HBO Makes FiOS TV Less TiVo-Friendly (7/31)

Dave Zatz —  June 27, 2012 — 53 Comments

verizon-cablecard-lockdown

Verizon may find themselves dethroned as the top TiVo-friendly “cable” provider come August when they implement the Copy Once CableCARD flag — presumably at HBO’s request and in at least one market (Dallas Fort Worth). On channels and programs with this particular CCI Byte notation, TiVo owners will be permitted to DVR shows as they normally would. However, they’ll be unable to transfer those recordings to other TiVo units or offload them via TiVoToGo for mobile playback or archival purposes. TiVo owners with TiVo Premiere hardware will retain the option to stream recorded programming between units, but owners of older TiVo hardware and/or in a hybrid TiVo environment will find themselves out of luck. Fortunately, Verizon indicates this change will be specific to “certain premium channels” … which is more consumer friendly than Cox Communications or Time Warner Cable’s approach of locking everything down, other than the locals, in some regions. As with many such initiatives, this move inconveniences legit cable subscribers while doing nothing to limit piracy. And so it goes.

(Thanks, Brennok!)

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53 responses to HBO Makes FiOS TV Less TiVo-Friendly (7/31)

  1. By the by, we put down a contract on our new home this afternoon… in FiOS territory. Strange timing? Whatev, I’ll be running the TiVo Stream and IP-STB. And, in protest, I may just not subscribe to HBO anymore. (Moving in August.)

  2. Comcast has had “copy once” on premium channels since at least 2007. I’m surprised to read that Verizon hasn’t. Non-Premium cable channels can be copied freely.

    Give me HBO Go on an AppleTV and I almost won’t care. Give me HBO Go offline caching to my iPad and I really won’t care.

  3. I gave up HBO 2 years ago. Don’t miss it. The only reason I keep any cable TV is that I run the Town’s gov’t cable channel so I like to see what I’m broadcasting. Today I was thinking when Cablevision next raises rates I might ditch cable entirely. IPTV is fine for me. I don’t have a need to watch things when they are first broadcast. I can wait until it shows up in some form of an Internet stream, even if that is 2 or 3 years, or never I don’t watch sports or what passes for news on TV.

    Things like the VZW announcement are moving me faster to cutting the cord.

  4. Verizon is evil in its own special way, but they are unique in that they are not owned by, and do not own, and are in no way associated with, content creators. Verizon is strictly a telecommunications provider. That’s what they care about.

    This is very much unlike Comcast and Time-Warner, who are giant media conglomerates, with telecommunications and internet service as only one part of their enormous portfolios.

  5. Time Warner Cable is no longer owned by Time Warner, the content creator.

  6. Yeah, I’m sure there’s a “Chinese Wall” between their executive offices on different floors of the Time-Warner center. And if you believe that one, I’ve got this bridge available for a song…

  7. Last I heard, Verizon didn’t even bother pairing cableCards. That’s going to be a support nightmare when card users lose their premium channels. Also FIOS users are used to being able to swap cards between devices, which will no longer work.

  8. Great. I assume this affects the HDHomeRun network CableCard tuner as well, coupled with Windows 7 Media Center. Yet another nail in the coffin.

    It was fun while it lasted.

  9. Joel – The HDHomeRun should still work – it works just like a local tuner with Windows. There is no ‘copy’ on the HDHR itself as it has no storage. But the one recording made on the PC would be locked to that PC if they properly obey the flags.

    This is nothing new to me – Charter locks down a majority of content, so I haven’t even used TTG in years. And MRV is hit or miss when I try to use it between my S3 & Elite – mostly miss. I’m planning to just use the IP STB when it ships.

    I tried setting up MoCA yesterday, but I couldn’t get it to pair between rooms. I checked all of the splitters in my home and they’re all 1GHz – including the distribution splitter outside – and pretty old. So I just ordered all 2GHz splitters to replace them all and I hope that helps.

  10. Morac, the first part of Verizon’s outreach letter covers the pairing of unpaired cards. And, like you, I suspect this will be debacle. At some point, though, I believe the installers did start pairing cards – I believe my two CableCARDs at the house we vacated a few months back were indeed paired. Bet Verizon wishes they’d gone all IPTV like AT&T U-verse? Speaking of, wonder if Richard should refer to over-the-top IPTV rather than IPTV. Hm.

