TiVo Tests Cloud DVR With Bolt

Dave Zatz —  December 5, 2016 — 31 Comments

tivo-bolt-cloud-dvr

Due to a number of fortuitous leaks, we know TiVo is pursuing cloud recording capabilities for retail devices. However, whereas the functionality seemed specific to upcoming Tablo-fighting Mavrik hardware, a Bolt owner inadvertently received the notification above — suggesting testing is underway. It remains to be seen how much such a service might run and if offloading cable television programming will be permissible, versus over-the-air content. However, with Bolt presumably now on the docket, it’s safe to assume Roamio would be entitled to similar capabilities… whenever TiVo gets around to deployment.

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31 responses to TiVo Tests Cloud DVR With Bolt

  1. Is there really a market for this? I know Aereo was popular but I always assumed it was popular because of cost & not needing to setup an antenna, not because people wanted to watch TV shows everywhere they go. I’ve always figured those few users were (mostly) content with streaming services or out of home streaming technology…

    As a user who’s exclusively watching at home I would like to see efforts put elsewhere!

  2. I guess many people have good enough Internet to make cloud storage work, but I sure hope they are not planning on getting rid of traditional DVRs and local storage anytime soon as some of us do not have Internet upload speeds that can handle it.

    Regarding the upcoming Mavrick Network attached OTA DVR, I really don’t see why a typical OTA user/cord cutter would want to pay for cloud storage when USB attached local storage would be so cheap. Guess time will tell.

  3. Matthew, for the Marvik, I get it. For Bolt and Roamio, it seems superfluous. Unless they’ll use this mechanism to replace and rethink the flakey out-of-home streaming…

    atmusky, if TiVo provides a suitable local buffer, it may not be a problem irrespective of broadband speed. However, broadband caps would likely be a consideration for many. Related, IF this feature is also brought to Roamio, it’d almost certainly require a Stream or Roamio with stream capabilities (as in: not the Roamio OTA)… as there’s no way TiVo would attempt to do this with MPEG2 recordings (vs the more efficiently transcoded MPEG4).

  4. I would need to change my pants if it worked with either Sling, Vue, or DirecTV Now.

  5. This is where they concentrate resources? How about they give us Amazon 4K and VUDU 4K first!

  6. atmusky, if they architect this like the cable operators have attempted to do they won’t need to actually upload your recording, they’ll just have one copy in the cloud and everyone who records it will simply access that one copy. This might get complicated due to local commercials and such, but if they offer it with a “commercial-skipping” option they could sidestep the issue.

  7. Joe, You’re gonna be wearing those pants a long, long time is my guess…

    Zubin, app development/enhancement is largely driven by those services themselves. Given TiVo’s relatively small retail/consumer footprint, we’re likely not a top priority.

    Bill, They’d definitely end up in court if they use one shared recording… Each user will likely receive their own silo-ed storage.

  8. I’m a big fan of cloud DVR’s because they’ll be so much more reliable and user-friendly than hard drive DVR’s.

  9. I love my Bolt and Roamio, keep the cloud. I’m really happy that the last update fixed Spotify, which was previously unusable.

    John

  10. I don’t think consumers would share one recording, if only because of all the local commercials and such. However, if TiVo’s massive cloud storage system figures out a way to deduplicate files that happen to be identical, then that doesn’t run afoul of any legal issues, its just efficient IT operations. And since the bitstream is all digital anyways, the biggest difference between streams will be start/stop points.

    I don’t think I’d buy into it with my Roamio, but if I cut the cord, I think that a network-attached OTA DVR would be pretty great.

  11. “However, if TiVo’s massive cloud storage system figures out a way to deduplicate files that happen to be identical, then that doesn’t run afoul of any legal issues, its just efficient IT operations”

    You are almost definitely incorrect about this.

    Also, FWIW, the entire Cloud DVR legal matter has yet to be truly litigated. The Cablevision case was never heard by the Supreme Court. And despite various folks rolling out cloud DVR’s, the legal matter is not settled.

    One point of interest: Aereo kept silo-ed copies of recordings, though that wasn’t enough to save them from an (incorrect, IMHO) decision by the Supremes. I’d guess cloud DVR’s will end up being proven legal, but I seriously doubt that deduplicating will, short of MSO’s negotiating specific rights with programmers to do so, which wouldn’t apply to non-MSO devices like TiVo. But silo-ing is very likely the way everyone will proceed to stay legal. It’s just cheaper than a long, long road of litigation that likely would be lost.

