The TiVo Stream Is Pretty Killer

Dave Zatz —  August 29, 2012

tivo-stream

While you can’t get your hands on the TiVo Stream just yet, I have. And I can tell you it’s pretty killer. Of course, it helps to understand my perspective — This site exists because of my interest in mobile video, having launched with the TiVoToGo tutorials and leading to a stint with the Slingbox folks. So I’m all about watching television on my terms… which doesn’t always involve a TV.

The TiVo Stream ($130) is essentially a small network-connected companion box that relays video from a wired TiVo Premiere DVR to an iPad or iPhone. An (upcoming) update to the already highly functional and attractive TiVo iOS app enables Stream connectivity and playback — making for some seemless integration via new “Watch on iDevice” and “Download” buttons. And setup is pretty trivial… Once the Stream is hardwired, the iOS TiVo app will discover it on the network and prompt for a personal media access key to link everything up.

tivo-stream-connection

After configuration, merely clicking on a show from the guide or your bucket of DVR recordings brings up the ability to stream that content to your iPad. I found the 720p video streaming to be very smooth and of nice quality. So while Verizon has yet to deliver an app to stream my FiOS “cable” content around the home and providers like TWC don’t offer your full channel lineup, the TiVo Stream provides a CableLabs-blessed end-around to view all the programming I pay for in any room of my new house. Basically, my iPad is my TV. In the kitchen, in the bathroom, and in the garage.

In addition to streaming content, the Stream also enables video downloads to take on the road (or in the air). Unfortunately, only “copy freely” tagged digital cable (or OTA) shows can be moved to your iDevice. Which means HBO subscribers and TWC customers may not find the Stream quite as compelling. However, these are the same anti-consumer limitations that impact multi-room viewing and TiVoToGo. On FiOS and having foregone HBO, I don’t find myself limited. And it took me about 22 minutes to download a “high” quality 64 minute Breaking Bad episode. A “standard” quality recording (lower resolution, lesser bitrate) could be conceivably downloaded in less than 1/4 real-time. Although, as efficient as the transfers are, the app must remain open to continue downloading.

tivo-stream-food

In addition to controlling video playback via an iOS app scrub bar, TiVo has also kindly provided thirty second skip ahead and 8 second replay buttons – with corresponding swipe right/left gestures. Obviously, the experience is a smoother on downloaded, versus streamed, content as the Stream has to adjust on the fly. But it’s (mostly) quite polished given its duties, potentially transcoding and streaming four simultaneous streams. As to the “mostly”, I did encounter a few connectivity errors… running pre-release TiVo software on an unsupported version of iOS (v6b4). Pulling the plug on the Stream resolved them and I expect these anomalies to be ironed out in short order.

The TiVo Stream goes on sale next week, but you can probably order yours right now for $130, plus tax and possibly shipping. If you have an iPad and any variant of the TiVo Premiere, I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t. In terms of price, the Stream is equivalent to the Slingbox SOLO placeshifter — which streams content both within and beyond the home. Yet, for TiVo owners, the Stream experience is way more more unified and polished. And for you Android owners, TiVo tells me they’ve got something in the pipeline…

76 responses to The TiVo Stream Is Pretty Killer

  1. Hi Dave! Awesome to hear your positive impressions. I’m excited to get one. Can you check if the app has AirPlay support?

  2. Any comments on current or planned support with DirecTV’s new this year TiVo box?

  3. Couple of questions…Any word from TiVo if they will add support in TiVo Desktop? Also can you copy off the videos once transferred to the iPad? Since they are copy freely, it shouldn’t be an issue, but I know how much a pain the iPad can be to add and remove third party content. Also if you have transferred TiVo videos on your PC is the app able to play them now if you load them on the iPad?

  4. @Maddux he tweeted earlier no airplay support unfortunately.

    @MethodicJon I doubt it since I don’t believe you can stream. Does the iPad app even work with the DirecTiVo? If not then they would have to add that first.

  5. Maddux, No AirPlay, AirPlay Mirroring, or HDMI out. Further, the app will not run on jailbroken devices. I assume this is done to meet CableLabs requirements to protect the content.

    MethodicJon, no mention of DirecTV. And that’s based on the platform prior to the Premiere anyhow. However, TiVo does tell me their partners are interested in this solution. I imagine someone like RCN is evaluating this and Virgin has plans to do something with video playback via the iPad app.

    Brennok, I forgot to ask about TiVo Desktop. I kinda wonder if they even care about it these days… As far as the recordings, I believe everything is contained within the TiVo app and cannot be accessed. Even if you could get the content off, you might not be able to do anything with it.