  11. I wonder if this will prevent the “archiving” of shows to the Netgear ReadyNAS which is TiVo ready? Mine just arrived the other day and is still in the box.

    During the free EPIX weekend, I was able to push some of the movies off to my Mac with iTiVo/pyTiVo and pulled them back when I needed them. It’s a bummer that won’t work anymore.

    Dave, congrats on the house!

  12. I called last night to pair my CableCARD — I swapped it into another box since I activated it. The IVR failed at some point after it found my cards and dumped me to a CSR queue. I hung up as I figured I’d rather try again later than to talk to someone.

    Another thing this breaks is FiOS customers who use Myth etc with a CableCARD tuner. They’ll lose access to these channels completely as on 7MC supports PlayReady DRM on a PC.

  13. It’s funny because I was just considering tweeting about this FIOS benefit. I had FIOS TV installed this month and one of things I have noticed is I can share a lot more programs.

    I used to have Time Warner which seemd to flag the oddest programs preventing them from being copied upstairs to our bedroom TiVo.

    I’m pleased with FIOS TV but my install was such a nightmare it may not all fit in one blog post.

    Thanks for the info,
    Bill

  14. I have Comcast here in the philly area. They only restrict the premiums to copy once. Fios is here as well and it seems now that they’re headed in the same direction as Comcast. To those of you who’ve had both services. Which one do you prefer and why?

  15. I’ve had both over the years and had a much better experience with Verizon. Comcast phone and office reps are rude and uninformed, and we had some problems with a few installers (not showing, drilling through our dresser by accident, etc). Also had to write a letter to the local franchising authority to get a CableCARD in a timely fashion. Verizon phone people mucked up my bill on a few occasions, but the overall experience was better – especially as a TiVo owner. I assume the CableCARD gap between the two has closed, tho. If you’re mostly satisfied with Comcast, I’d stay put and reduce your risk of new issues – including install. Our new home can receive both FiOS TV and Comcast, but as neither has been wired yet, we’ll go with FiOS.

  16. Query: So if I don’t see a warning message on channel 131, and if I haven’t received a letter, does that mean I don’t have a pairing issue coming up?

  17. I’ve had Comcast service for a long time. I hear about the bad experiences and I’ve never really had any! The picture quality here in the philly area is very good. I can’t remember the last time I had any problems. However, I keep hearing about Verizons’ super fast internet and superior picture quality and those things are what I am willing to pay for! The fact that they don’t have the copy once flag on the premiums (for now) was icing on the cake. I haven’t felt the need for premium channels for years now, since dvd movies became so cheap and abundant, but I must say, I really enjoy HBO and Showtimes’ orginal programming. That’s the only thing that would make me consider going back.

    I was told that, with Verizon, when you want to make any changes to your programming package, you can do it all over the internet, without needing to talk to anyone. I like that! With Comcast, you have to call in and talk to people.

    I have a TivoHD and I’m considering switching to WMC. I used WMC on Windows 7 with QAM a few years ago and it was pretty stable. Now that Comcast has encrypted the locals that is no longer an option, so I’ll have to decide between a Ceton Q or upgrding to a Tivo XL4. Have you used both WMC and Tivo? If so, which did you prefer and why?

  18. With Verizon, it is easy to add upgrade services and packages online. Removing is less easy and requires a call. Also, some promotions you can only find out about and/or activate via phone. So I wouldn’t let that factor too heavily into your decision.

    I’ve used WMC and prefer TiVo. Others feel different – I believe Ben Drawbaugh is still exclusively WMC. But WMC development is halted. That’s not to say you couldn’t get several great years out of a Windows 7 setup, but I wouldn’t expect new features or improvements and probably no more extenders. The Ceton product is also based on MC which is a great place to start, but I’m uncertain about the future. And, while it looks good on paper, the experience hasn’t really been evaluated yet and judgement should be reserved. It’s a bummer Google TV shut down SageTV as soon as they bought it. Some real potential there. Maybe we’ll one day see a GoogleTV with Sage guts for live and recorded TV (with CableCARD integration).

