TiVo Prepping 4 Tuner HD DVR?

Dave Zatz —  April 14, 2011

4tuner-tivo

The new TiVo Advisors survey is far more interesting than most, spelling out a number of “potential products and features.” On the hardware front, two very specific devices are described:

  • A companion device for your DVR. It allows a second TV (in another room) to watch live TV (in HD) and also watch the recordings from your DVR.
  • A 4-tuner high-definition DVR that allows you to record up to 4 shows at one time (and watch a 5th show that is previously recorded).

If asked to prioritize the two, I’d probably split the difference – as an extender, with live TV capabilities, obviously complements a large capacity 4-tuner TiVo. Of course, we already know a non-DVR TiVo set-top and whole home streaming are in beta testing. But this could be the first time we’ve seen explicit mention of a 4 tuner DVR.

While there was no mention of TiVo actually completing the Premiere’s high definition user interface (HDUI), they do bring up quite a few possible software enhancements (see pic, below right). Two in particular that I’d appreciate:

  • From any one DVR in your home, view a single, integrated list of “all” the TV shows and movies that have been recorded on any DVR in the home.
  • For channels you receive in HD, automatically hide the standard definition versions from the onscreen program guide.

Again, we know some of this is coming. In fact, the sluggish but visually rich Discovery Bar was originally pitched to me as a sort of browser history and customizeable menu (in addition to featuring advertising and content suggestions):

In fact, power users can adjust the type and frequency of content – including pinning your favorite apps like Netflix.

…which sounds a lot like “customize a list of shortcuts to your favorite tasks”

It’s good to see TiVo thinking about these things. But, it’d be even better if they released them. And to retail customers. The TiVo Premiere has been shipping over a year, yet Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin TiVo is the only one with a complete HDUI. Which kinda puts things in perspective.

(Thanks, tipsters B and S!)

39 responses to TiVo Prepping 4 Tuner HD DVR?

  1. I weighted my responses toward the extender over the four tuner box. I’d love both but I could really use the extender more.

  2. Yeah, if I could only have one I’d take the extender. Well, two of the one. :) Not that I think the responses matter much – I assume the plan is the plan and they’re validating it while incidentally generating some interest.

  3. Sounds like they are trying to copy MOXI in a lot of areas. MOXI already has 3-tuner DVRs, integrated programming list for the whole house, separate “extender” boxes that allow you to watch live or recorded TV in other rooms

  4. Michael Burstin April 14, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I’ve love it if they could do that and get it distributed by Comcast or have some soft of VOD functionality. I’d love to dump the ComcasTivo box for a real Tivo in my bedroom for a real Tivo but don’t mind having the VOD for times when something gets screwed up in recording.

  5. I heavily weighed mine towards the 4 tuner box. I don’t have enough extra rooms I would watch in that would justify an extender over a 4 tuner unit and another Premiere which I already have.

    I was definitely also interested in the integrated list of shows along with better conflict options like sending conflicts to other TiVos with free tuners.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with Moxi. The cable companies are offering many of these features now.

  6. I’d rather have the 4 tuners. I have absolutely no need for an extender device.

  7. If I were TiVo, I’d send out a survey asking if folks want an 8 tuner box, with free extenders connected to an internal 4GB of storage, with a snappy UI that is makes simple things simple and complicated things possible, and that streams over the LAN or WAN to all your mobile devices, all for $99, with your entire cable programming bill tossed in for free.

    Then, everyone can get excited on the blogs.

    I’m a happy TiVo customer, but the rule with TiVo is never to believe it until it ships…

  8. Personally, I put a full 50 points on the “pick features you’d like, then weight them” into the “record upcoming sports events by team” option, then split the rest into the whole-home-dvr options (there were 2 or 3, iirc, that combined for that effect), and the “hide the damn sd version of my hd channel”.

  9. 1. Iphone/ipad streaming. Run it through AirVideo so you can at least host it.

    2. Finish the f**king interface.

    3. Turn off Discovery Bar

  10. There WAS a mention of completing the HDUI. I saw it as an option, and gave it 40 of 100 priority points.

  11. Jonathan, TiVo extender live television isn’t streamed from the hub like Moxi. Rather, it has its own CableCard slot. Generally speaking, I suspect Arris has abandoned Moxi retail development. Haven’t heard a peep from them in over a year and nothing to tell me at CES. Their Twitter account has been dead for 8 months, too.

    Michael, they’ve proven they can do back channel OnDemand. But it’s done through partnerships. Since TiVo already works with Comcast and their first (Motorola-based) initiative was a failure, perhaps they’ll go the Premiere route like Cox.