    In short, efficient IT practices don’t factor into retransmission legal matters. (If they did, Aereo would have won their case 9-0.)

  12. It’s mostly settled. Individual recordings have been OK. Shared recordings are not. However, the operators who are doing this also have business relationships with the content providers. Whereas TiVo could still be seen as a rogue agent. Aereo is something else entirely – they were effectively reselling the broadcasters content in hosting those antennas. That was the (successful) argument anyhow.

  13. Hard drives are cheap. Upload speeds are slow.

    This was a stupid idea when Boxee tried it and it remains a stupid idea today.

  14. “It’s mostly settled. Individual recordings have been OK.”

    Well, individual recordings have been settled OK in only a couple of states by one district court, cuz Cablevision wasn’t taken up by the Supremes. So, while I think individual recordings are likely OK, it’s really not settled. (Which is why you wisely used the “mostly” modifier.) Also, even with individual recordings, stuff like out-of-home streaming really isn’t settled. There’s a case to made that it’s a different kind of retransmission than in-home.

    “Aereo is something else entirely”

    No doubt. That case was still wrongly decided, however, IMHO, precisely because it wasn’t something as different as the court saw it.

    “Shared recordings are not.”

    Yeah, we’re in agreement there. But again, without the whole cloud DVR issue ever getting fully litigated, who knows? But I can’t imagine anyone would bother with the hassle of testing and litigating deduplication, so in practice, it’s not kosher for decision-makers.

  15. The future of cloud dvr’s is probably content in the cloud that is downloaded to the user.
    Uploads can always be a backup to the hard drives, say when the user is asleep, but as a primary means of storage it has never made economic sense.
    I think a combination of cloud primary/and cloud backup is good idea. Hard drives are like car batteries, they don’t know they’re not supposed to die.

  16. The person that saw the message didn’t happen to be a Comcast customer, were they?

  17. Of course they were a Comcast user ;)

  18. Why do you say that, and were you being serious or just sarcastic?

  19. The Cloud DVR is NOTHING TiVo needs to fight in court. Since its is YOUR physical tuner and cable card capturing the signal, there is 0 argument there. The same legal right that allows them to move your recordings from one Tivo to another while keeping the original copy intact, will allow them to do the same with cloud storage. As long as everything still has to pass through local decoding/decryption, then legal arguments are meritless. period. For instance, if I “shared” an HBO recording to anyone else, even with HBO, they would STILL be unable to decrypt it. It’s the wrong equipment/card setup. The problem with Aereo was that they were capturing the signals themselves which was a no-no, so their cloud-dvrs became an issue and thus streaming from those cloud dvrs also became an issue. In a sense, it was fruit of the poison tree. That issue of them capturing the signal themselves broke the whole chain. If they could have somehow had tiny little wires hooked up to those tiny little antennas, each leading all the way to your home (completely preposterous), then they would likely be in the clear (or more in the clear) but they didn’t. TiVo doesn’t create that same doomed setup. Tivo isn’t providing the signal. They are taking what you already have in your home, so they are fine. They are NOT re-broadcasting. They are not allowing you to cloud-record any of the streaming services like Hulu or Netflix. Nothing for the greedy networks to argue, although that won’t mean they won’t try. They HATE Tivo as it is with their commercial skip. Now that Tivo is Rovio, they are better positioned to fight. Along with their now robust patent portfolio, they have some bullying power. I’m sure it will all be fine. And I think we will score big win if they do have to put up a fight.

  20. Harper, what’s your theory?

  21. @Dave Zatz, no theory really. I just Googled “TiVo cDVR” or something similar and got a lot of hits from I think Aug 2013 about Comcast and their cDVR (an app leak on iOS iirc), so was curious if they’re related in some way, like maybe them and TiVo getting together on this. I remember posting a thread on TCF a while back about Comcast wholesale and the possibility with TiVo. It now more looks like if TiVo would do anything, it’d be with Evolution Digital and their eVue-TV service, as I originally posted over there as well, and Dan seems to be agreeing with that possibility and is picking it up.

  22. FYI — TechCrunch has riffed on this post and done some digging. They indicate the feature will be available only for over-the-air content. This limits the potential controversy — who knows if CableLabs accounts for cloud DVR along with CableCARD certification/implementation, which groups could push back, etc.

    https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/06/tivo-tests-a-cloud-dvr/

    Harper, nah I don’t buy Dan’s theory. Regarding Comcast, they’re planning some sort of cloud DVR of their own but no reason to roll a TiVo solution when they’re innovating just fine. In fact, I think they still intend to license X1-related experiences to other cable operators.

