The 2009 DirecTV TiVo Finally Arrives


When TiVo and DirecTV rekindled their relationship in 2008, we were pretty psyched. Because, back in the day, the companies represented a dream team of cutting edge television services — the best DVR mated with the best TV (Sunday Ticket). Unfortunately, at some point their relationship soured and existing (non-MPEG4) DirecTV TiVo units were merely allowed to remain active (although stagnant) via a reciprocal do-not-sue patent arrangement worked out in 2006 (with DirecTV picking up ReplayTV’s patent portfolio as leverage in 2007).

Yet, after a few years of delay, we’re finally here… And the new DirecTV TiVo DVR, originally scheduled for 2009, goes on sale tomorrow. It’s everything we expected, but nothing we hoped for. The unit features TiVo’s original standard definition user interface, now branded as their “Classic” UI, running on outdated DirecTV hardware. So it’s neither the best TiVo experience, nor is it the best DirecTV DVR.


Our readership generally expects cutting edge products, but we recognize there’s a broader market out there and suspect a subset of current DirecTV subscribers (and defectors) might find comfort in that classic TiVo experience (including the iconic peanut remote). While it may be functionally limited, the product could be highly usable and sufficient for many. In fact, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers is banking on it:

DIRECTV has obligations to nationally market us, and those obligations are substantial. They obviously know who the DIRECTV TiVo current customers are, and they know people who have previously had TiVo and have the product for a long time and presumably were satisfied customers. I would expect some of their initial marketing will be focused on those very groups

So, although many of us are legitimately underwhelmed with the offering, there could still be a sizable market and successful deployment. But I’m expecting something more akin to the Comcast TiVo flameout.

Deployment details:

Beginning Thursday, 12/8, the TiVo HD DVR from DIRECTV will be made available to customers in DirecTV’s leading markets, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago, New York, Denver, San Francisco, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Seattle and Washington, DC.  The TiVo HD DVR from DIRECTV will be made widely available to all DIRECTV customers nationwide beginning in early 2012. The cost of the TiVo HD DVR from DirecTV is $199 and the monthly service total is $12 per month, including a $7/month charge for the DirecTV DVR service as well as $5/month for the TiVo service.

35 thoughts on “The 2009 DirecTV TiVo Finally Arrives”

  1. Unfortunately, I have also confirmed from multiple CSRs that those who purchased the DirecTiVo Lifetime Service, although grandfathered into not paying for DVR service, will have to pay the $5/mo. charge for the TiVo service again. This is even if they still have an original Series 1 or 2 based TiVo DVR active on the account.

  2. It seems while DTV is releasing (finally) an HD DirecTivo (kicking and screaming), they are doing it begrudgingly, as they’ll release a new 5-tuner DTV HD DVR the same day – faster platform, more features – as a way to say “we’ll do it but not your way, AND we’ll make our customers pay extra [some kind of punishment to a loyal base?]”.

    DTV CEO Michael White was on “Undercover Boss” last season and made viewers “feel” like he was all about the customer. HA!

    Honestly, if I had a choice of content service providers, I’d leave DTV in the dust. Between price increases (they made people that had an old HD TiVo HR10-250 unit PAY for HD even through they could no longer receive HD as it had moved to MPEG-4) and how they screwed their TiVo base, I feel like they could give a rat’s butt about customers.

    My choices are DTV or Dish (I live in a rural area so forget ever seeing cable or fibre), and Dish doesn’t do TiVo. And now I get to pay an extra premium for TiVo. Thank you very little.

    Michael White, you know NOTHING about customer service, NOTHING. (re: Jim Cramer’s rant on the Fed from several years back.)

  3. This is a good thing. The “classic” SD UI is far superior to the dog-slow, buggy, incomplete, ad-infested flash-based HD UI.

  4. I dunno… it looks better and has many functional enhancements, like the episode guides. Speed seems better than it was, but it’s still too slow and I take issue with our version being incomplete (versus the more complete Virgin Media TiVo UI). Having said, that I prefer it over the classic UI and the Discovery Bar doesn’t bother me so much. Most of it is not advertising. Pause menu ad banners on the other hand, irk me.