    But, as Chucky says, “the rule with TiVo is never to believe it until it ships…”

  12. I would only want “From any one DVR in your home, view a single, integrated list of “all” the TV shows and movies that have been recorded on any DVR in the home” if also when I chose the program I wanted to watch (and its on another tivo) that it start streaming to the tivo I am at.

    I received a similar survey with questions regarding whole-home streaming… but this is all just a huge waiting game the ends with a bigger let-down…

  13. I remember seeing threads asking about these exact features when I joined the old AVS tivo forum back in 2000 after buying my 14 hour series 1.

    So… yeah. They’re good features.

    Do I have confidence in TiVo’s development to do anything but find new ways to show me ads in exchange for my $15/month? Not so much. Do you? Really?

  14. Four-tuner DVR is certainly interesting and I doubt it’s that difficult to implement (Ceton is already doing it). Extender has more use for me personally, but not going to get overly excited about anything until TiVo announces/ships a product. Their progress is maddeningly glacial.

  15. I answered the survey this morning. On the hardware question, I weighted 60/40 towards the extender. It was tricky to divvy up 100 points on the page with all the options I liked.

    At the end, in the comment box I mentioned that I’d also like to see some progress in the next year actually shipping!

  16. I am more optimistic about the 4 tuner TiVo. I really think we might see it this year around September or November. As for the extender who knows. It really depends on how well they are able to implement streaming and issues that pop up along the way.

    The Virgin TiVo is a platform for testing and dealing with more than two tuners recording. The third tuner is active and I haven’t read of any issues so far. Now the hardware is slightly different but should be close enough to judge performance of a fourth tuner.

    They may also be going with a slightly better broadcom chip. I remember reading that to keep the energy star rating that TiVo would have to go with a new chip in either 2011 or 2012. I don’t know if this is limited by tuners though or just applies to DVRs in general.

    There is also no benefit to TiVo to release the 4 tuner TiVo prior to July. I believe July is when the FCC mandates tuning adapters supported a minimum of 4 tuners rather than 2.

    It will also be curious to see if we go get a universal My Shows list if they will add the ability to remote delete shows. They would almost have to and we know from the TiVo iPad app it is possible. Then again it is TiVo we are talking about so who knows.

    One big caveat is I hope if and when they implement streaming it doesn’t replace the current MRV. I would much rather transfer shows I can rather than deal with potential streaming issues.

  17. For me the extender is interesting but I’d need more information. If it has it’s OWN cablecard slot and tuner as has been discussed before on the blog, then that’d work for me. But I wouldn’t be willing to pay an additional monthly fee for it.

    But really, they’re gonna do both (4-tuner and extender).

    Normally I’d be all over the 4-tuner box, but I’m a little gun-shy to make any new commitments based on their inadequate support for existing products. It’s nice that they’re working on “the next thing”, but it’s gotten painful. I mean no offense to the programmers and project managers reading this. The blame is squarely with the beancounters underfunding them.

    Also, frankly, I hope there’s support for mpeg4 on the QAM tuners from now on. There’s some evidence of certain providers testing this route, and I don’t want to get stuck.

  18. Michael Burstin April 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    @David – I already do the sports team thing via a wishlist. I get all Steelers games via keyword STEELERS and Sports: Football or all Pens games via PENGUINS and Sports: Hockey.

  19. @Mike
    mpeg4 support is not a tuner functionality. With the hardware they have not the S3 and S4 Tivos ‘should’ be able to handle it. Who knows what state the software code is in to support it, but it shouldn’t be a hardware issue.

  20. One thing I never understood is why, in a network connected household, they didn’t treat multiple TiVos as one distributed system with a unified Season Pass, Wish List, and Now Playing list.

    So you only have 1 season pass list but it, and it’s recording capability, is spread across all TiVos in the household. If you have 3 things to record at one time then it just figures out: Oh, TiVo 1 is already using both tuners. Let’s record this one on TiVo 2.

    Perhaps an even better idea is to prioritized where the TiVo records shows but allow other TiVos in the house to pick up the slack.

    So, if you had two shows, one initiated to record in the living room and the other initiated to record in the master bedroom then they would each just record there but the Now Playing would be aware of all shows on all TiVos and integrate it seamlessly (figuring some time for transfer but real-time transfer/streaming would make more sense).

    If you had a similar situation but the living room TiVo was set to record 3 things at one time then it would start pinging the other TiVos in the house to see which is free to record the 3rd program.

    All of this is academic, though. I’ll never own another TiVo. Just seemed like it would be a huge win for them.