  19. I haven’t gotten the letter yet myself, but went to 131. Of course it isn’t paired. Interesting as I only started getting service 1 year ago and have made no changes. I think maybe it is going to be a bit of a head ache for all cards to be paired. I guess this is one that Verizon is willing to take on. After living with TWC and then Cox before Verizon, I guess I am used to not being able to transfer my shows. If it stays mostly to the premiums, it shouldn’t be a problem for me as I am not willing to pay for them in the first place.

  20. I have Comcast and ALWAYS try to do adds/changes via the online chat. Have always had a good experience. Phone support is slow, you spend a lot of time on hold, etc but if you do most things via chat I think you’ll have a good experience. Just put the window on one side of the screen and do other things during the process.

    Sounds like existing TiVo customers on FiOS are going to have a bit of a wake-up call. Ugh. I guess we’ll find out how well trained VZ’s cable card installer tech’s really are. At Comcast its still a horrid experience.

  21. @ensaburnur

    I can’t get FIOS, but I’ve had Comcast for a long time and my take on them is that as long as you don’t have an issue, they’re very good. It’s when something goes wrong and you need support that things fall apart. For example I’ve been having the occasional upstream problem in my for years. Going through normal support tends to get me no where. I use Comcast’s twitter team to get things fixed quickly. That’s kind of a plus for Comcast, that they have a Twitter team. When I don’t have problems Comcast works great which is about 99.9% of the time.

    On the issues of speeds, Comcast is expected to increase the speeds of the Blast and higher tiers within 3 months to 50/10 and 105/20 respectively.

  22. I’m in the Boston Fios market, and just received my letter today.

    FWIW, I had Fios installed with my two Tivo Premieres two years ago, and based on seeing the Information Channel on channel 131 of each box, it looks like my CC’s were paired when they were installed. I don’t subscribe to any premium channels, so I’m hoping this has no effect on me.

  23. I used the Fios automated phone system last night and it was painless. The call took about 5 minutes and channel 131 was working in about another 5 minutes. While dealing with copy protection flags sucks, I thought it was a model example of how cablecard activation/pairing processes should work. The system was pretty smart.

  24. Assuming you receive and read the letter… (or this blog) ;)

    Mike, 1) what region are you in and 2) did you get a letter? Trying to figure out if this is mostly simultaneous across the FiOS TV footprint without engaging their PR group.

    Josh, what market are you in?

  25. Just got the letter in Redondo Beach, CA.

    All 4 of my CC are already paired.

  26. 1) I am in Northern Virginia.
    2) Not yet.
    If it matters mine was activated in 8/2011.

  27. Interesting… I’m also in Northern Virginia and I believe both of my cards were paired. One was installed by a technician maybe 01/11 and the other was self installed 08/11. Wish I could say for certain.

    So we know of letters in Texas, California, and Boston. That’s pretty diverse, thinking this it’s likely this is mostly simultaneous across the FiOS TV footprint.

    Josh, Mike, keep us updated on the letter situation.

  28. I’m in Allentown, PA and we’re on VHO8, same as Philly. I did not receive a letter as of yet though. I’ve had an unpaired card since getting an Elite, and just figured I’d go ahead and do it since I saw the pdf.

    That being said, I don’t think I even got the letter indicating the cost of the STBs was going up. So I don’t know if I’m just special and missing out on mailers or what. Heh.

  29. Got the letter today in Syracuse, NY. I also have unpaired cable cards. I may just cancel HBO. I can stream with the TiVos, but this will break my auto xfers to my Netgear server with TiVo support, which has been very convenient.

  30. A new card won’t work at all on FiOS unless it is paired. What is new, is that once they are paired, you can swap them to another box without re-pairing it.

    I am still on Media Center because it is still the only real muti-room DVR you can buy. If TiVo ever comes out with its IP STB, then that might change, but as it stands now, MS stopped developing MC 3 years ago and TiVo still hasn’t managed to catch up.

  31. In Tampa, both my mom and I got letters today.

    I plan on waiting till the change to see what is effected. Depending on the channels, I may drop from Ultimate to Extreme and bump my Internet up to 75/35.

