TiVo Preps New Four Tuner “Premiere 4″

Dave Zatz —  August 8, 2012 — 44 Comments

TiVo’s retail line of DVRs will gain a new new hardware SKU in the coming weeks, expanding the Premiere family to four units of varying hard drive capacity and tuner count. And it’s a move that suddenly sheds light on TiVo’s recent rebranding of the TiVo Premiere Elite to the TiVo Premiere XL4. The new TiVo Premiere 4 will contain a 500GB hard drive, good for 75 hours of HD recordings, and sport 4 tuners suitable for digital cable and Verizon FiOS only (like the Elite/XL4). So cord cutters need not apply. As can you can see from the spec sheet I’ve embedded above, the Premiere 4 looks to be a very close relative of TiVo Premiere Q hardware that cable partners, like RCN, are deploying.

Here’s the complete retail Premiere lineup, with current hardware pricing and irrespective of service fees:

  • TiVo Premiere, 2 Tuners, 500GB Storage, $150
  • TiVo Premiere XL, 2 Tuners, 1TB Storage, $250
  • TiVo Premiere 4, 4 Tuners, 500GB Storage, $250
  • TiVo Premiere XL4, 4 Tuners, 2TB Storage, $400

Chatter pegs the Premiere 4 at $250, suggesting we could see further shifting of TiVo pricing ahead of the holidays. Although, I suppose it’s also possible the XL and P4 could be offered at the same price point.

Update: The TiVo Premiere 4 is now available at $250 and the TiVo Premiere XL has been retired (although I bet we’ll see it again on Woot at some point).

(Thanks for the tip, Sam!)

44 responses to TiVo Preps New Four Tuner “Premiere 4″

  1. Does TiVo plan to release any new models that support antenna? Why do they leave it out, is it really that much of a cost savings?

  2. This lower end 4-tuner box makes a lot of sense. $250 retail cost dropping to $199 or $229 during a sale. I personally have a lot of trouble filling up my 2TB Elite but think 1TB is probably the sweet spot.

    Its also interesting to see the “Whole Home” branding. Its clear that the 4-tuners are more meaningful when a user is hijacking tuners for IP-STBs. Speaking of IP-STBs, isn’t it about time for us to see some additional details on the branding of that product?

    I fully expect TiVo to eventually support hijacking of tuners for IP-STB’s even on the 2-tuner Premiere boxes but that is not the ideal setup and probably provides an experience that a user would want to quickly upgrade with more tuners. I wonder if the 2-tuner boxes will receive the Whole Home branding as well.

  3. I, too, am anxiously awaiting the IP-STB. I’m hoping this is the progression towards that and that the streaming additions will not be far behind. Would seriously love Roku style streaming support in the STBs as well. If I could get Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu support in a whole house TiVo environment, that would be great. If I could get additional apps like home security camera monitoring, etc., that would be heaven.

  4. @David

    As long as they leave the Premiere in the lineup that should be good enough for antenna only users. I’d say the vast majority of antenna only users don’t require more than 2 tuners because of the limited number of channels.

    As for why they leave it out, I’d say it does lower the cost, removing the NTSC tuner probably does more so than the ATSC one since NTSC requires an analog to digital converter.

  5. I’m tempted to buy and upgrade

  6. I’m tempted to buy if I can find for $200 or less and upgrade the drive myself. However I’ll most likely wait to upgrade (hopefully next year) to the S5 with built in streaming and then scatter ip stb’s throughout my house.

    Will be very nice to have just one main TiVo (with one unified NP and Season Passes).

  7. Yeah, I’m hoping those IP-STBs live up to their billing…

  8. This entire generation is garbage. It should be tossed in the bin and replaced with a solid modern maintainable (non-flash) platform.

    TiVo should fork XBMC’s PVR branch, skin it with their UI and add their scheduling engine, and run it on a new box with cheap hardware running android on ARM.

  9. Oh, and a 500GB disk? In 2012? For shame.

  10. I’m with @Rodalpho. Sorry Tivo, that ship has sailed. I’ve been a user since ’99, and I found myself visiting the Uverse page to convert.

    Other than their silly HD menu that isn’t really usable, I can’t hardly tell the difference between my 1999 box and my 2012 box. What other tech vendor gets away with next to no innovation in over a decade?