  6. Unfortunately I agree about them probably not caring about TiVo Desktop. It just seems with the transfer times and needing to leave the app open transfer content is limited. I can’t see myself loading up the iPad before a trip since it would take too long.

    On the other hand, if I could fire up KMTTG/TiVo Desktop and queue everything so that all I needed was to sync the iPad, I could see myself doing it.

  7. Can you QUEUE up the download transfers, or must you do them manually, one at a time?

    I also expect tweaks from the jailbreak community to address the noted conflict. xCon to bypass the jailbreak detection, and Unrestrict Premium to enable AirPlay Mirroring.

  8. I’m assuming this will work with the cable company branded Tivos? Most of them are the newer models.

  9. So what happens if you leave the app while downloading? Do you need to start the download over or does it auto pause and resume?

  10. The 30SS and 8s replay buttons are pretty sweet.

    Looking forward to the 2013 TiVo supporting all that stuff natively, this is pretty clearly an interim solution.

  11. Jeff, partial downloads can be watched and/or when the Stream reconnects, the download will resume. I wish it could download in the background. I also wish audio could continue to play in the background as I’m streaming something, so I can check email or whatever but stay “tuned in.”

    Fofer, yes you can queue up multiple downloads. But you’ll want to plug the iPad in… ;)

  12. Dave, try xCon in cydia. It blocks apps from detecting that your iOS device is jailbroken.

    It might not work with the new tivo app, though/

  13. Regarding iOS background downloads, see http://downcastapp.com/help-ia/runningInBackground.html

    For iOS devices that support multitasking (iPhone 3Gs and later, iPod Touch 3rd Generation and later and all iPads), Downcast has the ability to run in the background for up to 10 minutes. This limitation is imposed by iOS on third party applications.

    Because of the limited amount of time that Downcast is allowed to run in the background, podcast feed refreshes and downloads (that were started in the foreground) can only continue for up to 10 minutes after moving to the background. Downcast cannot continue to refresh feeds and download new episodes unless it is in the foreground.

    Note: As of iOS 5, when your iOS device’s screen locks, it will send foreground applications to the background.

    Downcast is my podcast app on the iPad and it does a good job of keeping downloads going in the background until the 10 minute iOS limit kicks in and than it pops up an info message. It resumes the download after the app is re-launched. I think this is probably the best (only) thing TiVo could do in this situation.

  14. @Brennok @Dave Zatz
    Thanks guys. That stinks. And the no jailbreak requirement, while probably out of Tivo’s hands as you suggested, really kills it. I’ll probably still get one eventually, but it changes what I would use it for quite a bit.

    Thanks for all the info!

  15. Is there any estimate from TiVo about when Android support may land?

  16. That box is nice and small. It looks like it’s only a little larger than the Roku2 sitting next to it. I hope the TiVo Mini has a similar size.

    I need to wait to get a TiVo stream until they support Android products. Once they do I will pick one up from BestBuy.

  17. Maddux, like I pointed out earlier, give xCon a shot. If it doesn’t support the new tivo app yet (which is likely) it will in the future.

    http://theiphonewiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=XCon

  18. So, just to be clear, this WILL work with the 2 tuner Premier, right? If so, methinks me needs one!

    Also, we have 2 Premier boxes, will it see both, or do you need one for each TiVo?

    Thanks!

  19. Android support and VOD support for FIOS (not for onward streaming, just to eliminate cable boxes in the house) and I am a buyer of the 4 tuner model.

  20. I still think that the Slingbox concept is one of the best around. I only wish they and TiVo got together instead of Dish and Sling. Imagine if that pair had built a product. This device would have been “built in” to the TiVo and would work with almost any device, not just a iPad/iPod/iPhone/iWhatever.

    …and now to wait on the TiVo Mini IP-STB. Heck, might be a good device to combine with a Slingbox and avoid the flag issues again…if there are analog outs.

  21. This sounds awesome. As an Android developer, I run an iOS-free house. Once they update their Android tablet app to support this, I’ll definitely pony up $130.

  22. Will the update to the TiVo app on the ipad prevent the entire app from functioning on jailbroken devices or will only the streaming function be disabled?

  23. aaronwt, assuming the device enclosure isn’t changing, you can get an idea of what the TiVo Mini IP-STB looks like next to a TiVo remote from the Cable Show last spring:

    http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2012-05/tivo-stream-ip-stb-set-for-fall-launch/

    Miguel, yes this will work with the two-tuner Premiere and multiple units.