  5. Never, ever, ever going to subscribe to DirecTV again, even if they come out with hardware that will make me breakfast in bed. They screwed me over by dropping TiVo after my substantial investment in equipment.

    Not only that, I make it a point to make sure any friends, relatives, acquaintances, and colleagues stay away. I tell the the horror stories of rain fade. How you have to go wipe off your dish in the snow or you have no TV. Severe thunderstorm coming? Better listen to the radio for warnings because you won’t get satellite reception.

    DirecTV not only lost a good customer (HD, HBO, SHowtime, Center Ice, Sunday Ticket), they also made me into an enemy.

  6. “This is a good thing. The “classic” SD UI is far superior to the dog-slow, buggy, incomplete, ad-infested flash-based HD UI.”


    (Though I think I could live with the ads of the HDUI if they ever got it running with ‘teh snappy’.)

  7. “Pause menu ad banners on the other hand, irk me.”

    I’ve invested enough in the muscle memory here that the pause-clear two step is automatic for me and never hits my consciousness…

  8. If the HDUI was butter-smooth and instantly responsive, I could live with the limited advertising too. But c’mon now, this is TiVo. That’s not gonna happen.

    I agree that the pause menus are even more annoying.

    It never ceases to astonish me that even though TiVo development has stagnated for the past 10+ years, and they haven’t improved their core DVR utility since the series 1, nobody has [i]ever[/i] emerged to compete with them. TiVo has been very lucky in this respect.

    At this point I don’t think anyone ever will– the market will inevitably move away from time-shifting cable broadcasts to consuming pointcasted video streamed over IP before a competitor arises to take on TiVo.

    TiVo will die at that point, since they certainly don’t have the resources, intellect, or even really will to retool. But nobody will kill TiVo, they’ll just be less and less relevant until they finally disappear.

  9. “It never ceases to astonish me that even though TiVo development has stagnated for the past 10+ years … nobody has ever emerged to compete with them … At this point I don’t think anyone ever will.”

    Agreed. But, hey, if the high water mark of the DVR era ends up being the TiVo HD, that’s pretty high. No complaints here.

    It’s a damn fine DVR.

  10. I assume it will have no ability to transfer recordings or do any “TiVo Desktop” features or transfers? A safe assumption, but anyone know for sure?

  11. Yeah, this is not enough and too late. I wonder why they are even doing it. AND, it costs yet another 60$ ontop of all the other DVR and per Box/receiver rental fees that one would normally pay.. Who the heck is going to do that.

  12. This is a Carole King announcement-“It’s Too Late Baby.” I got tired of waiting. I have DISH and their HD DVR.

  13. Why oh why did they not port the Tivo Q bundle (as seen on RCN) so you have the modern Tivo UI along with multi room streaming.

    Hey since they recently enabled the second core in the US, is the HDUI any faster? Why not “virginize” the whole UI ie) COMPLETE IT. That Virgin Media Tivo looks pretty sweet. 3 tuners to boot too! Tivo could of had a WINNING combination porting THAT over to DirecTV’s 5 tuner HR34.

    I guess it’s all to fulfill a basic legal obligation after all. I mean the potential to create a “killer app” for DirecTV was there. For some reason this project took a turn for the worst where it will eventually meet up with Comcast Tivo on Motorola in the digital graveyard.

    I also find it funny that DirecTV’s 5 tuner HR34 (with PIP!) is being released on THE SAME DAY.

  14. The HDUI is a little bit faster with the second core activated, yeah. It’s still not comparable to the SDUI, though, and remains incomplete on the Premiere.

  15. First of all, let’s all reserve judgment until this thing ships and is operating. It may not have all of the bells and whistles that the new DirecTV boxes have, but, frankly, most of those bells and whistles are not that great. I have multi-room viewing and can’t stand it. You can only set the recordings in the main room, you can’t pause live TV in the remote rooms and they need to be rebooted about once a week. Assuming that the TiVo boxes don’t have major bugs, I will be ordering as soon as possible.

  16. Obviously, DTV did the bare bones with HD TiVo – for legal reasons? Certainly not to please consumers. And then they lift their leg, again, on their TiVo base by releasing the HR34 on the same day.

    Again, Michael White is a gredy jerk with no care for customers. He knows NOTHING!