  21. Interesting, I recieved a different set of questions on mine this morning. The first page was the same, but the follow on questions were different. i wonder if they are tailoring the follow on questions based on earlier answers?

  22. Your tipsters really should have taken their screenshots BEFORE filling in the survey. If they submitted those answers TiVo should have no problem finding the matching response. The odds of someone else using the exact same numbers/selections are low (and they know it was a reply before your post too). Someone my find themselves uninvited from the panel.

    I always wonder if companies do clever things like play with the order of the questions, wording, styles, etc. Enough little changes in aggregate could make a screen capture uniquely identifiable. And it would be subtle and hard to catch, unlike just putting the name on the screen, etc., which is easy to notice and blank out.

    Anyway, I’d have to go about 65/35 in favor of the multi-room box. I rarely have a conflict of more than two shows, and when it happens one of them is nearly always on a cable channel and airing 3-4 hours later. So I don’t have a pressing need for more tuners. It’d be nice, and it does happen some of the time – and with my fiancée living with me now it is more likely to happen. But I’d really like to have a slave unit in the bedroom instead of my old S2, and I’d probably get another one for the front room where I don’t have any TiVo now, just because I could. (I didn’t really use that room, my fiancée uses it now for a kind of ‘office’ to do her grad school work and would like some TV in there.)

    A single M-Card supports up to six tuners. The real limitation today is Tuning Adapters, which have only supported two channels. Motorola’s TA has a firmware update to enable up to six channels, but Cisco/Scientific Atlanta’s TA still only does two. Late last year (October?) CableLabs updated the TA specifications to require a minimum of four channels, so Cisco should be updating at some point – though it may mean new HW if they can’t do it in firmware. Widespread ability to *use* four channels is key to TiVo bringing a box to market.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a four tuner box out by the end of the year. Remember, TiVo is developing hardware for RCN, Suddenlink, and Charter to use as their primary MSO-provided DVR. There is certainly pressure there to match offerings from other STB vendors, who have been moving to four tuners. A retail box would likely be the same HW, just as the Premiere is being used by RCN & Suddenlink (and soon Charter). Also keep in mind the Virgin Media TiVo has three tuners, all active, so TiVo already has software that handles more than two tuners. That hardware is made by Cisco, but the software is the larger part of the work.

    We already know the multi-room ‘slave’ box is in testing based on leaks from the beta program.

    As for Moxi – yeah, their last box had three tuners. But as Dave said, they seem to be dead now – no movement in over a year in any market segment. And that three tuner box has some fundamental flaws – no antenna support at all and, worse, no analog cable support! Most ‘digital cable’ services are *STILL* hybrid, not fully digital. You need an ‘Analog Tuner Accessory Kit’ – which is just a Hauppauge box they’re reselling. Oh, and even with the analog dongle you only get ONE analog channel at a time. So much for three tuners.

    Of course, if you’re provider uses SDV you’d better hope their TA supports three tuners too – i.e. it is a Motorola with newish firmware.

    But they bury all of this in the FAQ – how many people really know their ‘digital cable’ is hybrid? I think most people would expect a ‘digital cable’ product to work with their ‘digital cable’ without hidden gotchas.

    BradB – As for automatically using other units in the home, this has been discussed MANY times on TiVoCommunity.com and other forums, and there are actually a number of issues. If the other units were *truly* slave units, and *all* scheduling was controlled from the master, then it would probably be fairly simple. You still need to handle situations where a slave box becomes unavailable, but that’s pretty much the same as if the cable is out, etc.

    It is more complex if each box has their own SPs. Then you have to do a lot more work to de-conflict. Of course, until they have streaming it really won’t work at all. TiVo can’t transfer shows from one unit to another if they’re copy protected. They’re just not allowed to do it. So you can’t have the primary offloading recording to the secondary box if you can’t watch the show on the primary. You don’t want to request a recording on the main unit in the living room only to find you can only watch it in the bed room.

    Streaming should work around this as there is no ‘copy’ made – it is effectively the same as running a long A/V cable to the other room.

  23. “Your tipsters really should have taken their screenshots BEFORE filling in the survey. If they submitted those answers TiVo should have no problem finding the matching response.”

    Those were my responses… ;) While I did have two tipsters, one of which sent their own set of screenshots, I figured my answers would nicely illustrate my preferences. I checked in with TiVo PR last night and got a green light before proceeding, as I think the official policy is to not broadcast this info. Not only would the answers probably give me away, the sequence might as well, since I can confirm the long list is randomized.

  24. Ah, OK. :-)

    I thought the long list was randomized – which could be done to prevent order from influencing the data (people tend to be more attentive and thoughtful at the start of a list, less by the end – worse with length), or it could be a way to narrow down potential leaks if they know who got which order – or both.