    Ellipse, for the more geeky and those with broader needs, yeah the Slingbox is more capable. Based on the pics from the Cable Show, (linked above) the TiVo Mini STB does have analog outputs.

    Rodalpho, I’m less interested in a jailbreak and more interested in setting up my own VPN and then streaming shows wherever I happen to be. Although this probably doesn’t adjust the stream the way Sling does. Will have to experiment over the coming weeks.

    Patrick, it’s my understanding that the updated app (expected in the iTunes App Store 9/5) will not work on a jailbroken device, whether you Stream or not.

  24. Wait… this does or does not allow you to steam over the internet as opposed to just when you are on the same network?

    if no internet streaming, then I think I’ll stick with the slingbox, even with its vastly inferior remote controlling and picture quality.

    Ok.. .well, maybe I’ll get one anyway, just because I love TiVo and I want to play, but still, I hope it can do internet streaming.

  25. I haven’t seen this answered in any reviews. Does streaming either a live or pre-recorded show interrupt what is currently playing on the TiVo? i.e. Can I watch one thing on the TiVo and another (either live or recorded) on the iDevice?

  26. @Scarymike: That’s right, it’s in your house only. Zatz is going to play around with a VPN to his house to see if it’ll work remotely. I imagine it will, but as discussed earlier, it won’t compensate for reduced bandwidth so while it will work, I doubt it’ll work well.

  27. scarymike, streaming is only on your home LAN.

    Michael, accessing content via iPad and Stream will not interfere with whatever is playing on the television.

  28. Dave, thanks for the quick response. So on a Premiere, I could theoretically watch one live show on a television and another on the iPad as long as nothing else is being recorded?

  29. Yep! The “live” with the Stream is more like “amost live” as a recording is triggered and after a few seconds of buffering, it begins to stream. This is probably one of the reasons they require the Premiere to be hardwired via Ethernet or MoCA.

  30. I’m curious about the ethernet requirement. I know the Stream doesn’t support Wifi, but if the TiVo and Stream are both connected to a switch which is bridged via wifi to a router, will that work? It seems like this would be 100% transparent to both the TiVo and the Stream, but the ethernet requirements sound very specific.

  31. It will work in that there’s no way for the tivo to know you did it. Will it actually work /well/ is the question.

  32. Terry, yeah – there’s no reason why that wouldn’t work. But there are bandwidth consideration which is presumably why TiVo set that “requirement.”

    RCN has commented. Sounds like they, and therefore other MSO partners of TiVo like Suddenlink, can enable/disable retail Streams and then offer or not offer it themselves. It also sounds like RCN would like to support the Stream but may prefer a more hands on approach to the solution – meaning you’d buy or rent it from them?

    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r27474100-TiVo-Stream-Chicago-Il#27474414

  33. FWIW the *current* version of the TiVo app doesn’t let me control my TiVo when I’m outside my own LAN. And this is, of course, even trying with the iPad’s VPN software to connect to my home VPN. (This workaround *does* allow me to watch live TV with Time Warner’s app outside my LAN.)

    So I’m not optimistic right now about being able to stream TiVo content to my iPad when I travel (without, say, a Slingbox) but I sure am curious to read/learn if anyone else has more success with this…

  34. How does this handle (2) Tivos? I have a Premiere and a Premiere XL in the house.

  35. Quick follow up… Does the download pause as soon as you exit the app or does it remain active for 10 minutes per the iOS backgrounding rules?

  36. “Terry, yeah – there’s no reason why that wouldn’t work. But there are bandwidth consideration which is presumably why TiVo set that “requirement.””

    That’s why I’m thinking of keeping the Stream and the TiVo connected to the same switch. I’m guessing that the main bandwidth consideration is between the TiVo and the Stream. But putting a TiVo Mini into the mix will probably require a network topology upgrade. Which of the TiVo boxes work natively as a MoCa bridge?

  37. @Fofer there is a thread on TCF where someone got VPN to work with TiVo to TiVo streaming so if you set it up the same it might work. http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?p=9255983#post9255983

  38. Here’s an idea, we should all setup VLANs for our TiVos, then build a giant VPN hub on Amazon EC3 so we can share our shows, ReplayTV-1999 style! Nerdvana here we come!

    … eh, maybe not.