    Again “I’ll do it but not your way.” Ideally, DTV should have just bought TiVo, and used its technology as their core platform and taken revenue from the other content providers. The only reason not to make a great DVR is they don’t want to be bothered by it.

    Has anyone actually seen this thing yet? It is a better kept secret than the Manhattan Project.

  17. It’s hysterical that Tivo Kool-Aiders think that the old Tivo experience is better than a good, modern DVR. The current DirecTV DVRs are hardly perfect, but their performance absolutely obliterates the last Tivos I owned (the previous DirecTV HD Tivo units). While I am aware the functionality of current Tivos has — in some ways — caught up to the DirecTV units, I am hardly the only person who recognizes that the once-great Tivo experience long ago stopped being unique or special.

    As for this new unit? Please. No multi-room is reason enough to ignore the “new Tivo”. (By the way, Dave, the headline is flat-out brilliant.) The fact that the new DirecTV UI is also intriguing and ridiculously fast is all the more reason.

    I do tend to agree that DirecTV has strung Tivo along to avoid getting sued. But then so have Charter, Cox and Comcast. The fact that Tivo is still kicking around at all is nothing short of miraculous — kudos to them — but relevant? That would massively overstate the case.

  18. John, I haven’t seen any mention of TiVoToGo and haven’t heard back from TiVo on the matter yet. We do know for sure there’s no DVR-to-DVR or -to-STB streaming of any nature:

    Please note: The following DIRECTV features are not available with the TiVo HD DVR: Whole-Home DVR service, DIRECTV iPad App remote control and live TV streaming functionality, DIRECTV CINEMA (satellite downloads), YouTube on TV, 3D, and GameSearch™.

    Related, both TiVo and DirecTV now have landing pages up on the product:

  19. I had a Tivo in my house from 2002 onward, until this past September when I booted the Direct Tivo for an HD DVR from Directv.

    The HD DVR is fine. I just could not wait longer.

    Now this new Directv Tivo is out, and they want $7 per month more for it than their HD DVR? No thanks

    Even the fast forward through ads (as opposed to the 30 second skip) is not so bad. I agree with Mr. Zatz: This may appeal to some, but not to me.

    I was a Tivo fan for almost a decade, but this bungling has been over the top bad.

  20. PeteP,

    I have multi-room viewing and I can set recordings in other rooms. I find it in the guide and hit the record button. Then it says recording on [LIVING ROOM] (you can name the DVR’s).

    I don’t know about why you have to reboot it every week. I participate in Cutting Edge downloads and usually some if not all of my stuff gets rebooted every week when I download a new software build.

    Hey did you guys see the featureset on the new HMC (HR34)? Wow check marks in every category. For someone that doesn’t know any better, they might choose that because it’s made to “look the best” on DirecTV’s webpage. Well that’s because it is the best. Once the HDUI comes out for it, I’ll be far more interested in that box than Tivo’s.

  21. For someone that doesn’t know any better, they might choose that because it’s made to “look the best” on DirecTV’s webpage.

    Well remember DirecTV once had Jessica Simpson in their commercials? It’s called putting a good amount of “Lipstick on the Pig”. Marketing does that sort of thing. Tivo has somewhat of a brand recognition, just like the iPods do. And it wouldn’t take much effort to put the model name of the non-Tivo unit, and “sucks”, in the Google search. They’ll do okay.

    Look at her now….

  22. “Hey did you guys see the featureset on the new HMC (HR34)? Wow check marks in every category.”

    Any DVR that has a limit on the number of season passes automatically gets thrown out in my house. Sure some households are fine with 100 shows among their family and I am sure others will do what DirecTV wants and pay to lease a second DVR.

    I guess though it doesn’t matter since you couldn’t pay me to go back to DTV. I do enjoy when the sales people try to sell me on it in Best Buy and Sam’s Club. It is amazing the lies they will tell.

  23. Cypherstream: Thanks for the tip about recording. Just so I understand, you have to find the show using the guide. I don’t think that you can use the search feature to find a show. If that’s the case, it is helpful for something that’s on the air right now (or if you know exactly what channel it is on and when it is on) but not very helpful if you are searching for a show or a movie and don’t already have that information. To me, that’s still a big drawback. By the way, they need to be rebooted becuase they often can’t connect with the main DVR. I would still rather have multiple DVRs.

