TiVo To Go 2.0 Slated For Summer Release

Dave Zatz —  February 24, 2012 — 28 Comments

tivo-transcoder

First previewed at CES, TiVo’s dedicated “transcoder” hardware is slated for a summer release according to remarks made during the company’s quarterly call. The small box above is designed to relay both live and recorded television from a TiVo Premiere DVR to so called “second screen” devices such as a smartphone or tablet. For example, back in January, Tech of the Hub took a look at the prototype streaming video from a TiVo to an iPad.

TiVo currently describes this upcoming product using technical terms (transcode, sideload), so I’ve taken it upon myself to label the new initiative a more consumer-friendly “TiVo To Go 2.0″. Whereas the original TiVo To Go feature, first available in 2005, copies recorded programming from a TiVo to a computer for viewing or processing and later transfer to a mobile device, TTG 2.0 transcoding duties have been offloaded to the box above. Real-time TiVo-to-portable streaming will be limited to in-home usage… meaning, this won’t replace a Slingbox. However, any TiVo video recordings that aren’t locked down (via the Copy Once CCI Byte flag) can be quickly transferred via a “high speed side load capability” to take those shows with you on the road.

In terms of TiVo Transcoder cost, we don’t have much to offer. One reader reports being recently surveyed about a potential $169 price point. The somewhat similar, although less capable, DirecTV Nomad does run $149. But I’m hopeful TiVo To Go 2.0 comes in at no more than $129… and I don’t imagine it’ll require a service fee.

28 responses to TiVo To Go 2.0 Slated For Summer Release

  1. By the by, TiVo.com no longer refers to TiVo To Go as TiVo To Go. But there’s no telling if that implies it’ll be reintroduced with this box.

  2. The Roku box supports most of the same video formats supported by iOS (mp4 & HLS in particular). Since this supports live TV I assume that means HLS. It will be interesting to see how open/hackable this box is. B/c the Roku box would make a real nice extender for Tivo.

  3. The yellow looks better than the purple I think. Though ultimately black and the TiVo blue would probably look the best.

    Personally with the current described functionality this will be a skip for me. I just don’t have a real need for it. If it enabled the TiVo to stream from the PC while expanding codec and container support that might be different.

  4. Scyber, yes I’m dreaming of a Roku-as-extender too. But now that TiVo will make their own extender hardware available to retail, I can’t imagine they’ll build a Roku channel.

  5. Good to see them productizing this (and the Preview boxes, per the call as well).

    Maybe at the end of the year I’ll overhaul all my TiVo devices in the house – a Premiere Elite, this transcoder, a few preview boxes, etc.

  6. I think this thing would be a killer box for connected televisions if they were supported. Its actual the use-case I’m looking for that would allow me to stream to a Vizio TV running smart apps that isn’t currently being used for anything but Hulu Plus and Netflix. Streaming to an iPad or Android tablet is cool but I don’t think I would use it very much.

  7. Well just b/c Tivo won’t make a channel, doesn’t mean one won’t be made. That’s the fun of Roku’s private channels. It all depends on whether the api is open/hackable. I’m actually trying to the Plex Tivo plugin to work with the Roku right now. Unfortunately the transcoder doesn’t seem to work quite right yet.

  8. Personally, I’ll pay whatever they’d like to charge, as long as it doesn’t have a monthly service fee. If they charge a fee for it’s use, I will begin my departure from TiVo, even though I’ve been a loyalist and lifetime subscriber (on 3 different units) since 1997.

  9. GAAH! “for its use” not “for it’s use” – that’s what I get for multitasking.

  10. Scyber, if the box honors the CCI Byte flags that implies to me it’d be pretty locked down by CableLabs requirements. Then again, it will let you offload content – perhaps there’s a way to leverage that feature which conceivably produces lower res video. But roku has no storage, so something else may be needed. We shall see. I’ve been using the Plex media server lately too and have been fairly pleased with its performance although it seems to do better on my Apple TV than Rokus.

  11. Dave,
    Do you have a current list describing how the various cable operators deal with the CCI Bit? I saw your post from quite some time ago –> http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2009-09/tivo-and-the-cci-byte/

    Thanks,
    ~Sam

  12. A CCI byte is used as a flag by the cable providers… it can be set on various channels or specific programming to copy once, copy never, etc. The problem is that there’s no clear standard how this should be implemented which has led certain providers like yours (Brighthouse) locking down even basic cable channels pretty hard. (And providers have occasionally locked things down unintentionally.) More pertinent to this discussion, when thinking Roku channel, is what CableLabs requires to universally protect the video in terms of streaming to this device and Premiere-to-Premiere MRS. What happens in the box in terms of transcoding and what streams out of the box and how may be something else… we shall see.

