TiVo Sets The Stage For Next Gen Digital DVR

Dave Zatz —  February 8, 2013 — 23 Comments

In a recent filing, TiVo has once again has petitioned the FCC for an analog waiver. Unlike their prior request, which paved the way for the digital cable-only TiVo Premiere Elite/XL4/Q, this time around the company intends to restore over-the-air capabilities to at least one new DVR:

This petition requests an extension of that waiver to several new all-digital cable only devices and a slight extension of that waiver to cover devices that permit reception of digital broadcast (“DTV”) signals. One model of TiVo’ s new all-digital DVRs would include ATSC over-the-air reception capability; this model, therefore, requires waiver of both the DCR Rules and Section 15.117(b)’s dual analog/digital tuner requirement.

Seems like a sure bet to me the FCC will get behind this amended extension as logic sometimes does indeed apply and TiVo does a nice job of defending their position after hearing from less than 0.2% of confused buyers. Further,

consumer use of analog video signals continues to decline rapidly and the Commission has set a hard deadline of September 1, 2015 for the termination of all remaining analog television broadcast transmissions. Meanwhile, the price and power consumption of analog tuners in TiVo DVRs continues to raise costs for consumers without providing any discernible benefit.

Unfortunately, there’s no real intel on what we might expect and we’re primarily left with the assumption that TiVo’s working on a new platform and chipset. Which was already a no brainer given the age of the existing Premiere platform. We’d hope any major refresh would integrate Stream-like capabilities and TiVo could use a significantly more robust OTT app platform. While the tea leaves don’t indicate any significant updates during the first half of the year, 2013′s back stretch remains out of focus…

(Thanks brennok!)

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23 responses to TiVo Sets The Stage For Next Gen Digital DVR

  1. There has to be a 6-tuner box in the mix!

  2. Yeah, I agree. Everyone’s moving to that on the high end of the whole home spectrum. Including the already announced but presumably delayed Pace TiVo unit. But more than tuners, I need faster, less crashy, and more apps. It sucks that I still need a Roku or Apple TV to run apps TiVo already hosts…

  3. Big Jim on TCF posted some details about the Broadcom BCM7425 which is the newer chip TiVo could use. http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?p=9514245#post9514245

    It actually raises an interesting option by Dan203. TiVo could scrap two tuner boxes and offer a 3 tuner model as a base. This would open up a spare tuner for use with the Mini for those who want a dedicated tuner rather than a dynamic tuner. They could then offer a 3/3 with OTA as the base model.

    I definitely hope like Dave said whatever chip they go with has better OTT support so the apps run as good if not better than even the new Roku.

  4. Numerous times over the last year or so there have been posters on TCF about Tivo abandoning OTA viewers. I would think this would indicate otherwise and that a forthcoming model will handle OTA as well.

  5. Josh, this very clearly indicates at least one new model will offer ATSC OTA tuning, so yeah this should please some. Although I wish my XL4/Elite also did OTA – when I periodically fantasize about cutting cable, I forget for a moment my TiVo doesn’t do OTA.

    Brennok, that’s the same chip used in the DISH Hopper 2 and has sufficient onboard trancoding capabilities to power the “Sling” branded placeshifting. We’ve talked about it a few times here since it was first announced in January 2012.

    As far as potential tuner counts, not sure. Also it’s possible higher/lower end units could be powered by different chips. But it may be more efficient to pick a single one and scale tuners/memory/etc up or down as needed.

    Which megazone still had time for and interest in TiVo blogging. This is the sort of topic he could help us work through the various permutations.

  6. My feeling is that TiVo missed the boat. Late 2013 will see the next generation of gaming consoles, and they will all come with rich media capabilities. Even if the new TiVo matches Roku’s feature set (which it almost certainly won’t) TiVo doesn’t have the clout to compete with Sony and particularly Microsoft to get streaming rights, and honestly doesn’t have a critical mass of high-end engineers or the investment in R&D to compete with their technology.