  23. Well, it wasn’t “Dan’s Theory”, it was mine. It appears that he agrees with it though and is rolling with it as well. I do believe that some sort of streaming OTT “cable service” is really the only way TiVo will compete in the near future. They are just so hamstrung having to deal with the likes of Comcast, Time Warner/Charter Spectrum, Cox, et al and their hacked together cablecard/TA fiasco that it just kills any real chance to be a top flight CE device provider. Too many potential customers read and hear about or remember the “Old TiVo” and see a new one in the store, get excited and buy, then the clunky reality sinks in when they have to deal with poorly trained Cable CSRs and techs, cablecard provisioning and activation nightmares and TiVo CSRs always saying “not our fault, talk to the cable company” with the same being said the other way by cable CSRs, putting the hapless TiVo client wanna-be smack dab in the center of it all! He/she finally gets so frustrated that they give up and return the TiVo.

    If TiVo could eliminate that migraine headache known as dealing with cable companies, then they’d be FAR better off than they are now! Imagine being able to buy a TiVo at your local Best Buy, take it home, acitvate it online the same as you do for Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, etc., plug it in and download latest FW/GUI, choose your level of service a la’ PS Vue and off you go into happy snappy reality “cable TV” bliss! If they don’t offer locals with the eVue-TV Service, then just add an OTA antenna, do a scan and voila’!

    If they can’t see this possibility that’s so obvious already, then they deserve to die a slow and painful death in my humble opinion. The rats will be jumpoing ship by the hundreds. :-)

  24. Seeing that possibility and choosing to run with it, being capable of running with it, etc are not the same… And, of course, there are multiple opportunities and approaches. Targeting cord cutters with whatever Mavrik is seems timely.

  25. Mavrik alone isn’t enough to put them on the map unless they also offer OTT integration and streaming. I see no reason why they aren’t capable of striking a deal with the likes of Evolution Digital’s eVue-TV. They already have a good relationship with them on their eBox, which could probably actually be used as a client device around the home with the Mavrik being the hub…..if they wanted to.

  26. This could always work like the Boxee Box did. It uploaded the MPEG2 recording to the cloud. And then there it was further compressed to I think H.264. Although with the built in compression capabilities in the Stream, Roamio Pro, and Bolt, I guess i see how it could also be done prior to uploading too.

  27. @Rodalpho

    My upload speeds are faster than my download speeds. I can upload at 164Mb/s while my download speed maxes out at 150Mb/s. The bitrates of cable and OTA are very low. Well below 19mb/s. I had no issues using the Boxee Box with it’s cloud recording. It’s just that this storage cost money. So i would think there would need to be a monthly cost associated with using cloud storage.

  28. @Dave Zatz

    Comcast has been using Cloud storage for DVR recordings for a long while now. Although it might not be in all areas. My parents had cloud storage enabled with their X1 box earlier this year. A co-worker had it available much earlier.

    It works just the same as the local storage. Meaning there is a slight delay with all button presses whether from local storage or cloud storage. Of course you also can’t dictate where stuff is stored either. To the user it just looks like you have a ton more space for your recordings.

  29. Most people don’t have Internet that looks anything like that…

  30. I can understand why a TV provider like Comcast would want to move to cloud DVR, as it probably saves them money on hardware and support costs for customers. It also provides a better platform for allowing customers to access their recordings from any device, anywhere. That latter point is the only reason I can see why consumers would want cloud DVR though. And given that TiVo doesn’t have the advantages that a big pay TV provider has, in terms of the licensing relationships with the content owners (which I’m sure remove all those thorny legal questions for Comcast), I just can’t see why TiVo really wants to go this route. Are there really *that* many consumers who are itching to have cloud storage (and pay ongoing fees for it) as opposed to local storage on their own hard drive?