    Oh, one thing, I don’t think the Virgin Media TiVo has the complete HD UI. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen comments online that some of the settings menus, etc, drop back to SD just like the Premiere.

    I still don’t think that’s a big deal, it isn’t the first gadget I’ve seen where the lesser used menus – setup, etc – aren’t as pretty as the main UI you use daily.

  25. I don’t actually care all that much about the HDUI, although it would certainly be nice if my TiVo was as pretty as an open-source project like XBMC.

    I do care about its terrible performance, general bugginess, waste of space on screen, and constant unending barrage of advertisements.

    As for properly distributing recording load and streaming across the network with multiple backends and frontends, mythtv solved that problem many years ago. TiVo would have been well-served working on a custom mythtv UI. Preferably not in frickin’ flash.

  26. Hmm may have to read your list closely again to see if you had different options than what I had.

    I read over everything and didn’t see a mention of some type of NDA for the survey. I know previously they had also asked about the various pricing options which they have since rolled out one of them $99/19.99 per month.

    I would love to see what other questions they asked. I wonder how much it would have changed some of my options.

  27. There are a number of little things I would like to be fixed or modernized, but things have been the way they are for so long, they’re probably overlooked by now.

    For one, I would like to have intelligent prioritizing. Lots of shows replay later in the night or rerun during the week. Do that adjusting for me, and just notify me if there is an unavoidable conflict and give me choices to resolve it. I don’t like having to tweak season passes and other recordings more than I have to, and double-check the to-do list just to make sure things will record. The Tivo is the recorder, the Tivo should figure it out.

    I would also like to see them fix their yellow status icons. Right now I have a handful of recordings that “will be deleted in the next 24 hours” even though there is zero threat of running out of space. My Premiere is only about 20% full and there are only 7 programs that will be recorded in the next 24 hours. There are 38 programs in the Recently Deleted list. In other words it’s not happening, but the threatening yellow icon with the exclamation point persists, and loses all meaning when my programs are in a perpetual warning state. I don’t know if the HDUI handles it any better, I’m not even going to go into that topic. ;)

  28. Complements, not compliments.

  29. Good catch, thanks. Although TiVo is probably in desperate need of some compliments. ;)

  30. @Mike I agree completely. For years I have been asking for a guided setup option for prioritizing season passes. TiVo knows when the shows are on so why can’t it help me in prioritizing them. My parents constantly ask me to reorganize their season passes when I visit since they still don’t get the best way to do it. Of course I never know when their shows are on so it is a chore.

    They could even add it just as something on the iPad App, the TiVo page, or TiVo Desktop. Of course I feel TiVo Desktop should include every option the iPad App offers if not more.

    Also, no the HDUI doesn’t do this any better that I can tell. Once something gets flagged it doesn’t change AFAIK. I think the only way it would change is if you change the save to date. I think it should be something that happens as part of the daily download where it reanalyzes your current to do list and My Show list to see what needs to change. It already does it one way so why can’t it reverse it.

  31. TiVo pisses me off. I bought the TiVo Series 3 and two TiVo HDs. They never released support for multi-stream cards for the Series 3. They never did a true HD interface for either the S3 or HD. Hell, even their newest offering isn’t fully baked. What the hell is wrong with this company that they can’t finish anything. In addition to fixing those issues, prior to releasing any new hardware, they need to:

    1) Fix the Netflix interface to be more TiVo-like. How about an instant skip back button. Surely they can buffer a few minutes of the movie rather than have us wait around for the service to restream it. They also need the ability to browse the Netflix library. Right now you can only choose what you’ve already added to your list. The also need to make the damned aspect ratio button work in Netflix. Right now you have to tune an SD channel and set it before playing your Netflix movie. Dumb.

    2) Fix multi-room viewing so that it’s a live stream so that it doesn’t run into the need to pay attention to the copy protection flags. Time Warner cable doesn’t let any cable channel stream copy from one unit to the other.

    3) Support the iPad application on the TiVo Series 3 and HD. People are not going to ditch their lifetime accounts on a house full of hardware because they withhold software features. I know the older hardware isn’t as advanced as the newer, but some of these features (an HD interface, live streaming) are obviously possible even on the S3 and HD units. I will never buy another TiVo device because TiVo has no regard for people who’ve spent thousands of dollars on their product and services.

  32. @Brian- I agree with a lot of what you said. I was an early adopter for the S3 and the lack of M-card support always annoyed me. If I remember correctly, they may not have promised that it was going to happen but they very strongly inferred that it was. I think that they eventually ended up rewriting the description of the M-Card in the S3, but I may be mistaken.