    Switching to Uverse will save me almost $1000 the first year over my two Tivo’s. Guess I have to decide just how much I love that peanut remote…..

  11. Yep, my series1 had exactly the same core PVR functionality as the newest Premiere. It had season passes, prioritizing, clipping, and the guide.

    Updates since then have added multi-room viewing (series2) and multi-room streaming (s4), but I don’t see those as core PVR functionality.

    They also added a bunch of internet streaming options that are all significantly inferior to a $50 roku box.

    TiVo has almost willfully failed to innovate over the past 13 years. They haven’t serviced the market, and that’s why they deserve to die.

    If TiVo hadn’t aggressively leveraged its patent portfolio through litigation, they would be dead right now. TiVo didn’t survive due to the quality of its products.

  12. “Yep, my series1 had exactly the same core PVR functionality as the newest Premiere.”

    1080 really is a new, utterly compelling feature…

    “They haven’t serviced the market”

    Worst DVR in the world, with the single exception of all the others…

  13. I just looked at the data sheet you posted. They still don’t show the output as 1080P24. They only show 1080P. And typically when 1080P is listed it means 1080p60 but in TiVos case it can only output 1080P24.

  14. Michael Burstin August 9, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I thought I read somewhere from their petition to not include OTA tuners that the hardware would be significantly more expensive because there are no quad tuner chips that support OTA and Cable.

    As for the HD menu, I don’t see any issues with usability. It is fast and smooth. I’ve never had a problem since buying my Premier Elite.

    As far as switching to cable DVR to save, maybe in the first year you’ll save but purchasing Tivo has always been something like 3 years to save money.

  15. I thought I read somewhere from their petition to not include OTA tuners that the hardware would be significantly more expensive because there are no quad tuner chips that support OTA and Cable.

    http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2011-06/tivo-premiere-q-headed-to-retail-as-premier-elite/

    As for the HD menu, I don’t see any issues with usability. It is fast and smooth. I’ve never had a problem since buying my Premier Elite.

    The new 20.x HD menus are much improved but there is still room for improvement. I’m going to be envious of those users able to acquire the Pace XG1 which has a much faster processor which will result in more menu fluidity.

    As far as switching to cable DVR to save, maybe in the first year you’ll save but purchasing Tivo has always been something like 3 years to save money.

    Agree completely. Buying Product Lifetime Service (PLS), especially with MSD, is a great deal over the typical DVR lifetime which in my case seems to be greater than 5 years.

  16. @David

    Antenna users are better served buying a used TivoHD w/ PLS off ebay – I’ve seen those as low as $250.

    Tivo’s ‘apps’ (even on the Premiere) simply don’t work as well as on standalone boxes (Roku, etc.), so I don’t use them, even though I have a Premiere w/ PLS.

  17. Tivo’s ‘apps’ (even on the Premiere) simply don’t work as well as on standalone boxes (Roku, etc.), so I don’t use them, even though I have a Premiere w/ PLS.

    While I agree that the user experience for the particular app (e.g., Netflix, Hulu Plus) is not as good as on my Roku box the unified search and browse capabilities of the TiVo are a benefit the TiVo provides over the stovepiped apps on the Roku. I use the Roku when I know exactly what I want to watch but I tend to use the TiVo for content discovery.

  18. I’m just baffled at why the UI is slow slow. I have a Premiere, and after about 3 minutes of using it I’m ready to throw the remote right through the TV. It’s still laggy. It looks nice, but I guess I just don’t understand why it sucks.

    I’ve been an IT for close to 20 years, I like to think I have a decent understanding of technology. I just don’t get why TiVo seems to struggle with performance. It’s a PC. (?)

    I keep holding off switching, thinking that THIS time they really will release something awesome. They never do. Toss a couple more tuners in? Yawn. Swivel search? Yawn. Not sure what I want, but I’m tired of waiting.

  19. The only time I find the menus slow is when I use my XL which doesn’t have the Slide Remote. It is night and day though when I use the Slide remote.

    If you aren’t using the Slide remote, you should give it a try. It definitely makes a difference.

  20. “Worst DVR in the world, with the single exception of all the others”

    Indeed.