  39. Brennok – that situation involves two hardware VPNs and two fixed locations. That’s not a reasonable use-case. Most of us would want to be able to stream video in random places (a friend’s house, or a hotel, or a coffee shop, or airport or whatever) and would accept having to use the software VPN client built into the iPad itself, to connect to our home network first. Expecting us to travel with (and connect) a hardware VPN everywhere we go just isn’t reasonable.

  40. @Fofer, gotcha. I didn’t look into it since at work but was just surprised to see someone get it working.

  41. Something similar was done for Cablevision live TV – not sure if something similar would work.

    This might be a nice solution sitting in a Hotel Room with wifi capabilities…

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1132519

  42. Yes, ScottB, that is precisely the template I followed in order to be able to trick TWCable’s live tv app into thinking I was on my home network. The same trick does NOT work with even the current version of the TiVo app (I’ve tried.) It refuses to “see” the TiVo and therefore can’t control it.

  43. yeah – I came home and setup a quick VPN service on my WHS… No joy, seems that not unlike TiVo’s themselves, the TiVo ipad app will only work from within the network.

  44. Thanks for the report and all the Q&A Dave. Still not sure I’m going to buy one, but anything that shows TiVo is still alive and kicking is good regardless.

    I still don’t quite understand. Does this use a tuner on my Premiere? It must right? And that tuner is only used temporarily while I watch something live?

    If so, then I don’t quite get why they did what they did with the IP STB, e.g. requiring it to be bonded to a particular tuner, making that tuner unavailable regardless of whether the IP STB is currently turned on or not. Seems like they’ve got it all figured out already for the Stream…

  45. Hi Dave,

    I have many questions… hopefully you have the time to answer them….

    1) exactly what needs to be hard wired? Just e stream? Or the TiVo also? If its the TiVo, will a power line Ethernet adaptor work?

    2) see Glenn’s post above e (#44) – he nailed that question!

    3) how does it work with multiple iOS devices and multiple tivo’s? We are currently a 7 ios device / 3 premiere family…

    4) what us Moca? I ow it’s a networking protocol – but how do I use it?

    5) how large are the transferred files?

    Thanks!!!!!!

  46. I’d like to know the above questions as well. More specifically, do you hardware this to your TiVo or to your WiFi router?

  47. TiVo Stream Spotlight posted on YouTube

  48. Jeff, I’m pretty sure downloads stop as soon as I exit the app.

    Terry, the Premiere Elite/XL4 and Premiere 4 have MoCA capabilities, including bridging.

    Glenn, “live” TV isn’t truly live. When you select a show, the Premiere will essentially initiate a recording and that is what’s steamed. So it’s a couple seconds behind real time and obviously has to co-opt a tuner. I assume with the Mini IP-STB they want *some* video playing when you turn on your television which is why they’d lock it to a tuner.

    Jon, TiVo requires both the Premiere and Stream to be hardwired to your network. Of course, we can probably get around that with bridges – but it could impact our performance.

    Multiple iOS devices can access the Stream and the Stream is theoretically capable of pushing four streams simultaneously (of different stuff). To access different Premieres, you’d select it from the drop down in the app as you do now. But it’d be nicer to have a unified Now Playing listing.

    MoCA essentially sends IP traffic over your coaxial cable. Some Premieres have this built in and I’m also pushing MoCA via my Verizon FiOS router.

    As to file sizes of downloads, it depends on the length of your show and quality you select (“high” which is 720p @ 2 megabits or “standard” which is a lower res specific to iDevice like 540p @ 1megabit). My 64 minute Breaking Bad episode at high quality was 1.1GB.

    Andrew, you’d want the Premiere and Stream both plugged into your WiFi router (or similar gear).

  49. This will be a killer feature when it’s built into the new 2013 hardware.

  50. @Rodalpho if it is, I’d think that’d be shocking to say in the least. This box is supposed to be an accessory to your TiVo. Think about it, they still haven’t built WiFi in the boxes yet!

  51. btw dave, we really appreciate your answers!

  52. the fact that it won’t download copyrighted shows to my ipad because I have Bright House makes it worthless to me. I can already transfer non copyrighted shows to my ipad using otivo to go and pavtube

    I actually had one on order until I found this out and cancelled

    thanks Bright House

  53. Yeah, I have time-warner and it sucks. But that’s not TiVo’s fault.

  54. the fact that it won’t download copyrighted shows to my ipad because I have Bright House makes it worthless to me. I can already transfer non copyrighted shows to my ipad using otivo to go and pavtube

    It depends on your use case. I’m also on BHN in Tampa and I really see myself using the Stream mostly as a 3rd TV screen on the porch, in the bathroom (TMI), or while I’m sitting on the computer reading ZNF as a background television device.

