TiVo Coming To Roku?!

Dave Zatz —  January 15, 2014 — 26 Comments

From CES, The Digital Media Zone got their hands on some very interesting screengrabs… showing what looks to be a TiVo app running on Roku. No, not the full-fledged, cloud-based TiVo UI ported by ActiveVideo that we filmed at the Cable Show. Rather, this sports a more traditional Roku interface that appears to replicate TiVo Mini functionality in piping both live and recorded content to another television. However, given what I know of Roku’s platform, I’d imagine the technology at play is more akin to TiVo’s iOS apps in requiring a TiVo Roamio or Stream to transcode the content into something a bit more efficient than the raw MPEG2 that TiVo DVRs record. This would be a huge win for customers, such as myself, even though a service fee isn’t out of the question for the virtual client, as seen with DirecTV and DISH. Stay tuned?

Update: As Takeagabu points out in the comments, the Roku channel may just be an endpoint for TiVo’s network DVR to be offered by cable companies and not necessarily an option made available to retail customers. I know I’d pay for it…

26 responses to TiVo Coming To Roku?!

  1. We’re an urban single-teevee household, but if we had multiple teevees, I’d go with a Mini over this scheme. PQ matters a lot to me in the lean-back, even if it doesn’t matter to everyone. I’m more than willing to pay more for good PQ. Same reason I use a Mac Mini to be my Plex client rather than transcoding to the Roku Plex client. Transcoding really sucks for the lean-back user. And if you think you’re wisely pinching pennies with this scheme, consider how much you’re paying monthly for that cable sub…

    (Of course, if you have a genuinely tiny teevee in your kitchen, the equation could be different. But even when you start getting up to and above reasonably small 32″ teevees, I’d still rather pay for the Mini. The PQ difference will be quite noticeable. The only real use-case scenario that makes sense to me is if you have a vacation home or travel a lot, and if this scheme works outside the LAN, then it could be sensible.)

  2. /subscribed/
    Could this be the end of the Mini, or will the Roku Channel be of lesser functionality? I hope the former.
    Being dependent upon the Stream or Roamio Pro/Plus is not a negative IMO, but a monthly cost for the Channel would, let me buy it for a once off $50 fee (though this is Tivo, so $99 is probably more realistic) for all the Rokus on my account.

    With that said, Tivo is becoming less relevant in our house. We dropped cable a long time ago, and have been OTA with a Premiere for a while, but the vast majority of TV viewing is via Netflix or Amazon Prime through a Roku.

  3. “We dropped cable a long time ago, and have been OTA with a Premiere for a while, but the vast majority of TV viewing is via Netflix or Amazon Prime”

    IMHO, that’s another sensible use-case scenario for this scheme. If you’re not watching much off your TiVo, being a cheapie here starts to make sense.

  4. That, but for Apple TV, would make me very happy. I’ve resorted to watching TV in other rooms via (iPad + TiVo Stream + TiVo iPad App) instead of (TV + WDTV+Slingplayer app) because of the utter unreliability at every level of the latter.

  5. Why does College Football only get half a star?

  6. “Why does College Football only get half a star?”

    Cuz only Southerners and Midwesterners care about the thang. Plus TiVo is correctly editorializing about the unpaid labor and long-lasting physical and mental harm to the unpaid labor issues. Half a star seems a bit high to me.

    Civilized folks watch the NBA instead, of course, which TiVo should rate highly.

  7. Wow….This is pretty cool. I have actually be considering moving away from TiVo. I have 2 tivoHDs and they are getting long in the tooth. This may draw me back in.

  8. This is really interesting…

    I agree that this would most likely leverage the Stream infrastructure as opposed to MRS as the Mini does. With that there is not a “technical” reson why you couldn’t use this in an OOH capacity – but doubtful that would be allowed.

    While I wouldn’t use this for a primary TV based on the limitations of the Stream, I definitely could see using this for a tertiary TV that doesn’t get a lot of use.

    I also disagree that this would be the death of the Mini (if my usability assumptions are correct), I actually see this as a draw for new customers and a feeder for Mini upgrades.

  9. Wasn’t this just an example of what the cloud dvr could do? I highly doubt regular consumers will see this.

  10. No, the MSO TiVo cloud DVR is different (with different screenshots), with recordings living in the cloud on TiVo (or their partners) servers. I imagine this Roku solution could apply equally to retail and MSO TiVo subscribers.