  21. IIRC, Tivo’s hardware (Broadcom SOC) is not known for being fast.

    Couple that with a Flash-based OS…

  22. The Premiere’s CPU is basically equivalent to an iPhone 3. Take what you will from that… The January update improved speed, but the May (April?) update took much of the gained speed away for some unknown reason. So now it’s slogging along again, especially the XL4. In particular, the button-press lag is getting annoying. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to get much faster than this.

  23. Hopefully an S5 will be released early next year with a more robust processor. And hopefully will also have six tuners. Then I can replace my two Elites with a six tuner S5 box along with a couple of IP STBs..
    Although I still plan on buying one IP STB as soon as they are available.

  24. Has Tivo written off satellite customers?

    Those of us stuck on Series 2 due to no satellite support in new units would make good customers for new equipment…..

    Not good business to write off a large portion of your customer base!

  25. TiVo doesn’t want to be in the business of IR blasters and transcoding and you probably don’t want two set-tops so they won’t make a DVR like that available in retail. Having said that, DirecTV recently launched a new TiVo (which isn’t all that) and forced DISH into a licensing agreement via a patent lawsuit, so there’s a possibility they too could collaborate on something down the road. (It’s too bad satellite TV and IPTV providers aren’t held to the same standards/requirements as the traditional cable companies. If everyone was required to support CableCARD, or something equivalent, it’d be a different story.)

  26. Dave, you talk about “support CableCARD” like the cable companies actually do! :^)

    I could start a blog over what I’ve gone through to get Cox to successfully install CableCARDS in my two TiVo’s. Another reason I’m sour over the TiVo lifestyle. (Not TiVo’s fault, I know, but still…..)

  27. I’ve personally had CableCARDs on Comcast, Cox, and Verizon. Cox was the absolute worst – their tuning adapters definitely added complexity and instability, beyond the typical pairing issues. (And the frusting thing is that Cox really wanted to help… unlike a good percent of the Comcast employees and contractors I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with.) Looking forward to moving back into FiOS territory in a week or so.

  28. Wrong, series 1 absolutely does not have clipping, because I use a S1 along with my TivoHD..

    S1 *does* have more “complete” sophisticated UI, in other words, fewer weird glitches (e.g. delete an item from a folder on S3 & later, and sometimes you get a VERY SCARY “there are no items left” for 10-20 seconds). yes I know there are no folders at all on S1.. but that’s not relevant.

    I think 500 GB is tiny, but if we can upgrade it AND it ends up MUCH cheaper, tempting..

  29. Oh? I must have remembered it wrong. I haven’t used a S1 since 2006.

  30. Dave, I love your site and your good accuracy, so please take the following in the best manner intended and only as clarification:

    The settlement with TiVo provided Dish/Echostar with a lifetime unlimited use of certain TiVo patents in exchange for a cash sum spread over 3 fixed payments with the final 2 to be made in the coming years staggers several years apart, and that part of the settlement can only be seen as Dish’s terms.

    Essentially, Dish/Echostar now virtually “own” the patents for their own use and have no other financial requirements as in traditional licensing agreements TiVo has with other MVPD’s such as obligations to pay for advertising and marketing of TiVo licensed product, requirement to pay for a good portion of R&D and development of TiVo licensed product, termed agreement, which requires having to renegotiate “licensing fees” at end of term and pay a higher fee, endure audits for payments relative to the number of STB’s deployed with TiVo licensed product and per subscriber fees per TiVo licensed product.

    By the way, in the same settlement Dish agreed to grant TiVo the same “lifetime license” and unlimited use of “certain Echostar patents” relating to DVR’s, as well as Dish agreeing to drop its counter-suit. I haven’t a clue what those Echostar patents are, but I would love to know if TiVo plans to implement them as TiVo has done very little innovation on its core DVR functions since 1999. If TiVo did OTT features well, it would be a nearly perfect box, but that is another topic.

    With such an agreement, Dish has utterly no incentive to partner with TiVo, ever! So, I would disagree with any belief that there is even the slightest chance of there being a Dish/TiVo box like the DirecTV/TiVo product even as a fantasy.

