TiVo Mantis OTA DVR Slated for a CES Reveal

Dave Zatz —  September 6, 2016

tivo-mantis-ota

While TiVo has seemingly given up on Aereo branding and an OTA-only Bolt, they’ve clearly still got eyes on the cord cutting contingent… as a TiVo Mantis has just passed thru the FCC:

TThe TiVO Inc. model TCD84A000 (Mantis) is a network DVR that is designed to receive OTA broadcast video and transcodes and send it out as a network stream either wired or wireless. The EUT incorporates an 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac transceiver.

Based on the description and limited ports (of Ethernet and USB) in its 5″ x 5″ x 1.5″ enclosure, the Mantis is more a headless Tablo or HDHomeRun-esque solution than a traditional DVR… as it lacks video output. Given the “transcode” I’ll go ahead and assume TiVo is working on Roku, Apple TV, and Fire TV clients vs forcing folks into a TiVo Mini. Whether or not DVR storage is integrated, vs the competition’s bring-your-own-drive, remains to be seen. As does tuner count (I’d guess dual) along with pricing and associated fees.

In any event, the Mantis and TiVo’s “New Way To TV” appear to have been pushed into 2017 (presumably given the Rovi guide transition) as TiVo CMO Ira Bahr foreshadows:

In order to grow, we definitely want to break the trajectory of traditional DVR. We do expect to announce something around CES in January though I don’t think we’re going to try to compete with the streamers directly.

(Thanks BigJimOutlaw, Elias!)

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28 responses to TiVo Mantis OTA DVR Slated for a CES Reveal

  1. Is this the first legit competition for the HDHomeRun OTA space? Might work out pretty nicely what with the Plex DVR functionality.

  2. Is it like a sling box?

  3. Any chance that, in addition to OTA and OTT content, they also attempt to provide their own streaming service a’la SlingTV (or what was rumored to be attempted by Apple at one point)? Or would that be TiVo suicide by competing with their broadcast partners in the cable industry?

    I’m still not ready to be a cord cutter, but the idea of possibly leveraging AppleTV as a receiving source of content (without using the clumsy AirPlay function from an iOS device) would be interesting.

  4. I wonder if it outputs MPEG4 and deinterlaces? if it dies it do both it will work wirelessly and play on a device as cheap as FireTV stick.

    I doubt Roku is possible. That requires a different video format, but I guess it’s possible.

  5. Bricketh, I doubt TiVo would attempt a Sling TV service. In fact, I think the CMO said it was off the table in the recent Q&A.

    BJP, this looks like Tablo which does have some Slingbox capabilities. Basically, the tuners sit on your network and other devices, like a smartphone or small set-top access the live or recorded TV content. Unlike Tablo, I assume TiVo would include a hard drive to keep things simple.

    Dan, Tablo has a Roku channel and Channels did a prototype via HDHomeRun, so it’s possible. But TiVo is slow and overtaxed, so who knows. Notice one of the drawings says 2015…

  6. I would assume any TiVo Series 4-6 DVR could be a client along with a MIni, so it could also be away for people to add OTA to their existing setup. I also hope this is how TiVo addresses ATSC 3.0 at some point.

  7. Thank you Dave, I enjoy this blog a lot. This looks very much like Simple.TV which has been working just fine in my basement as a backup DVR (Windows Media Center is my main unit with XBOX 360 extenders). I know that many people had problems with it, hopefully Tivo solves loud fan/heat issues, which I don’t have. Got it at woot for ~$150 with a lifetime license. Added a second unit for $70 to get 4 tuners total. Works great with Roku, I would use it more if it recorded 5.1 sound, but it’s only stereo.
    When is ATSC 3.0 coming? There is very little info available on this and zatznotfunny is the only place that made me aware of it…

  8. atmusky, good call on the Mantis as an OTA sidecar. We’ll see if TiVo has the capacity to get it all done. I assume they’ll be re-using quite a few core technologies and approaches, so you’d think it’d a slam dunk. But, TiVo…

    Artur, I rarely mention Simple.TV as it’s been radio silence for a long, long while. I’m glad to hear yours are still operational. The second gen used Silicon Dust hardware and even their own transcoding HDHomeRun fan spins up pretty loudly at times. However, for comparison, Tablo doesn’t have that problem. Although the bottom sure does get warm.

    ATSC 3.0 is several years off. Not sure there’s a clear plan yet. Sadly, the spec is not backwards compatible. So we’ll see if and when it happens as currently designed. Converter boxes all over again!

