companies with their fat fingers in the way, just a straight connection to the customer for whatever device you already owned. This strategy would still disrupt TiVo’s current multi-household pricing, but at it would attract a huge number of new primary TiVo customers. Anyone who already had one of these extender devices would now be a much better candidate as a customer. TiVo can limit their streaming appeal to their small member base or they can fish in the ocean where the are a lot more opportunities.

    TiVo can keep making niche products like these and it’s nice that everything does work, but they can’t build an everything device if they don’t open things up.

    They built a slick app w/ dominoes and it’s gone now, Amazon product search? seems to be missing, Now Blockbuster disappears. Instead of trying to license access one company at a time, open it up like the app store, charge a small percentage for access the TiVo’s customers and watch sales of the DVR explode. Let me sell junk from my yard sale to other TiVo customers as easily as a Google Adwords account and the eco-system will take off, but without a more robust eco-system complement their software or extending their hardware, it’s hard to get excited about these kinds of development.

  16. Dave, while the Elite does have more tuners, it isn’t doesn’t have more processing power. The CPU and memory in the Elite and Premiere are identical.

    There was some incorrect info spreading around when the Elite first came out indicating it had double the memory of the Premiere and a faster CPU, but that turned out to be wrong. http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?t=476979

    It turned out all the improved performance was software based, not hardware.

    All that said, this product definitely looks to be designed for the Elite with it’s 4 tuners. TiVo might even try to bundle the Elite with this product in the future.

  17. Rodalpho, Davis, While it’d be preferable to stream to devices we already own given the native file sizes and CableLabs requirements, it’s trickier than a typical “standard” streaming app.

    Davis, I think TiVo’s intention is to expand and open their app platform. Did you see MZ’s post on it? Then again, TiVo moves pretty slow. Your point is a good one that this alone would probably not motivate many new customers.

    Morac, thanks for the clarification. If the hardware is largely the same, maybe that’ll reassure Abs the Premiere platform will stick around a bit longer.

    In terms of retail cost, this will be difficult for them to price in light of subsidized DVR hardware and recurring fees. Would they charge more for this than the Premiere to do away with fees? That’d be hard to explain to the TiVo novice. Or do they require a subscription to use it? We shall see.

  18. So it is confirmed that this device will definitely NOT use a CC? The Preview does for sure, really hoping this one does not. I am about to jump ship to the Ceton Q/Echo when released if Tivo doesn’t have some sort of IP only extender that can stream live TV as well as live buffering without charging another monthly fee. It is also important that it does not require a CC to keep the fees down. I just hope it isn’t insanely overpriced.

  19. I like the whole hub idea. This is how I use Windows Media Center. 4 tuners plus a couple of extenders. It works great.

    I might have to switch back to TiVo if they implement this correctly. I hate not having multiple live buffers.

    Is MoCA just coax or will it use ethernet as well?

  20. How much more exciting would it have been if Rogers said that streaming TiVo to the Xbox and Roku and the PS3 was about to happen?

    With the TiVo transcoding box supporting H.264 transcoding an app on the Roku or Xbox is certainly feasible. Its a different use-case than the IP-STB but its something Jason Wong at TiVo alluded to during an interview last year. Gizmolovers posted about it after I alerted him to the youtube video –> http://www.gizmolovers.com/2012/01/23/jason-wong-tivo-director-product-marketing-talks-about-the-future/

    I think TiVo’s strategy is pretty clear and it appeals to the majority of US and International household. Since its founding, TiVo has evolved into the ultimate single solution media center by combining its patented DVR technologies and universal cable box capabilities with the ability to aggregate, search, and deliver millions of pieces of broadband, cable, and broadcast content directly to the television. An economical, one-stop-shop for in-home entertainment, TiVo’s intuitive functionality and ease of use puts viewers in control by enabling them to effortlessly navigate the best digital entertainment content available through one box, with one remote, and one user interface, delivering the most dynamic user experience on the market today.

  21. Sami, I can confirm this new “IP-STB” will not use a CableCARD. But it’s yet to be seen what it’s capable of and how well it works. Thanks for reminding me of the Ceton solution – I still need to write that up!

    Evan, TiVo isn’t ready to discuss the technical specifics with me. At the very least, I imagine it’ll have Ethernet to handle the online apps and such.

  22. If TiVo entered a partnership with Roku, running Roku’s app channels on premieres and streaming to Roku’s standalone devices, that would really be something special. It would probably get me to upgrade to an elite AND buy a couple rokus.

  23. It sure would be swell. Roku’s just 15 minutes down the road from TiVo….

  24. I’m sorry to say, but I believe no CableCARD also means no Live TV? Or am I to believe that this new box can do, and make another TiVo do, something that TiVo has never done before: stream live TV.