  32. Dave,
    When I got home, my letter was waiting for me (must have not sent them all on the same day). I went back to 131 and it still said I wasn’t paired, but it has a generic phone number on it instead of the specific activation number on the letter. When I called the one from the letter, the system said my card was paired. I had to tell the system that there was a problem with it and I can’t remember the exact option but it effectively would be the option you would use if I was switching to a new Tivo. I entered the information and sometime after the channel started to work. So for me, it seems that the card was paired, but incorrectly (either purposely or accidentally by the install staff). I wasn’t here when the initially installed (I made the mistake of going to work and letting the techs do the FiOS install with just my wife home). I had everything set up exactly as it was needed and even labeled all the cable drops for the installation (which they proceeded to remove the labels and what not, then called at work to try and figure out what cable was what…), so the technician very well have taken a short cut with the cablecard install (as they were already there twice as long as they should have been). On the plus side, my wife said they were nice though…
    Now to Verizon, if all unpaired cards show as paired, that is confusing for the less technically inclined. That plus the generic number on the 131 channel seems like the process could be streamlined a bit more.
    Josh

  33. Various thoughts on this sad development:

    - I have no idea if this is a reaction to TiVo’s transcoder box, but when that box was announced, my first reaction was that it was a profoundly bad sign for my future ability to archive premium channels. Obviously, this could have come about for other reasons, but that transcoder box gave me a bad feeling as a heavy local archiver.

    - When I simultaneously went for TiVo/FIOS from my previous setup, I had no idea such archival bliss would be possible until bkdtv filled me in over at tivocommunity.com while the FIOS installers were actually in my home working. I was incredulous that such a thing might be possible, and then very, very happy once I tested it out. It was a very nice party while it lasted.

    - My allegiance to FIOS has obviously dropped significantly. It’s no longer the sweet wire. In previous negotiations with FIOS, I’ve been able to negotiate a rate below the rack rate by threatening to leave for a different MSO. However, I was just bluffing in those negotiations. I would have paid a significant premium for the sweet wire. But the next time I negotiate, I’ll be genuinely willing to switch MSO’s on price.

    - This actually gives me a genuine reason to go for a S4 unit. Without the ability to use my TiVo to harvest and then archive off of the TiVo for future playback on either TiVo or Plex, I could really use a 2TB drive in my TiVo. I like keeping seasons of shows around for a while.

    - The value of premium channels has just dropped dramatically for me. I can imagine dramatically cutting my monthly MSO bill over time, and replacing with more Amazon a la carte VOD, as well as more Netflix Blu-Ray mail rental.

  34. I was waiting for your response, given your large off-TiVo archive solution. Interesting theory on the TiVo Stream possibly setting this in motion. Hmmm. You could upgrade your existing drive for less money than an Elite. But if you might ever use the IP-STB or Stream, it could be a good time to upgrade.

  35. “You could upgrade your existing drive for less money than an Elite.”

    Huh. I always forget that development didn’t end at the moment when I learned and used WinMFS, back when you could only expand a TiVo HD XL to 2TB. But wonders never cease, and after a little research, I learn you are indeed correct that I could use a combo of JMFS and WinMFS to get to 2TB if I wanted to DIY it again. (Though this procedure will be a bit more tricky and involved than my gentle initial WinMFS experience.) Thanks for making me go look. Nice to have options.

    The Weaknees pre-rolled drive price is so high that I’d just go S4 if I didn’t want to DIY it.

    “But if you might ever use the IP-STB or Stream, it could be a good time to upgrade.”

    Neither are compelling for our use-case scenario. Ironically, (in the Alanis Morissette usage of the word), I’d really wanted the S4 for the faster bandwidth in local archiving, but now that I finally need 2TB, the bandwidth incentive is now sadly gone. I’d still like the second screen remote control and management of the S4, though. And if they ever got more 3rd parties writing to the API’s…

    —–

    “I was waiting for your response, given your large off-TiVo archive solution.”

    Too big a shock to immediately react, other than silently cursing at the transcoder box.

    It’s been a damn nice ride. Here’s my real-time incredulousness at learning such a thing might even be possible.