    I think that it’s too little, too late for Tivo on the hardware side of things. Not all of it is their fault, but a good deal is.

  33. How about them concentrating on their DirecTV relationship and getting a DirecTiVo box to market.

  34. They implied, you inferred.

    It is supposedly a hardware reason that the S3 can’t do multistream.

    Explain exactly how the TiVo could figure out conflicts by itself. I think it’s something like the traveling salesman problem. It could definitely give you HINTS, like put cable channel shows below network shows.

  35. One way I could see TiVo doing conflicts by itself, not that I really would want it to, is if it saw a show with repeats of the same episode recording and a conflict with no repeats not recording to override it. This would then record the show without repeats and schedule the episode for the next available repeat. If no available repeats could be recorded nothing would change.

    Personally I would rather see something just analyze your existing season pass list every time you run it. It would then prompt you to rate conflicts with options of only this time or always with always resulting in changing the order of shows.

  36. Brennok – The problem with that solution is that the data can change. Simple example – you have three shows S1, S2, S3, with that priority order. Data shows S1 & S3 are airing Monday at 20:00. S2 is airing Wednesday at 21:00. S1 is also airing Tuesday at 21:00.

    So the TiVo decides to record S3 on Monday, S1 on Tuesday, and S2 on Wednesday. Great! S3 gets recorded on Monday, no problem. Then the TiVo gets a guide data update – S1 is no longer airing on Tuesday, now it is airing on Wednesday at 21:00.

    What now? Do you bump S2 and record S1? That would be the new conflict. Do you record S2 and not S1 since it was ‘displaced’? Either way you now have a lower priority show recorded instead of a higher priority show. Which defeats the purpose of having priority settings in the first place.

    Maybe it doesn’t sound so bad with S1, S2, S3 – but if you have 100 Season Passes the permutations get worse, and if S100 bumps S2, someone is going to be pretty pissed off. And this doesn’t get into other failure modes – what if the later airing is dropped completely? Or your cable or power is out during the second airing?

    Delaying recording of a higher priority show in favor of a lower priority show increases the risk of not getting that higher priority show at all. It also makes the conflict resolution hard, if not impossible, for a human to understand. The more SPs you have, the harder it would be to know just which shows would record, and when, or why one thing recorded and not another.

    The cascading priority system is more foolproof and less complex for both machine and human.

    Now, I would like to see a better way to see and manage conflicts. I’m partial to a ‘calendar’ view myself – like Outlook, Google Calendar, etc. Where you see the days and each recording is an ‘appointment’ block. You’d see overlaps, and simple red/green coloring would indicate what will record and what will not. When you highlight a conflict it could show any other options for rescheduling the shows.

    Even this must have limits though – you can’t go too deep trying to find an optimal solution. You could have a new cascade of conflicts after shifting the first one, and you could be forever trying to find the optimal solution to recording the most shows.

    In the end it is easier to throw more tuners at the problem to eliminate conflicts.

  37. Answered mine as well. Like others I’m not expecting any of this stuff from Tivo. Ever. Will make me happier if any of it actually gets out the door.

    4 tuners? Would be nice, but don’t really care. Extender, sure but don’t really care.

    I’d rather they just got the Premiere working to the point where I might actually buy one. Or put a red f*cking dot on programs that are going to be recorded tonight when I flip up the guide. Or improve the performance a little. Or make a deal with Comcast so I can watch VOD content.

    But I do agree with @Mike above. Sorry Megazone, its kinda what I do manually anyway. Like you say maybe manual prompted conflict resolution would be the only way to really do this.

    As far as SDV, since Time Warner is the biggest deployer of this, and they have almost all Scientific Atlanta headends rather than Motorola, it mostly doesn’t matter if Motorola has their TA’s supporting 4 channels or not. Everybody out there who is on an SDV system will still be waiting for SA to get theirs out.

    I’m just thankful Comcast seems to have lost interest in SDV. Keeps me from worrying about this crap. Aside from tagging my Showtime recordings as ‘do not transfer’ I have very few problems with my Tivo HD’s on Comcast.

  38. Woo-hoo!

    Big court win for TiVo today. More money in the coffers to (hopefully) fund development.

    Go, TiVo lawyers, go!

  39. Oh Golly! Is this happening soon!! I am moving in August and I currently have Uverse which has the 4 tuner and I just about use them all as it is now! They aren’t in the new place I am moving to but directv is and tivo is working with directv! Is it even possible they will be ready when I move in August of 2011!?!