    So it won’t actually be an extender, but instead TiVo’s Roku/AppleTV that can also stream from a TiVo DVR.

    I’m just guessing here, but does anyone have any reason to believe TiVo’s will be able to stream Live TV to another device?

  25. I know it will never happen, but I would die if this worked with a TiVoHD box.

  26. If this works like I hope it will where it’s just a seamless view into my Elite, I might consider this for a second TV in my bedroom.

    What I hope for:
    - stream a live tuner (doesn’t necessarily need to be the same tuner being used live on the Elite)
    - all of the menus look the same (functionally, just a view into the Elite)
    - recording/watching TV all feels the same
    - no need to get another cable card (if I were going to try to pull the same thing off using another Elite I’d need to call the cable company and pay more fees).
    - recording is all unified on the Elite (this is kind of a given but it’s different than having multiple TiVo’s around the house where you have to go find your recording. With the extender, it’d all just be in one place).
    - hard drive free and lower power consumption (off should be no more than 1W)

    My main fear would be that they get all of this right but then try to sell the thing at something just under the price of an Elite like: Elite: $499; Use your Elite + TiVo Subscription in another room with a TiVo DVR Extender for $399!

  27. I’m sorry to say, but I believe no CableCARD also means no Live TV? Or am I to believe that this new box can do, and make another TiVo do, something that TiVo has never done before: stream live TV.

    So it won’t actually be an extender, but instead TiVo’s Roku/AppleTV that can also stream from a TiVo DVR.

    I’m just guessing here, but does anyone have any reason to believe TiVo’s will be able to stream Live TV to another device?

    Ben, I’m 99.9% sure that this box will stream live TV from a Premiere or Elite by grabbing a tuner. It will allow you to pause the live TV, rewind, etc. RCN has confirmed that this feature will be in the 21.x software for the Q/Preview combination.

    On my current 2-box Elite / Premiere solution I can already grab another live TV tuner from the Elite using my Android app and effectively stream a live TV tuner from the Elite to the Premiere or vice versa.

  28. Sam, are you saying that if you have two Premiere’s and all the tuners on one are in used and none of the tuners in the other room are in use, you can still watch live TV by using the other’s tuner?

  29. Sam, are you saying that if you have two Premiere’s and all the tuners on one are in used and none of the tuners in the other room are in use, you can still watch live TV by using the other’s tuner?

    Absolutely! The only issue is the current 20.x software doesn’t have the ability to start the remote recording on the box that has free tuners. The MRS supports the streaming of a program that is in the process of being recorded on a remote box so effectively what I’m doing is starting a recording of a live program I’m interested in watching on the remote TiVo and MRS’ing it to the Premiere in the bedroom. This is very easy to do with the iPad or Android app.

    I actually recorded a video of this being done that I’ll upload to YouTube now and link here so you can see it.

  30. I see, you aren’t really streaming live tv, more, streaming what has been recorded thus far of a program recording on the other Tivo. Is that an accurate assessment? It seems that you still can’t simply change to a different channel and start watching if without first starting to record it on the other Tivo and doing it that way.

  31. That’s a clever work around, but obviously not very user friendly. Lets hope TiVo makes it easier and just makes it work like a real TiVo.

  32. Ben, Its not my best video but you get the idea –> http://youtu.be/J1s4Kc4cbPI

  33. Sam is right. I was very pleasantly surprised when I could stream a recording still in progress Premiere to Premiere. Allows me to record all my sports on the secondary TIvo and still watch near real time on the main television when main TiVo’s tuners are busy. Makes you think surfing might be possible using the “remote” TiVo.

  34. Here is the thread where Jason at RCN talks about “Agreed being able to pause from the preview would be very nice.. But again, when you compare this HD Preview box to other HD only boxes it wins hands down. The functionality, over the top apps make this box a MUCH better solution and will increase customer satisfaction. The ability to take over a stream or steal a tuner off the quad will come in 2012.”

    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r26508672-TiVo-RCN-TiVo-Multi-Room-Solution.~start=20

  35. “So it is confirmed that this device will definitely NOT use a CC? The Preview does for sure, really hoping this one does not. I am about to jump ship to the Ceton Q/Echo when released if Tivo doesn’t have some sort of IP only extender that can stream live TV as well as live buffering without charging another monthly fee. It is also important that it does not require a CC to keep the fees down. I just hope it isn’t insanely overpriced.”

    My thinking exactly. I have to Tivo HD’s. The Premiere and Elite were not compelling to me since I have a PS3 and XBox 360 for my streaming needs. Though I ocassinaly use the Tivo’s for Amazon VOD. I can only assume that Tivo’s offerings are going to be priced high above Ceton’s. If the Ceton turns out to be as good as the demo which, in my mind, greatly exceeds Tivo’s capabilities then it will be hard for me to justify an investment in new Tivo hardware.