  11. Just realized that the CCI flag would put a big crimp in this scheme for many users, no?

  12. Using the Stream, would also free them of the hardwired requirement that the Mini has. Remember all but the top end Roku are wifi only, and it would be strange to tie a Roku Channel to having to use a wired connection.

  13. From the other things I read on this, I was under the impression that it was just an example of ways that those MSOs can have their users access the cloud dvr.

  14. Chucky, good point. But with the DVR and the Roku on the same LAN, they would probably choose not to restrict access. (I believe that’s how the iOS currently works.) Who knows.

    Takeagabu, if you read other stuff on a TiVo Roku app, please point me to it. DMZ is the first I’ve seen, but obviously there was a ton of news flowing out of CES… and I missed most. As a retail customer, I’m hoping you’re wrong. :)

  15. http://www.engadget.com/2014/01/07/tivo-network-dvr-prototype/

    “Dubbed NDVR for short, the preview images show how viewers could get their TiVo on an iPad or via Roku, manage program recordings, see what’s on and, if necessary, buy more storage space in the cloud.”

  16. Damn. But thank you. Will add a note to the post.

  17. @Chucky I have never noticed the transcoding in Plex on Roku to look poor. I have a 58″ Plasma and the picture looks great. I upped my settings in Plex so maybe that has something to do with it, but they look very close to the original TiVo recording on FiOS. It looks no different to the PyTiVo pushed content that I have seen. Maybe it is just what I watch though when I use Plex.

  18. The driving force behind the 3rd party app support is TiVo’s MSO partners. I could see TiVo supporting this as an alternative to the TiVo Mini with a service fee required for retail users. TiVo doesn’t care if a user accesses its services via TiVo hardware or 3rd party hardware as long as they collect recurring subscription revenue. The TiVo Mini hardware is essentially being sold at close to break-even or slightly subsidized.

  19. Thru unofficial channels I’ve been informed TiVo may not developing a Roku app. So either these were Photoshopped and distributed to press on the off chance that some day down the line they might decide to build it and seek coverage at the same time corporate email is down… or maybe they’re just not ready to acknowledge their plans. Either way, with TiVo (and most companies), purchasing decisions should be made based on what’s available versus what might one day appear. Although I nearly slipped and purchased a TiVo Stream after posting this. Hope it comes to fruition (and for retail).

  20. If TiVo was developing a Roku app, it would probably take several years until it was finished. So there would be nothing anytime soon.

  21. Just thinking out loud… could someone who is knowledgeable about Tivo’s APIs as well as Roku app development comment on whether it would be possible for a third party to develop a Roku app that streams from a Tivo? I realize that I’m probably dreaming here, but I can’t resist asking.

  22. Roku doesn’t natively support MPEG2 streams, so anything it streamed would have to be transcoded to h264. Roku could probably stream the output of a TiVo Stream, but as far as I know the api of the stream has not been released (or reversed engineered). In addition there is probably some encryption going on that it is unknown whether the Roku could support. I don’t have a TiVo Stream (or compatiable dvr) to do any research on this though.

  23. I’d say reverse engineering TiVo streaming would be extremely difficult and there’s probably not a large enough pool of interested and skilled people (compared to say iPhone jailbreaks or Android rooting and such). Then again, TiVoToGo’s encryption scheme was busted a few years back… A more timely bet available today is kmtgg to offload TiVo recordings and Plex to make it available to Roku. No live TV, and not real time.

  24. Either way, with TiVo (and most companies), purchasing decisions should be made based on what’s available versus what might one day appear.

    So true. So often priorities change, or time lines slip. Buying a product based on a future feature being added is always a risk.

  25. There actually is (was?) a Plex plugin to stream directly from TiVo. It was OSX only but I did some modifications to get it to work on Windows. Unfortunately my TiVoHD was never fast enough to stream realtime HD so I never pursued it. And there is the fact that the transcoding never worked so Roku wouldn’t be an option. SD videos played fine in Plex Media Center on my computer though.

  26. The Lundy family has currently been on the road for three years now so they have plenty of experiences to share. You completely need to be more creative and engage in the passion on it.

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