  9. This is awesome, but I’d really like to see 2 models. One for ota that is cheaper and one for cablecard.

    A network cablecard Tuner with the recording engine and storage directly attached serving apps on various devices is my dream setup. Especially if it’s a TiVo using their interfaces. It’s gotta be cablecard though. Ota isn’t enough.

  10. I swear if this thing has a fan…. :-)

  11. I already have all that with my Bolts and Minis. They already work great. My Bolts can be OTA or use cable cards. And will stream content to my Minis.

  12. I have long hoped for a hub and spoke solution with CableCard support (only ready to be a cord shaver not a cord cutter). For my family, that needs to be the Apple TV as the single endpoint on all TVs. I purchased the TiVo Bolt with the hope that it would be the hub and release proper apps for the more popular streamers. Sadly, that has not happened. They seem to be insistent on being both the hub and the spoke with their minis which is a poor experience/strategy in my opinion.

    But there is hope. As of last week I setup HDHomeRun Prime w/CableCard and am using the new Plex DVR for recordings and Channels app for Live TV. I would like it to be a single app but at least this gets us to a central hub and single device (Apple TVs) on all televisions. Plex may add Live TV at some point and Channels is developing a DVR so we will see who can check both boxes first.

  13. I like the HDHomerun Prime but want a six tuner model. Wasn’t one supposed to be coming to market? Whatever happened to that? The TiVo Roamio Pro has spoiled me with it’s six tuners. I’m also waiting for the Channels DVR to hit the market to use with the AppleTV 4. It looks good.

  14. CableCARD is a dying technology as is the “Unlock the Box” proposal… as soon as the cable industry and FCC agree upon their app-centric approach, expect CableCARD to be sunset. It’ll be many years, but I doubt anyone is going to design brand new products on the spec.

  15. If this thing is an OTA sidecar, I hope that it will be able to add OTA tuners to existing OTA devices and not just non-OTA devices. Would be nice to have additional tuners available.

  16. We know how fast the Cable industry moves, lol. While Cable Card might be dying in the future it will still be around 10 years from now (sure maybe not many households will have it by then but they are not going away anytime soon, my parents will be using Comcast Xfinity boxes still, I gave up on selling them on Tivo, I still mention it every other time though) I think Tivo should gives us the Bolt Plus or whatever they want to call it with all the bells and whistles we like and make it future proof as much as possible. Cable card is the necessary evil for now, and once FCC and Cable Companies come to an agreement on how to move past Cable Card then Tivo can wow us with new Hardware in 2017 or in 2018 if decision is not made by then. Like @aaronwt said I am perfectly happy with my Tivo Roamio and Tivo Mini and small list of things I would like to get in my next Tivo won’t necessarily persuade me to upgrade this year, unless Tivo’s offering is really worth it. But who knows maybe Tivo can surprise me and take my $$$ again ;-) like that have 4 other times or is it 5 now.

  17. For a lot of cord-cutters like me, TiVo could just never be the satisfactory one-box solution because of their inferior streaming apps, both in selection and performance. And there are already so many streaming boxes from Roku, Apple, etc. already sold and used by cord-cutters are their regular TV interface. So a product like this TiVo Mantis makes sense. Like Tablo does, rather than try to displace streaming boxes, TiVo should just act as an OTA DVR server for them. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

    This could do pretty well for TiVo if they design solid apps for enough streaming devices and also get the pricing right. It should either come with no additional fees or have a monthly service/program guide fee of $5 max, as that’s what Tablo charges and also what a Plex Pass (which includes the beta Plex DVR service) costs.

    I’d prefer this kind of solution to support a range of external hard drives (USB 3.0) to give me more choice in that area. Hopefully it allows the user to control transcoding too. If the devices I’m using to watch content streamed from the Mantis can all decode OTA TV in its native 1080i and 720p MPEG-2 formats, then I’d prefer to avoid transcoding since that can possibly degrade the picture and cause a delay in changing channels.

  18. Tivo is in the process of being acquired by Rovi, who provides guides for cable. Rovi recently told investors that it doesn’t want to sell hardware to consumers. Most likely scenario is that there will be no more Tivo hardware wowing consumers in the next few years. Rovi will probably integrate Tivo’s interface, personalization, and user data with its own guide services that it sells/licenses to cable companies etc. It will charge cable companies more for a better product, and cable will then raise prices even more. If we’re lucky, support for old Tivo hardware will continue for a few years on grandfathered pricing.

