Trying to reinvigorate declining retail sales, TiVo is adding Slingbox-like features to the latest refresh of its DVR line to stream live TV and recordings to mobile devices — both in and out of the home — and has boosted capacity of top-end models to let TV buffs watch or record up to six shows at once.
Starting this fall, the two higher-end TiVo Roamio models will activate out-of-home streaming to let users stream TV and recorded shows to Apple iPads or iPhones. “It’s access to your content everywhere,” said Jim Denney, TiVo’s veep of product management.
Previously, TiVo provided only in-home access to live TV and DVR recordings through the external Stream box. Now the mobile-streaming is baked into the Roamio DVRs, and expands to access outside the home over any Internet connection.
However, the new DVRs don’t provide TV Everywhere in all cases: The streaming feature is restricted based on flags set by programmers. According to TiVo, not all content can be streamed out of home and some programming may only be streamed while a mobile device is on the same local Wi-Fi network as the subscriber’s DVR.
By blocking TV content flagged as “do not copy” from streaming to mobile devices, TiVo is hoping to avoid legal entanglements with programmers that want to promote their own TV Everywhere services such as HBO Go. Dish Network’s Slingbox tech has raised the hackles of some content owners: Fox Broadcasting recently asked a federal court to force Dish to disable the Sling-enabled features of the Hopper DVR (a request that was denied).
TiVo pioneered the DVR category but has seen its installed base shrink as consumers have shifted to DVRs from cable and satellite operators. Company had about 1 million retail DVR subscribers as of April 30 — down from a peak of 4.4 million in 2006. Meanwhile, TiVo DVRs distribbed through cable operators climbed in the most recent quarter to 2.4 million, up 71% from the year earlier, thanks to expanded rollouts at the U.K.’s Virgin Media and other providers.
The new Roamio DVR series, TiVo’s fifth generation of devices, includes three models: baseline Roamio ($199.99 with four tuners and 500 gigabytes of storage for up to 75 hours of HD recording); TiVo Roamio Plus ($399.99 with six tuners and 1 terabyte of storage for up to 150 hours of HD); and TiVo Roamio Pro ($599.99, six tuners and 3 TB for up to 450 hours of HD).
In addition, TiVo has updated the software in the Mini multiroom DVR extender to include native Netflix streaming. Whereas Mini previously required a dedicated tuner on the primary DVR, it now uses dynamic tuner allocation so that the tuner isn’t tied up if the Mini is not in use.
The in- and out-of-home streaming content is encrypted with TiVoGuard digital rights management protection, which has been certified by CableLabs and major studios, according to Denney. It’s the same copy protection TiVo uses for multiroom DVR.
The Roamio DVRs incorporate a four-stream transcoding chip from Zenverge, which delivers variable bit rate MPEG-4 video to client devices 180 kilobits per second and 2 megabits per second depending on the available bandwidth.
The boxes include Broadcom multicore processors that boost performance an average of 1.7 times for faster browsing and searching, according to Denney. As a result, TiVo’s Roamios also launch the Netflix app much faster, he said: Whereas the previous Series 4 DVRs took up to 30 seconds to pull up Netflix screen, the latest models cut that to less than 10 seconds.
Other new features of the Roamio refresh: “What to Watch Now” content listings, first rolled out on its iPad app; new guide filters provide views based on criteria such as “movies” or “sports”; and a radio-frequency remote (instead of infrared) so that no line of sight is needed to control the DVRs.
TiVo Roamio DVRs are available to order starting Tuesday online at TiVo.com, Amazon.com or BestBuy.com; units will be in Best Buy stores “in the coming weeks,” company said. Customers must pay a monthly subscription fee of $14.99 per month; a “lifetime” membership fee is available for $500.