    However, Ergen did say after wiring the first payment, Rogers ought to pay for their next lunch together. Yes, they know each other and have no personal animosity towards each other over this suit. “We just disagree. We’ve had [outside engineers] review this, and they tell us we don’t infringe on the patents, but TiVo says we do. We just disagree. That’s all,” Ergen would repeat whenever the press asked questions implying that Tom and Charles were mortal enemies over this, and Mr. Ergen is never shy to publicly rant on anyone or anything.

    This is NOT the agreement TiVo wanted with Dish (Tom always talked of a traditional licensing deal with Dish as the result of prevailing in court or by settlement). They wanted the far more lucrative traditional licensing agreement that would net a revenue stream indefinitely and would increase the revenue as time passed tied to growing number of deployed boxes. In other words, they really wanted what they got from AT&T.

    This Dish/TiVo settlement is almost exactly the terms of the Dish settlement with Gemstar/TV Guide, a trail in which Dish prevailed, but a higher court, upon review ruled that a whole new trial would have to take place. A few weeks later each party announced the settlement, a virtual copy of the subsequent TiVo/Dish settlement.

    I speculate that this is pretty much what Charles Ergan offered from some point along the process, but TiVo wanted a real licensing deal with all its superior terms and benefits to what TiVo eventually agreed to. Why such speculation? Here is what we know:

    As time was running short and Tivo needed cash NOW, when asked why TiVo didn’t just stay the course and force Dish into a very lucrative deal for TiVo being that final victory was so close and virtually assured, Tom Rogers was quoted, “I didn’t want to wait for the Supreme Court to make a decision [to hear the case or not].” That statement clearly indicates that Tom felt TiVo was out of time. Part of Ergen’s tactic to make this a long, multi-year fight seemed to have worked, but too close to Dish’s own time running out. TiVo decided to take Monty Hall’s $500 dollars cash now even though they knew the more valuable prize was behind door number 2 but wouldn’t get it for several months at best. It appears things were that tight at TiVo, and I think even Tom Rogers wanted the nearly 7 years long nightmare to end take some kind of agreement to his next targets. It was time to stem the legal expenses that were crushing and take the money and crow.

    However, TiVo was smart to take what I think Ergan had on the table for quite some time because TiVo got an immediate cash infusion that saved the company and brought it good press and praise from Wall Street (a rise in stock price). But it was also a good deal for Dish as they avoided the whole “gun to the head” analogy that would have put TiVo in a place to name all the terms for a traditional licensing agreement (Dish did stock huge numbers of NON-infringing DVR’s to swap-put should TiVo have gone the distance and won, but that would’ve cost time and money).

    In other words, considering the much larger size of Dish/Echostar, Charlie got out of the suit for CHEAP, and got a virtual ownership of the TiVo patents at a fixed price he could easily afford and have TiVo out of his life forever! Not so for AT&T and future “partners” who will most likely cave in and have TiVo as an unwanted roommate for years to come. Of course, DirecTV’s required clause that prevented TiVo from suing DirecTV for patent infringement allowed DirecTV to delay and diminish the current HD DircTV/TiVo product. TiVo was desperate when they agreed to such a clause, but TiVo isn’t so desperate today, and we shant ever see that clause in any TiVo agreement to come.

    Tom Rogers letting Dish off easier than intended was still a good move because TiVo was able to take the settlement, return to good health and use it as leverage that no doubt had great influence on AT&T’s decision to enter into a traditional and more lucrative for TiVo in the long run, licensing agreement.

    As an owner of TiVo boxes (having made my investment in the company, so to speak) the Dish settlement and TiVo’s success in the UK with Virgin and the AT&T agreement means I feel secure that I’ll have a TiVo guide and functioning legacy TiVo boxes for many years to come.

  31. Sammy — Oh, I agree it’s unlikely. The point I was making is now that the suit is behind them and they’re not necessarily “enemies” the opportunity to collaborate exists. However, the DISH Hopper is arguably the best whole home DVR experience out there so DISH has have little incentive to work a deal similar to the rekindled DirecTV relationship (which is probably bearing very little fruit in terms of sales/subs).