    And all that’s not even bringing up Apple, because nobody knows what they’re going to do, but it seems likely they’ll do something in 2013 too.

    TiVo needed to leverage being “input 1″ and offer a rich ecosystem to 3rd party developers. But they needed to do it 2 years ago, when being input 1 really meant something. It has meaning today, and it will tomorrow too, traditional cable TV viewing isn’t going away, but it’s less relevant every single year.

    TiVo waited so long that even if it comes up with something spectacular in Q3, that will likely put them in direct competition with the Xbox4. Will TiVo’s DVR foundation make it a more compelling choice over a cable company STB alongside an xbox4? Seems unlikely.

  7. My take on where all this goes is that Apple completely takes over via opening up the Apple TV to channel apps. You still pay a cable TV fee – so no need for Apple to license content, and happy (enough) cooperation from cable cos because they are not cut out of the revenue loop – but need no stb OR cablecard.

    Every channel you want (and $ubscribe to) becomes an app. HBOgo is a great example. Current content plus OD library content. Just put it, and the other 30-200 channels you like, on your ATV.

    Then there’s also a catchall app which serves as an integrated program guide/search proxy, gathering all the content from your installed channel apps. This is in addition to the existing comparable apps already offered by Cablevision and others.

    Finally, Apple offers coud storage to provide DVR like functionality. My $.02.

  8. Rumors are that the xbox4 has an HDMI in for passthrough, much like googletv, so it will be “input 1″ too.

  9. If one wants OTA, used TivoHDs w/ lifetime are available off ebay for around $300.

    The Tivo hardware is so underpowered I long ago went with a Roku for my OTT content.

  10. Glad to see someone woke up over at TiVo and decided OTA customers are still a market worth selling to. Maybe they looked over their viewer data and discovered that 85% of the programing viewers are recording and watching are on broadcast channels.

    As for the TiVo s5, I’d like to see the software raise the 2TB limit, and maybe even make the units physically bigger to house multiple HDDs.

    Optimally, I’d like to see a 2 drive system where the OS and the live buffered recordings are on a SSD, and a HDD would only spin up (and use power) when a program is being recoded or viewed. Also lhen leave room for a 3rd drive to be added.

  11. SSDs have limited lifespans and are not suited to DVR storage.

  12. @FrankM I don’t think anyone ever fell asleep over OTA. This has been discussed to death, but I will sum it up again. The tech behind OTA is outdated and not being developed at the same pace as clearqam tuners. As a result it is easier and cheaper to add more clearqam tuners than it is to add OTA tuners. http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?p=9309387#post9309387

    Per Jafa from Silicon Dust
    QAM for digital cable is almost the same world wide vs 8VSB which is a small market.

    As a result the chip companies are doing interesting things with QAM, nothing with 8VSB.

    The reception circuit required to do 4 channels of QAM set can now be done in with a single IC.
    The reception circuit required to do 4 channels of 8VSB sill requires 9 ICs, same as 5 years ago.

  13. That’s interesting, but as a consumer I’m not sure why I would care about that stuff. Are you even talking about a $10 price differential?

  14. It guaranteed costs considerably more than $10, especially after factoring in design and production. And anyway, the Premiere platform can’t support 8 total tuners (4 QAM, 4 OTA), so it literally couldn’t have happened no matter how much consumers complained. With a new generation, we’ll see what they come up with.

  15. “But more than tuners, I need faster, less crashy, and more apps. It sucks that I still need a Roku or Apple TV to run apps TiVo already hosts…”

    I must confess, I no longer subscribe to this line of reasoning, though I once did.

    Sure, the “one box” concept would be nice, no doubt, but CableCARD is a mature technology with a dramatically different replacement cycle than the very immature and rapidly evolving OTT, which is still in its Wild West days.