  36. Marcus, well we don’t know the price of either. Given TiVo’s cash flow, presumably larger market/audience, and hardware subsidies, I’d expect TiVo hardware to be cheaper. I assume Ceton might have broader and more open capabilities given their embedded Media Center platform, but that doesn’t speak to experience. It’s going to be an interesting Fall I suspect. :)

  37. FWIW, I think leaving the CableCARD out is the correct way to proceed.

    And I strongly assume the software will have caught up with the ‘access a live tuner’ issue by the time the box is released.

  38. Confirmed. August support for hijacking remote tuner.

    https://twitter.com/#!/jnealis/status/174597673347846144

  39. Hi Dave, you may well be correct. At any rate I am eager to see how this all shakes out. I am glad to see that Tivo is starting to react instead of allowing themselves to fall further behind. The copyright cases were a big distraction for them and the product line has, relatively speaking, languished. BTW, I love your site. I have been lurking here for years but never posted before. This discussion was of particular interest.

  40. I may have missed this, but will this be as easy to use as TiVo itself? Is the interface the same? Setup?

  41. I share the concern over forced obsolescence of the Premiere line, but on the other hand Tivo is taking the ball and running hard with it. Except for DirecTV, all of their MSO partnerships are essentially based on Series 4 hardware. I tend to doubt they’ll abandon development anytime soon.

    Besides, what would a theoretical Series 5 do that an S4 couldn’t? I’m sure a newer CPU would give more of “teh snappy”, and maybe it would even integrate transcoding into the box itself, but the S4 platform is finally showing that it has legs. It supports flash and h.264, and those are still by and large the video media standards for the foreseeable future.

    The concerns about these products cannibalizing DVR sales… The 2-tuner DVR cannibalized 1-tuner DVRs. The 4-tuner does the same to 2-tuner DVRs, and on it goes. It’s not a deal breaker. A tunerless $200 no-extra-sub (my guess) extender doesn’t compete with a $500-$1000 DVR. The whole-home solution is where the whole industry is going, and Tivo wants to ride those MSO coattails hardcore.

    I agree that it doesn’t attract a lot of new retail customers, but Tivo’s future is not retail focus, imo. In just a few short quarters, retail has already been reduced to 50% of their subscription business, and that’s going to continue to shrink as the Virgin deal blossoms and other deals ramp up.

    As for this product itself… WANT! :-)

  42. Agree with others that I would MUCH prefer a CC-less box, as long as it can get live TV. For a guest bedroom TV it would probably be adequate if it just had access to existing recordings. But for our bedroom, if it can’t do live TV the wife won’t accept it. Stealing a remote tuner from the Elite will be fine as long as its transparent to the user.

    I wonder what it will do if the Elite has all four tuners going and you want to watch something else live? I assume it will give you a warning and then just take one based on the priority of the season passes?

    I wonder what kind of buffering will be required to get a remote live channel working? Channel switching is bad enough already on digital systems with channel lock, then wait for the next GOP, then wait for the playback (PTS) time, etc. Allowing some additional time for network buffering and so forth and we’re probably into the 10s of seconds I would expect…

  43. Thad, the assumption is that the IP-STB would largely replicate the TiVo UI and experience – obviously with modifications for its specific role and function. I imagine its software will be a branch of what RCN customers currently receive on the Preview box, which is why Sam has been referencing it.

  44. Thanks Dave. I have followed your blog for a long time, but this is the first time I posted (I think).

    I asked it that way because TiVo gets the UI and UX. I don’t want to see that degrade.

  45. My only real concern with this IP extender (besides pricing) would be how well that UI performs remotely. Anyone who uses the standard Premiere knows how sluggish it can be at times, even with the supposed enabling of the second core and two years of tweaks. I can just imagine how bad the performance could be if they don’t do this right.

  46. I would like to know if it will work OK with an OTA unit. Have had my HD Tivo for about 5yrs, no cable and no regrets. If I could pull up a now playing list in another room with this beast that would be great. Only work with Premier OR HD Tivo’s too?

  47. As a guy on the sidelines without a lot of tech expertise, it’s Ceton vs. Tivo in a race to the finish line. Whoever implements a user friendly box with cheap, effective extenders will get my money. I have a main viewing room, a bedroom, a weight room, and a guest room that houses my exercise bike. I don’t want to pay huge costs and fees for every one of them when we only watch in at most two places at one time. I do want to be able to watch, pause, FF, and RW live TV and access my recordings in each of those rooms when I happen to be in them. Due to cost, I’ve never considered getting a Tivo in every room, so Tivo can potentially get a new customer if they do this right.

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