  24. PeteP, yeah you have to find the show in the guide. The other option is searching via a mobile app (ipad, iphone) or via Only the real DVR has “SmartSearch”. I’d one day like to see them equalize the features between DVR’s and non-DVR’s (like VOD, Streaming YouTube, SmartSearch, etc..) but I would have no idea if that’s on the roadmap.

    Brennok, I have the HDUI and its fantastic. I prefer the look of it’s crisp, clear, easy to read sharp text over an extrapolated 480p user interface any day. It’s just easier to read and better on the eyes. 100 season passes isn’t a big deal. I don’t have the HR34 yet and I have a 50 season pass limit. Shows change between Fall and Summer, so I just cycle things in and out as needed. 100 season passes I wouldn’t even have to do that.

    I don’t blame you about not wanting to come back to DirecTV. The one thing that urks me is the lack of bandwidth for more HD channels. My local cable company has a more diverse HD channel lineup… just their software (and hardware) platform stinks. DirecTV is more fun with a cutting edge program, better hardware with multiroom, PC/Ipad apps, and more. However NO provider is perfect.

  25. I just noticed that this unit does not work with the ipad app.

    Fail. I’m glad I got the directv hd that does work with the ipad app.

    The crippling of this unit will mean failure.

    People who are going to spend extra money will want all the bells and whistles. This has none.

  26. I imagine this will move even fewer units than the low end of the projections. Seriously, who is going to pay more to get less? Not even Tivo fans; they’ve moved on to cable platforms to get a decent version of the Tivo experience.

  27. “Please note: The following DIRECTV features are not available with the TiVo HD DVR: Whole-Home DVR service, DIRECTV iPad App remote control and live TV streaming functionality, DIRECTV CINEMA (satellite downloads), YouTube on TV, 3D, and GameSearch™.”

    Yeah, I saw that and thought “Holy Cow! My Sony BDP-s570 can do more than this HD DVR!”

    Until DTV comes out with a true next-gen HD DVR, my account remains suspended.

  28. Yeah and when Pandora is launched for the new DirecTV HDUI, that WONT be supported on DirecTivo either.


  29. We had 2 DirecTivo DVR’s until we went HDTV in 2007. At that point we switched to Dish. I don’t see anything that is going to make me come back. My father even switched last year after years of watching a standard definition Tivo on on HDTV. To little, too late in my opinion. They aren’t even rewarding loyal customers that have been waiting for years by putting them first in line

  30. Direct TV has screw me over and over. I paid a $1000.00 for my first HD Tivo (which had to be paid before delivery) then direct TV upgraded their system and I had to get their new HD box. Their service is so bad I won’t allow them into my house. No one shows up on time and they don’t speak english. The last guy had his wife with him. In a unmarked van that looked like it was from Mexico. I told them to leave.You never know who’s going to show up, it’s like Halloween. Who ever is in charge of their service should be fired.
    I have had their HD Receiver replaced 4 times. It’s a piece of junk. Now if you want Tivo your going to pay through the nose for it. I could write a book on direct tv. To give you an idea of what hell I have been through, I spent 18 hours on the phone in one week just to get the billing corrected. It was insane. They promise you the world when you call in and thats as far as it goes. They have gotten to big and have forgotten about the customer.
    I will be changing over to another company soon just trying to get the best deal. I have been telling everyone not to us Direct TV.
    Forget it when you have bad weather or even a small shower. I could go on for days but beware of Direct TV.

  31. yeah, I was super excited about the new TiVo… but after the new HD GUI came out, I could care less. :(
    my HR21-700 with the HDUI is great. I can’t wait to get the new HR34 to be my main TV hub.
    It’s really unfortunate that the product they’re giving us is exactly what we wanted… 2 years ago.

  32. I’ve waited for this for what, four years now? And they want to charge extra, when it doesn’t even do anything extra? And I have to pay $200 each for the new box? Screw ’em. I can get two REAL Tivos and cable TV and still pay a lot less than I would for one through DTV. After 12 years on DTV, they just lost me as a customer.

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