    TiVo could release a box that would have top-notch OTT capabilities on par with, or better than Roku. But a year later, the OTT parts would be obsolete, while the CableCARD part would still function perfectly.

    “One box” seems almost as much of a pipe-dream as the “Smart TV” concept. (And I say almost just because TiVo hardware is cheaper than big flat-panel hardware.)

    We’ve all got multiple HDMI inputs on our flat-panels. Use ‘em. You can replace your dirt cheap Roku every year. You replace your more expensive TiVo less often.

    “One box” would be a win for TiVo marketing, but I no longer think it’s a win for consumers.

    (And Dave, who now has two CableCARD boxes to take advantage of the overall niceness of the TiVo box along with the OnDemand of the FIOS box, is complaining that one of them doesn’t replace his Roku? Seriously, sane folks currently live in the age of multiple inputs. Dessert toppings and floor waxes are best kept as separate products…)

  16. Neither replace the Roku or Apple TV. Yet the FiOS box is mostly sufficient and more economical than TiVo (at least in the short term). Plus I calculate access to On Demand will save me at least $12 on Amazon Instant each month. Of course, there’s more to it than money. But it’s just a DVR. And I’m recording less content these days, in lieue of more live (!?) TV and OTT video.

  17. But isn’t alot of On Demand content from FiOS and Comcast still limited to stereo audio when the original broadcast cast was 5.1 audio?
    That is one reason why I stay away from cable companies On Demand offerings. As a last resort it’s fine, but I would rather get the content that looks and also sounds proper.

  18. Even if the OTT software of a Tivo becomes stale and/or obsolete after a year, there’s no reason that a software update couldn’t udpate to being more modern.

    Who is replacing their Roku or Apple TVs on a yearly basis? While the original Intel-based AppleTV is obsolete, the second generation one is updated to take advantage of the latest software, and there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be able to keep up with new updates for a while.

    Aside from the fact that Tivo either isn’t able to roll out software updates, there’s no reason that a platform could not be both a stable functional CableCard platform and also add new software and services in the same way as Roku or Apple TV.

  19. aaronwt,

    Well, all of the HD content I looked at from Comcast and Time Warner had 5.1 sound and that was years ago. Seems unlikely Verizon is any different. Of course that’s HD content, and the ratio of HD to SD content the last time I poked around my Comcast VOD menus was still pretty bad…

  20. @Radolpho,

    HDMI pass-thru? Really? If you believe that I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

    So many people had HDCP issues with the original Google TV box because of this, I can’t believe anybody else would do this again. Even Google doesn’t bother doing this anymore–there aren’t any HDMI pass-thru Google TV implementations on the market anymore.

  21. One device? I agree with Chucky, that boat has sailed. Get used to buying and using multiple devices.

    If people would just support HDMI-CEC so that my TV would switch inputs automatically, the tyranny of Input 1 would be less of an issue…

    Press TiVo button on remote…
    …TV switches to DVR input and you see the TiVo Menu
    AirPlay a photo from my iPhone to the Apple TV
    …TV switches to Apple TV input and I see my photo

    etc.

    I just want FASTER. My Elite (/4) doesn’t crash that much, its just unbearably slow. Its just like those old cable STBs I used to make fun of–I press a button on my TiVo remote and it takes so long to respond that I don’t know if it missed the keystroke or is just taking a while. So I press the key again, and end up going too far, etc.

    < 0.2 second response time to any key press please. That is all.

  22. Glenn, my Vizio Costar(s) are Google TV with HDMI pass-thru… I also have a Slingbox 500 on hand which does similar, but for different purposes.

  23. Glen, I’m only going by what my brother tells me about Comcast. He purchases alot of his HD content from Amazon instead of using comcast HD VOD because he says it is still mostly 2.0 for the audio instead of 5.1. For me, I have not checked FiOS VOD in a while, but it was the case a couple of years ago on FiOS too. FiOS wants too much for an HD box just to have access to their VOD content, so I have not used one in a while.

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