  31. Chucky, nothing is “settled” at the Supreme Court so long as the Supreme Court can “revisit” a past decision/case of a previous Supreme Court or parties don’t wish to peruse it. The Supreme never reviewed the lower court decision that struck down the law mandating the FCC to enforce flagging broadcast/OTA content (the broadcasters weren’t interested in pursuing it any further) really does mean it is illegal for broadcasters to flag OTA content and the reality is we record and stream OTA all we want (within the laws relevant to such activity) without ANY flagging to stop us. It is Law of the Land, not necessarily Supreme Law of the Land, and Supreme having never considered the case–and not likely to. The vast, vast, vast, majority of cases are NEVER heard by the Supreme Court, and it is the lower courts who are the final word in far more cases that become precedent, but NOT precedent from the Supreme who often aren’t interested. And as far as copyright, it is the DC Circuit that often rules and is most often the final word and its decisions are Law of Land, unless the Supreme cares to hear it, if it is asked to do so, and even then only if a party has suffered loss or damage. My point is, as the law and precedent stands today regarding recording at home and streaming that content from home and the cable co. siloed, USER INITIATED, personal recording model–without Supreme intervention–is legal and a fact of life today and will be for a long time to come, until Congress decides to change it. Aero was a case that the majority of the Court believed from the get-go (before even hearing the arguments?) that the broadcasters should be paid no matter the fact that Aero passed all the legal tests for “personal and private and user initiated.” It was for Congress to make clear the broadcasters should be paid and close the “loopholes” in the law to make it happen, not the Supreme Court.

    Aero is one of the decisions I had agreement with the late Justice Scalia who, among the dissenters also believed Aero to be, well, let’s say, unethical, taking advantage of loopholes to create a “Rube Goldberg” contrivance to avoid paying broadcasters, but he conceded that Congress did not pass any law addressing the “Rube Goldberg” in the form of Aero, so he voted, much to his chagrin, in favor of Aero, as did all the other lower courts. The Supreme was the only court prepared to legislate.

    Moving on . . . yes the OTA content only for cloud DVR makes sense, otherwise, TiVo would still have to enforce the flags or PAY LOTS of $$ to have them removed, and I don’t see TiVo ever doing that.

    MJR, the future is Cloud DVR, especially with the growth of services like SlingTV, Sony Vue, and DirecTV Now. SlingTV customers have demanded it and it is now in Beta and said is not to have NO limits of how long a recording stays in your cloud space and is also said to have 100 hrs of storage at no additional charge with subscription and to offer greater capacity at different pricing tiers; DirecTV Now is also planning cloud DVR, and it will come. Sony had Cloud DVR from day one, but with limitations. Also, people today really do want to watch TV Anywhere. It’s just that most TiVo diehards don’t care for remote viewing (perhaps a little older demographic?) and understand the advantages of local storage of TV shows that the younger folks don’t get, nor seem to care about. I don’t see this as uploading any recordings. I see this as the user setting to record TO the cloud, and one could play from the cloud at home or out of home. I don’t think an “upload” model is what TiVo really wants anyway. I’m sure if TiVo had their way today, they would brick the local HDD’s and have everyone pay for cloud recording storage, but that aint gonna happen with current TiVo users.

    Dave, considering how AWFUL the Stream is at OOH streaming and even playback of content transferred to a device that we can’t play back because we don’t have internet to Log into our account, this cloud DVR could be a form of a fix. I would also think that Cloud DVR could be a way for TiVo to continue to monetize retail TiVo’s, especially those Lifetime/All in TiVo’s that have not or will soon not spit out anymore money to TiVo. If so, I can’t criticize TiVo for doing it. That has always been TiVo’s weak spot: not much revenue stream after sale of box while the MVPD’s make real money on the packages of channels and take a loss on their DVR’s that also reduce churn, so DVR’s are worth the sat and cable cos. giving away “FREE”. If such a scheme helps TiVo stay alive longer, than I am OK with having all my TiVo’s continue to have a long life and not be abandoned by new TiVo management. Of course, I have a Slingbox for my TiVo(s) (plural via MRV), so cloud DVR does not interest me. But others are welcome to pay to keep my TiVo’s alive. :)

    Tim, well stated, and considering Charlie Ergens’s remarks about how SlingTV and other OTT MVPD’s are “better” for consumers than satellite (or cable), he extolled the virtues of “No truck roll and costly installation, right? No expensive equipment needed, right? No commitment; Just download the app and start watching TV.” One thing about Charlie Ergen is that, unlike his colleagues, he has never been afraid of the future; he embraces it, only because he believes it good business to give the customer what they want, not force some model upon them (the only MVPD CEO to support A la Carte for over 10 years). It’s been clear for a while he has no problem moving his sat customers and future of his pay TV business to SlingTV. I don’t know if any other MVPD CEO’s even really believes that is their future, yet, but Ergen does. So, yes, Tim, that reduction of costs is, for Charlie today, and will be for the other CEO’s, a very big appeal to moving all in to OTT MVPD apps. In fact, the growth of OTT MVPD and Cloud DVR may be the force that may finally force us to get our nation’s internet to perform at faster speeds with symmetrical up/down with no datacaps nation wide and decent internet to rural America. With those big companies pushing it, it could happen. Let’s hope so.

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