    From the DISH/TiVo settlement press release:

    TiVo will play a role in helping DISH Network promote the Blockbuster digital video service. Ergen added, “We are excited to work with TiVo to help develop our Blockbuster video service. Resolving the patent infringement case allows us to further engage with TiVo on a variety of exciting strategic initiatives, like Blockbuster, where we are uniquely positioned to collaborate.”

    Roldalpho, Overlap protection arrived on Series 2 devices in 2005:
    http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2005-10/tivo-73-is-721-and-other-news/

  32. Yep, I accepted what S1 said, I remembered it wrong. So TiVo did improve its core PVR functionality since the series1. Clipping is a legit useful PVR feature.

    That’s not so impressive for >10 years, though.

  33. Since that press release you cited was issued almost immediately after the settlement, and I think you even reported it. Since then, Blockbuster On Demand has been removed from TiVo, so it seems Mr. Ergen had other plans. Too bad because I liked the additional option of Blockbuster on TiVo.

    But a bit of Dish Ergan history that relates to the settlement and why Ergan sometimes chooses not to partner:

    One of the significant reasons Ergan did not want enter into ANY traditional liceinsing agreement as settlement was because of the disastrous partnership with Microsoft for the the very first Echostar DVR for Dish: the old DishPlayer 7100. Echostar provided the hardware while Dish decided to have Microsoft provide the software.

    The nightmare was the Microsoft owned the software and never shared the source-code with Echostar and Dish legally prevented from tinkering with the software at all. Well, the inevitable bugs appeared with calls from Dish customers to Dish, and all Dish could do was pass along the info to Microsoft and await a fix. In very short time, it was clear that Microsoft was IGNORING Dish’s pleas for a software fix because Dish was getting the angry phone calls and problems were allowed to continue for several months with MS being coy about any fix coming at all and seemed to have no sense of urgency with Dish telling its customers that there was nothing Dish could do because MS owns and controls the software.

    To put it mildly, Ergen was FUMING! That was it. He was going to develop his own DVR in-house and NEVER deal with any partnerships when it came to Dish boxes. Dish would own and control the software and see to it that any bugs were dealt with as quickly as they could. The first generation 501, a rudimentary DVR, was the result and it lacked a lot of the bells and whistles of the DishPlayer 7100 that had TiVo-like features.

    And later, while MS was still blowing-off Dish and it’s urgent requests for software fixes, MS releases its Ultimate TV to the public. What a coincidence!

    Now, Dish and Echostar do have partnershipd when they need them, and they have some today, and they have even said they would prefer to partner with cell phone service provider to get the Dish branded wireless service up and running. While TiVo may have been more responsive to bug fixes, Ergen had no desire to put his company in a situation that even came close to his nightmare partnership with MS.

    As for Blockbuster no longer available on TiVo very shortly after the statement you cited was released, Dish may have thought Blockbuster on TiVo would have devalued its own plans to use Blockbuster as its own type of OTT product so that subscribers would be less likely to get Netflix and Blockbuster would be exclusive to Dish. I don’t think Dish has used Blockbuster very well at all, by the way.

    So Dish has the opportunity to partner with TiVo in the only way that was left, and Charles did as he usually does and passes, unless it is something critical. So, I would say that there is even a less than ZERO chance of TiVo and Dish/Echostar EVER partnering because Charles just is averse to it most circumstances.

  34. Sammy, My first reaction was similar to yours, but after following up with both TiVo and DISH I learned that DISH changed CDNs — their Blockbuster apps running on older code needed to be replaced. Details at the end of this post here:

    http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2012-02/blockbuster-pulling-on-demand-support-from-tivo/

    Personally, I think whole Blockbuster initiative is ridiculous and I’m not sure how or if it’ll continue to evolve. Including ever returning to TiVo. We shall see.

    Charlie would only partner with TiVo if there were a competitive advantage to be found and assuming he put aside ego. As the TiVo brand doesn’t appear to move many satellite DVRs (see: DirecTV) and DISH has a very solid solution of their own, the cost/benefit ratio of doing something substantial with TiVo is very, very slim.

    And like you say, they’ve got irons in lots of fires… rumors of an investment in Clearwire and taking on the content industry with Hopper. If nothing else, they’ve been a fun bunch to watch over the years.