  13. I don’t think Scyber wants to copy content off, rather just stream it to a Roku, assuming Tivo doesn’t provide it own Roku channel. It would be disappointing it Tivo only permitted streaming to it’s portable apps and the Preview unit.
    I would like to see streaming to Roku and a PC/Mac based applications. I’d also like to be able to schedule recording etc.
    As for price, put me at $99 price tag.

  14. p42, yeah I think we’d all like to stream. But that’s the type of content I assume is most locked down versus whatever converted lower res stuff TiVo allows you to copy off as long as it isn’t flagged by the cable operator. Not sure if Roku’s SDK is open enough for TiVo to build something capable of CableLabs requirements without Roku’s help. With their own hardware extender in the works, I just don’t see it happening. Hopefully I’m wrong and it’ll be more versatile than intended. And, of course, this entire website originated from my dissection of the original TiVo To Go… which I found somewhat too limiting as designed.

  15. With the speed of modern quad-core CPUs, it takes less than 10 minutes to transcode an hour of video from the TiVo. There doesn’t seem to be that much need for a dedicated piece of hardware to do it.

  16. Apple has a requirement that apps in the app store that stream over cellular networks must implement streaming using HLS:
    https://developer.apple.com/library/mac/#documentation/NetworkingInternet/Conceptual/StreamingMediaGuide/UsingHTTPLiveStreaming/UsingHTTPLiveStreaming.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP40008332-CH102-SW5

    Since Tivo is only (initially) planning on streaming in-home they’re not subject to that requirement. So it’s possible for them to choose another way to get the video to the device and still get app store approval.
    But that’d also mean re-inventing the wheel, when iThings are already ready and happy to consume HLS. So, if they do go with HLS, it’s very possible a Roku channel can be produced to also consume the same streams…time will tell. Too many details unavailable to make any better guesses than that. :)

  17. Link, I’d say TiVo’s primary selling point is streaming around the home – transcoding on the fly to something more suitable for screens and devices not optimized for MPEG2. Being able to do that without a computer running 24/7 or software setup or technical knowledge at all will be compelling for many… assuming TiVo can simply explain the proposition and prices it properly.

    Cassidy, the streaming component will likely never be over cellular so that won’t be a consideration. An interesting solution to look at is El Gato’s app to receive native (SD) MPEG2 straight from the CableCARD-ified HDHomeRun Prime. However, that may rely on something like progressive downloads or an earlier less, secure method as it’s restricted by the CCI Byte… whereas TiVo’s MRS isn’t and must meet whatever CableLabs security requirements.

  18. Regarding the CCI byte flag I was looking for a list showing each Cable Operator and how they treat the CCI flag. For example, my operator (BHN) would show that all programming other than network channels is protected. I want to build this list in a similar fashion to the way I built the Tuning Adapter / CableCARD cost listing.

  19. It’s somewhat inconsistant as cable franchises have been acquired over years and still seem to have independent management. And maybe not a complete understanding of the tech they run and no clear guidelines on how to implement these settings. For example, some of Cox’s footprint is locked down (where I live) but other regions are not. For Premiere owners, given the advent of Multiroom Streaming (MRS) in lieu of Multiroom Viewing (MRV, file copying) it’s less of an issue. The main recipients of pain will be folks on older hardware and those using the existing TiVo To Go.

    Offhand, I’d say Time Warner, Cox, and Brighthouse have been the worst. You’d need to make a grid to document it. The flag most would be interested in is ‘copy once’ which allows you to make a DVR recording, but not offload. And it can be applied to any channels. I don’t really begrudge the MSOs flagging the premiums, like HBO, although it accomplishes nothing but confusing and frustrating customers but I take great offense when everything but the locals is flagged – as was my experience on Cox. The copy never flag is rarely used for legit purposes, other than like VOD, and is designed to prevent any sort of recording – we sometimes see it used by mistake.

  20. Arghh… I was hoping it was consistent like it is on CableCARD and Tuning Adapters. I think I’ll post a poll on TCF to see what I find out. Thanks! :)

  21. I am worried too about being able use this device. My cable company does the same a Cox, flag’s ALL channels but the local ones.

    I use Astound which is a very small provider (about 5 cities in the whole US) and when I called to ask I was greeted with a lot of “huh” and ‘I have no idea what your talking about”

    I think this is a case where they set this flag by accident and don’t know it’s on. Any ideas on how to talk to people in the company with any sort of knowledge?