  19. I think you can consider this just a Stand Alone OTA TiVo Stream with it’s own tuners..

    They will extend the Amazon Fire App for multiple streaming boxes and of course work with the mobile (IOS / Android) apps. I highly doubt this will be a full TiVo UI.

    No reason why our full TiVo’s with stream can’t benefit from the extended ecosystem, but no need for someone with a full Tivo to own this box.

    It would be a lot cheaper for TiVo to manufacture and support, thus it should be a lot less expensive.

    I do hope it simply allows you to choose a network location – that should not be a problem for OTA content…

    Kudos to TiVo on this one…

  20. What prevents Tivo from offering a similar box that works like the Series 2, taking output from a cable or satellite box, transcoding that, and offering recordings as a network stream?

    As a satellite customer that Tivo abandoned after Series 2, I’ve had no Tivo options since. A couple of years back, I made similar inquiry on this site and was told that hardware was not capable of doing the HD transcoding. It seems that that is no longer true…

    The old IR-blaster method for controlling the Cable/sat boxes isn’t technically sexy, but it does work.

  21. The TiVo can’t transcode, but the stream can. No suspect the biggest issue with your suggestion would be DRM issues limiting the channels available to the TiVo. I also think the market is pretty small.

  22. ” I also think the market is pretty small.”

    I don’t see all satellite subscribers as a small market….

  23. Scott, more than just a Stream with tuners as they’re calling it a “DVR” – so storage too.

    Bud, nothing to prevent it other than consumer complexity is high and the audience is too small to make a business case. Although Bradleys brings up a good point – you’d only be able to get HD over component, not HDMI … and many set-tops are HDMI-only these days specifically to prevent privacy (in a misguided approach). Real-time consumer HD transcoding is not a problem. Hasn’t been since the Slingbox Pro HD in 2008.

  24. [i]”Bud September 7, 2016 at 5:49 pm
    What prevents Tivo from offering a similar box that works like the Series 2, taking output from a cable or satellite box, transcoding that, and offering recordings as a network stream?”[/i]

    @Bud,

    What you’re describing is basically a Slingbox. Have you researched those at all?

    DirecTV did indeed come out with a DirecTiVo unit, most equivalent to the Series 3. The THR-22, which it still listed on its website last time I checked. I have an owned one (no contract extension) hardly used that I’m selling. It’s good for one receiver households sicne it isn’t whole home capable like they’re newer DVRs like the Genie.

  25. Getting rid of HDMI for Bluetooth headphones shows some serious courage on TiVo’s part.

  26. Dave,

    I don’t see much complexity – same as the old Tivos – an IR blaster to control the sat box and component input to the Tivo. Pretty simple. I have the latest DIsh Network equipment (Hopper & Joey) and they have component output, which gets around DRM.

    As for demand – it’s the whole universe of satellite users. Tivo seems to have limited it’s potential customer base to cable only.

    Tivo needs a product that they can offer to satellite users, without involving Dish or DirectTV, who don’t want to play ball with Tivo. I’d then cut back to a single satellite box and use Tivo to record and/or watch on multiple TVs.

    All I want is the Tivo user interface. For some incomprehensible reason, satellite companies cannot seem to make a decent user interface. I switch back and forth between DTV and Dish every 2 years to get new equipment (and a big discount). Their UI’s suck less over time, but still are pretty lame.

  27. You don’t see the complexity or limited demand, but the guys at TiVo during the prior era suggested IR blasting was their most significant support expense. So many don’t want to pay for a single box, what percent (in THIS era of cord cutting and online streamer) are willing to pay for two?

    I agree DISH and DirecTV interface presentations are mostly inferior. However, in terms of functionality, Hopper with Sling is pretty damn good.

  28. Dave,

    Hopper UI is OK in most respects, yet nowhere as easy to use or as functionally complete as Tivo. Hopper search is sadly lacking – not finding a lot of programming that it should. I have a number of shows that I simply cannot get hopper search to find, causing me to set them to record using the program guide. Simple things like “show upcoming episodes” of a series set to record are missing.

    Tivo’s support level for IR blasters was due to their poor design. A much more reliable IR transmitter is easy to do.

    Abandoning half of their potential customer base is among the causes of Tivo’s demise. Running a company based on chasing patent lawsuits is a long-term losing strategy. This latest approach of using a network steam to deliver content is a good one, but may be too late, after Sling & others have a head start. Imagine if Sling were to decide to add recording capabilities…