  35. Dave, I agree with you. I think you’re spot on. Yes, I do see that it was the APP, so I do stand corrected. However, time will tell us of Charles really wants to be on TiVo. He’s a guy who plays things close to the vest and isn’t above citing a technical or financial reason when it is personal.

    As for Mr. Ergan’s ego: true he has one, but other media execs have even BIGGER ones. I’ve observed Ergan to far more motivated by making money and serving the customer than he ego, and he is willing to partner or do whatever to achieve that. Remember, he is the ONLY MVPD who from day strongly, and openly supportdan A la Cart system/tier for all channels offered by MVPD’s because he believes that’s what the customer wants and his programming costs probably go down. As a founder/owner of his company, I find him refreshingly frank when he speaks compared to the Brian Roberts (makes Charlie look like a pussycat) and Les Moonves of the of the industries, who both have bigger egos than Ergen , I would say. Love the info on yous site.

  36. Just wanted to add that the customer’s bill would also decrease (perhaps not depending on the prices of the channels) decrease, and at least the customer would have full control of what channels they will pay for. Ergen sees that as win win, but other MVPD’s either mum or against it.

  37. “TiVo doesn’t want to be in the business of IR blasters and transcoding and you probably don’t want two set-tops so they won’t make a DVR like that available in retail. ”

    Dave – I don’t mind 2 set top boxes – I have that now with my 3 Series 2 Tivos. What I lost was OTA recording and any new feature updates.

    In fact, if Tivo took exactly the same record, playback, and multi-room copying capabilities that I have on my Series 2 and added: more disk, a faster processor, OTA receiver, streaming music and podcasts (Squeezebox-like) and Roku-like app functionality, I would be very happy to spend money upgrading my 3 Series 2 boxes.

    While nice to have, I could do without multiple tuners, & cable card. I can live with IR blasters. With no alternative to satellite in my area, it’s that, or no Tivo business from me.

  38. bud, TiVo’s decided there’s not enough of you who understand relaying the video and willing to pay for a second set-top to matter. TiVo’s also proven they don’t have a sprightly and easy-to-develop-for Roku-esque app platform. Better off just buying the Roku. I flip inputs from TiVo to Roku to watch Hulu… despite the TiVo Hulu app.

  39. Dave,

    I fear that you are right about Tivo writing off the satellite customers. I guess that I just don’t see a business model for them anymore. The difference between their UI and those of the TV service providers is narrowing quickly, and the cablecard hassle makes it worse. There is certainly not any cost savings with a Tivo.

    So, my 2 old Tivos chug along, recording SD off of a couple SD satellite boxes and sharing it in 3 rooms. My main HD viewing is with a smart TV for streaming services like Netflix and a whole house DVR from DirecTV. With my lifetime Tivo subscriptions having paid for themselves years ago, Tivo gets non of my money, and it appears never will again, by their own choice.

    It’s only a matter of time until Tivo hits hard times and gets sold for the patents. Where are they going to go for a market perspective? They are dead as a product company, losing subscribers, and living only off of aging patents. Sad, as I was an early customer, and an investor for a short period. I can’t help but feel that they blew a golden opportunity again and again over the years.

  40. Between patent enforcement/licensing and success with Virgin Media, TiVo’s near term survival is quite secure. Hoping the upcoming Stream and IP-STB excite us US folks interested in retail products.

  41. “Premiere 4″ is now live, landing at $250:
    http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/16/tivo-premiere-4-quad-tuner-500gb-249/

    Interestingly, it looks like the Premiere XL is no longer listed on TiVo’s main product page. I’ve inquired…

  42. I’m guessing the $250 XL wasn’t selling well and adds to product confusion. Three SKUs with clear price differential makes sense to me.

  43. “Interestingly, it looks like the Premiere XL is no longer listed on TiVo’s main product page. I’ve inquired…”

    Continued fallout over hard drive prices after the Thailand floods impacting margins?

    Or Sam’s explanation?

    (I’d guess the extra 2 tuners minus the OTA circuitry costs less than the extra 500GB…)

  44. TiVo confirmed the new product line up – no more XL. Doubt the decision was driven by hard drive pricing. By the by, if I had been paying closer attention I could have discovered the P4 7/23 in the most recent CableCARD certification report.

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