    I’ve been copiously filling up drives for three years now. Premium series from several networks, plus unbadged movies mainly from HBO and HDNET. In the mix are lots of little gems like Hitchcocks and Woody Allens that still aren’t available in HD via any other means. Too bad the harvesting is over. But I do have a nice local cache outside of any windowing schemes to supplement future content purchases and rentals.

    Looking forward, the loss of the harvesting capabilities really does reduce the value of MSO premiums for me. They’d been a bargain.

  36. Dammit, my letter came in the mail yesterday (NoVa like you, Dave). Haven’t yet checked to see if they are paired properly. Couple of questions: Will flag be retroactive? e.g., if there is HBO content that’s x years old, will it be restricted from offloading? And second, does KMTTG respect the flags, or can it offload anything?

    We have one THD in theater room that’s expanded and commonly use it to record and bring up movies to the Family Room THD that’s stock. This will be a PITA.

  37. Steve, the stuff you’ve already recorded won’t be touched. Regarding KMTTG, it utilizes TiVo’s offloading mechanisms and will prohibited from offloading flagged content. Unfortunately, we probably won’t know the scope of the lockdown until it happens.

  38. “We have one THD in theater room that’s expanded and commonly use it to record and bring up movies to the Family Room THD that’s stock. This will be a PITA.”

    If you’d been skating by with MRV on S3 thanks to FIOS, you now have a pretty compelling reason to go up to S4.

  39. @Chucky – I’m not about to go back to paying an MRC and $500 LT per Premiere box doesn’t seem worth it either, especially when we keep HBO only for ~6 months/year for certain series.

    I see that the MyBook 1TBs are back down to a reasonable price, $99 shipped from Amzn. So I simply ordered that to tide me by. Will most likely just dupe content.

  40. I got my letter here in Northern Virginia yesterday. But a couple of days ago I used the info posted at Broadband reports to call the FiOS automated cable card activation number and within five minutes I had my three cable cards paired and working with the test channel.

    I don’t archive much content like I used to years ago so it doesn’t bother me much. Plus, since the Premieres can stream between boxes it’s not an issue for me either.

  41. I still haven’t gotten the letter but somebody else in VHO8/Philly did (TCF poster), so this market is falling too.

  42. Well, I’ll just remind everybody that HBO Go exists, and has a lot of the content you might have archived anyway…

    However, I will note that there are other perfectly viable ways of archiving said content, if you’re so inclined. The way I’d put it is that Comcast sold you both a cable TV and an internet connection right?

  43. “Well, I’ll just remind everybody that HBO Go exists, and has a lot of the content you might have archived anyway…”

    No doubt that the existence of HBO Go softens the blow for HBO’s excellent original programming.

    But the PQ ain’t the same, which I find a big deal with HBO original programming’s extraordinary production values. Bit-rate matters to me in the lean-back. Not to mention that they’ll eventually start windowing that stuff too, and not to mention that it goes away if you cancel that particular service. And we haven’t even started talking about features films…

    “However, I will note that there are other perfectly viable ways of archiving said content, if you’re so inclined. The way I’d put it is that Comcast sold you both a cable TV and an internet connection right?”

    Assuming you’re talking about what I think you’re talking about, I’m not inclined to acquire my content without paying for it, even if I’m willing to decrypt for personal use once the thing is on my machine and thus evade windowing schemes. (I’m willing to draw arbitrary lines if I can convince myself I’m being basically ethical.)

    So the only remaining means to locally cache will be Blu. Which is fine, if less convenient that a TiVo with a friendly CCI byte provider. But oddly, a bizarre amount of back catalog features I’m highly interested in have been released in HD on premium cable but not Blu. And for that stuff, you just simply won’t be able to locally cache after the FIOS whip comes down. (And that applies to the method you’re talking about too if you’re talking about what I think you’re talking about – they pretty much source from Blu.)

    The FIOS customer-friendly CCI byte setting was the rug that tied my whole movie jukebox together. And they micturated on my rug.

  44. Yeah, everyone draws the line somewhere. I wouldn’t torrent HBO content. But I’d just wait for the discs to arrive on Netflix or more on entirely. But I do love me some HBO GO. Maybe I’ll feel less angry come August. :)

    Chucky, are those back catalog titles really HD… or stretched?