  22. Can someone explain why anyone would choose this $169 device over a slingbox solo currently selling for $162.02 at Amazon.com?

    If this functionality was built-in for no additional fee, that would be kinda cool. But for $169 additional fee? Why would they bother to make such an obvious loser product? It’s clearly DOA.

  23. Tom, well I may be confusing the issue as we discuss ways to intercept whatever it is the box is doing. As described by TiVo partner RCN, I’m left thinking it’ll stream around the home with no restrictions. It’s the offloading/sideloading of content onto device to take with you that may be partially restricted.

    Finding the right person at a cable company to help is tricky. And letter writing might get you closer than calling the first line tech support. You could also force the issue by complaining to the local franchising authority (like a county government or whatever) which might get someone more knowledgable or higher up the food chain to get in touch with you.

    Rodalpho, the technically savvy may prefer a Slingbox. However, the “high speed” offloading feature opens some interesting possibilities (as stated by a frequent flier who commuted by subway with no cell connection for 6 years). In terms of price, I’m hoping it’s not that much but who knows. Regarding it’s success or failure, that pricing will play a factor… as will successfully explaining why someone would want this device. And I suspect a cable company’s iPad apps will be more of a factor than a Slingbox to abstain.

    I will say I am much more interested in also announced the IP-STB/extender which I intend to write up in the next day or so.

  24. Am I right in saying that there are two CCI flags of relevance here, 0×00 and 0×01? Where 00 lets content be copied off or streamed from, and 01 only lets content be stream from?

    In the case of content being streamed which has the 01 flag, is it possible, ignore CableLabs for now, to write this to disk, and therefore copy it? And therefore the need for streaming devices to be capable of and be seen to respect CableLabs.

    I’ve only be thing of this box as a device to enable streaming to iOS and Android apps, presumable owed by Tivo, which I’d like extended to other devices. The idea of copying to these devices for later viewing elsewhere is not something I’d been taking into account, but it is a very valid use.

  25. p42, I wouldn’t think of it in terms of streaming, as these flags predate blessed streaming and were more about recording. I’d say there are 3.5 flag permutations of relevance here… Copy freely (0×00) is do whatever, Copy never (0×03) is exactly that, and then there are two flags (x01, x02) which imply copy once. The Copy Once flag(s) are the source of TiVo pain. Copy Once allows you to make a recording. But as interpreted by TiVo, these recordings cannot be copied to another TiVo unit or to a PC via TiVoToGo. Copy Once isn’t a problem with TiVo’s new streaming method (MRS) to other TiVo Premiere boxes, the Preview, or probably the Transcoder. It’s the copying for offloading that’ll be problematic. I’m operating on the assumption that the streaming “second screen” endpoints implement whatever CableLabs protections are required to make it all accessible.

    TiVo actually has a FAQ on some of CCI Byte stuff:
    http://support.tivo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/243

  26. Someone else already posted this, but modern computers can convert mpeg2 to h.264 extremely quickly. And of course many of us are saddled with cable companies like time warner (ptui!) that flag everything copy once.

    As for the cable company ipad apps, don’t they just allow you to watch livetv? It’s not 1998, I want to watch recordings from my DVR or pointcast downloads directly from the origin when I want them.

    Special events aside, I haven’t watched anything resembling livetv in well over a decade, and even then I delay it by 15 minutes to skip commercials. Obviously I’m more techie than most, and I realize some people do still watch livetv sometimes, but that number will certainly shrink as time passes.

  27. @Rodalpho,

    I was all set to write you a post saying you don’t represent the average person, but of course I had to google the half-remembered article and came up with this:

    http://blog.tivo.com/2012/01/tivos-research-says-only-38-percent-of-tv-viewing-is-live/

    which suggests that more recent Tivo stats show people watching less and less live TV. I thought it was over half the last I remember reading. Now the number crunching here is different since they’re including Hulu and so forth but I suspect that even ignoring the OTT services it would still show the majority of the watching time being non-live.

    So its just my wife then that likes to watch live stuff all the time for some reason she can’t quite explain…

  28. I vastly prefer this TiVo-native solution to a Slingbox. No thanks on IR-blaster crap, and I never watch live TV. All of my TV content is collected by TIVo and the UI here is what sells me. I remain impressed with TiVo’s existing iPad app, and if I can stream the actual shows directly to the same screen (or to my laptop,) I’m happy.

    That being said, I’d get a LOT more usage out of this transcoding box if I could stream outside my LAN.

    I do have to wonder if I’ll be able to watch content when I’m outside my home, if only I connect first to my home network via VPN first…

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