  55. yeah, if I want to load files onto the ipad for travel, I use AVplayerHD to play files I acquired… ahem.. elsewhere.

    So this would mostly be a 3rd screen option. Admittedly, I’d love to be able to stream outside of the home network, but I guess my slingbox will still have to fill that role. Its a rare need (for me) anyway.

  56. Will there be any support for streaming to a laptop computer on your home network?

  57. As far as I know there are no plans at this time to integrate TiVo Desktop or otherwise stream video to a computer.

  58. Thanks for answering all my questions Dave. I have a follow up… (multi part but same theory)

    So when it “initiate[s] a recording and that is what’s steamed” – what happens if the TiVo is recording on all tuners? Is it unavailable?

    What about if it only has one tuner available and someone else in the house is watching live tv on it… Do you essentially hijack their tuner and potentially change their channel?

    What if you have a 2 tuner unit… and two iPads both stream different live content from it… What happens if a recording is scheduled?

  59. Also, will a powerline Ethernet adaptor work instead of directly wiring devices?

  60. Jon,

    The stream has a regular Ethernet connection. Your Premier can be hooked up via Ethernet or MoCA or Wi-Fi. The two must be connected to each other somehow. If you use a powerline Ethernet adapter and plug the Stream into that, then there has to be a powerline adapter in the other room with the Premiere box in it that has its Ethernet cable connected to it. Or a series of Ethernet bridges or whatever. The two have to be able to see each other. That’s all. In my home I use a combination of MoCA and powerline to connect things and it works fine.

  61. @Jon brings up some interesting edge cases, any idea what happens in those situations Dave?

  62. Great idea, but another box? Uggh. Why not integrate this function into the next model of TiVo?

  63. Jon, Bakk, If the tuners are in use I believe you’ll see an alert like the false positive I snapped above about all tuners being in use. I’ll test this weekend before returning the Stream.

    Greg, a few months back TiVo alluded that is the plan… to integrate this into future DVR hardware. Of course, there could also be business reasons to keep it separate. It’ll be interesting to see the uptake. Not that TiVo actually shares specific breakdown of sales.

  64. Thanks Dave. Thinking a bit more, I guess the reason not to integrate it is to keep the cost of the main (Premiere) box as low as possible; adding more components would raise its cost.

  65. @Greg It also seems likely that many of their cable distributors wouldn’t want the feature enabled, so if they built it in they could be wasting money on a feature that might only be enabled in retail and certain accounts. That said, at some point the hardware required to do this will be cheap enough or integrated into other chips they’re already putting on the board that it’ll happen anyway.

  66. I don’t understand this product. So the content lives on the TiVo or goes through the TiVo over ethernet to this stream device. It then goes back through the ethernet to my Wifi and then to my iOS device. Why not just allow the iOS device to stream DIRECTLY from the TiVo? It seems like a lot of shipping bits around.

  67. bbock, the Tivo itself isn’t powerful enough to transcode mpeg2 video into h.264 video (something portable devices support). It’s actually a very computationally intense process, especially considering the Stream transcodes up to 4 HD videos simultaneously in real-time. That’s a lot of horsepower that the Tivo DVR lacks. Hence the Stream… But they have hinted at possibly building the ability into future boxes to remove the middleman.

  68. Didn’t TiVo purchase or partner with the company that owned the technology that the stream uses?

  69. Didn’t TiVo purchase or partner with the company that owned the technology that the stream uses?

    There was a PR put out by Zenverge after they were selected by TiVo. Its an interesting group of investors including Moto (Google) and Verizon.

    http://zenverge.com/company-investors.html

  70. Hope this hasn’t already been asked…. I have Time Warner and see that #52 & #53 imply I can’t download Time Warner shows. So is streaming possible with Time Warner?

  71. My understanding is streaming of copy protected content will work for any operator similar to MRS.

  72. The update is here!

  73. The app won’t work with a jailbroken device :(

  74. “The app won’t work with a jailbroken device “

    See post #5 above.

  75. Was so excited about how seamless the Stream set up and worked that I became a TiVo shareowner for the first time. The fully integrated Tivo App has been the best feauture of the Premiere platform and this takes it to a new level. Think one football game on your lap and one on the TV and switching back and forth with ease. Hopefully, the Virgin experience takes off here in the states with a larger provider.

  76. If I have have multiple TiVo Premieres will I need multiple TiVo Streams, or can the TiVo Stream connect to multiple TiVos?