  45. Chucky, what is your archival process? Do you keep your recordings on a separate server or on a pc?

  46. From a poster over at DSLreports, he is stating the memo he was shown at a Verizon Plus store says it will only affect HBO and Cinemax. There isn’t a copy posted so take it as you will, but hopefully this is the case since I don’t subscribe to either of them.

  47. As far HBO GO video quality goes, it feels like it took at step backwards at peak times. The last few episodes of Game of Thrones season 2 had significant pixelation. I haven’t re-watched them to see if the quality has improved.

  48. “Chucky, are those back catalog titles really HD… or stretched?”

    Good god, man. Stretched? I’m complaining about the HBO Go bit-rate, and you think I’m watching 480 line 4:3 video stretched to fill 16:9 and not noticing either the poor PQ or the obvious fact that everyone looks too wide?

    You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?

    Yes, the films I’m taking about which are unreleased on Blu are indeed in HD on the MSO channels. High bit-rate, and either pan/scanned into 16:9 or letterboxed, depending on the channel.

    To pick a few random gems out of my stack, I’ve got excellent quality HD versions of the Canon Consensus 2nd Greatest Movie Ever Made, Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream, Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, and Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale. None have been released on Blu. Some have (recently) been made available as HD rentals through VOD, and some have not. But my copies have better PQ than the available VOD.

    What happened was: the Blu rollout has been glacial for the back catalog. It’s weird. Back when the Great HDTV Rollout happened, the content libraries rapidly made digitizations of their back catalog in 1080 for sale to the premium cable channels. The same rapidity of conversion of the back catalog happened eons ago with the Great DVD rollout. But, as stated, the Blu rollout has been glacial. Even though the libraries have 1080 digitizations already done, they don’t want to just slap the existing transfers onto Blu and sell ‘em. I really don’t understand their reasoning.

  49. “Chucky, what is your archival process? Do you keep your recordings on a separate server or on a pc?”

    Repurposed old CPU on my LAN acts to serves files, as well as other functions.

    —–

    “From a poster over at DSLreports, he is stating the memo he was shown at a Verizon Plus store says it will only affect HBO and Cinemax.”

    Good news! (If true.) Worth noting that best PQ source for features is Mark Cuban’s HDNet Movies. Thin selection, but significantly higher bit-rate than channels like HBO, and they preserve original aspect ratios. MGM HD isn’t quite as good, but is still OK.

  50. So it appears my headline may have been on the mark… ;)

  51. “So it appears my headline may have been on the mark…”

    Time-Warner being the lone gunmen fits nicely within my conjecture of this being a TiVo transcoder box issue.

    Time-Warner’s HBO & Cinemax are the guys who are really pushing “Go” channels in order to control the tablet experience, and thus, they’re the guys at the front of the parade to stop sideloading onto tablets.

    Folks like me who locally archive for the lean-back are just collateral damage to the tablet wars. We’re few and obscure enough to have been left alone by Time-Warner before the TiVo Stream came and peed on my rug.

  52. Speaking of Blu-Ray, while I maintain a current version of AnyDVD I hadn’t really used it much until I started to want to archive Disney movies for my daughter to watch on the Apple TV (sorry, but I’m just not down with dealing with discs anymore). While my previous experiences were mostly limited to ripping an occasional DVD (mostly TV series I bought for watching on the plane or whatever), I had always always gotten it to work just fine.

    With Blu-Ray however the running battle with the decryptors appears to be somewhat more successful. While I was able to rip certain Disney animated titles with no problems, others simply didn’t work. Sometimes I got error messages from AnyDVD, sometimes I didn’t. Other times the decode was fine but my re-encoding software (mostly use Xilisoft) wasn’t up to the task. I assume that over time all of this will work out as the various software components are updated, but just a reminder that ‘archiving’ blu-ray is still a bit iffy.

  53. NoVA here like Dave. I received my letter last week and went to channel 131, but it was blank (no signal).

    I’m using SageTV with 2 HDHR Primes (and it works beautifully!). Is it even possible to pair the cards in my Primes or am I completely out of luck when they throw the switch?

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