TiVo Mini Set For Spring Launch, Service Fee In Tow


TiVo’s been talking up their DVR extender about a year, since it was first introduced last February as the IP-STB. And while we didn’t get the 2012 retail launch we were hoping for, TiVo tells me we’re on track for a spring launch. The Mini I groped at CES doesn’t look all that different from the product we perused last May at The Cable Show, but it presumably offers a much more polished experience streaming live television and recordings from a 4-tuner TiVo Premiere DVR. In fact, TiVo cable partner Suddenlink has already begun to deploy the Mini to customers.

tivo-mini-portsI’m told the Mini contains 2GB of local storage dedicated to hosting the TiVo OS/experience and handling whatever caching may be necessary. Performance seemed pretty sprightly over their in-suite MoCA connection, but I’d expect at least a little lag when changing channels or queuing up content. Interestingly, I get the sense that the apps available to TiVo Premiere DVRs may not be fully duplicated onto the Mini. Assuming I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, I wonder if that’d be a contractual or technical issue. The remote mated with the Mini looked a whole lot like the discontinued TiVo Slide, but I’m not sure we can draw any conclusions from that and would expect a traditional peanut to ship.

TiVo tells me they’re still working through the pricing permutations. And I suspect building the TiVo Mini was the easy part, whereas effectively communicating its benefit and pricing it within their lineup will be the larger challenge. They intend to make the Mini a relatively affordable offering but, based on the soundbite Engadget captured from a TiVo rep, they’re clearly leaning towards a service fee – which would come in at rates lower than a Premiere subscription ($15/month or $500).

[…] a great cost savings compared to the DVRs […] a less expensive initial hardware cost and then the monthly fee will also be less. You can also choose to do a lifetime service for the TiVo mini.

As a customer, of course, I’d prefer lower cost hardware and no fees. However, if TiVo’s not making money off the Mini, why even bring it to retail… knowing many, such as myself, would cancel an existing Premiere sub in lieu of a Mini and Roku-esque devices are pretty low margin, anyway. So I’ve been resigned to a monthly fee. And, if the experience is good enough, I’ll pay it.

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103 thoughts on “TiVo Mini Set For Spring Launch, Service Fee In Tow”

  1. I was cautiously optimistic there would be no monthly fee (or at least really wishing there was no fee), but I had the same mindset you do as far as the ability to remove existing Tivo sub’s with this thing. Tivo likely won’t put a product like that out without getting some sort of recurring fee. If they can either keep the price inside $200, $250 tops for the Mini and lifetime service, or under $100 and no more than $5 per month, I think it still might be ok, but much more than that and it is going to be a non-starter for many.

  2. The 4-tuner requirement is such a bummer. I could not care less about live TV. If I upgrade my 2-tuner Premiere to a 4-tuner version then I’ll have no reason to buy the mini. I would just use the older Premiere in the 2nd room. Ah, catch-22!!!

  3. I wonder if they would at some point offer it with no subscription where it could only stream already recorded content from any existing Tivo. If you also wanted to have Live TV, you could then add the subscription for that feature.

  4. I am not surprised at all about the monthly and lifetime fee. It is disappointing, but not surprising. If the fee is cheap enough like $5 or $100 for MSD lifetime.

    I still hope for a new 4 but preferably 6 tuner box for later this year. Once this happens I will upgrade my mom with my Elite and a Mini, but until then she will keep my TiVo HDs. Of course dynamic tuning would be a requirement since she sometimes needs 4 tuners.

  5. I think there are business reasons why TiVo is limiting the Mini to a 4-tuner box at launch. As TiVo acknowledged during their Q3 conference call, some of their newer “higher-end” boxes have little to no hardware subsidy. Forcing users to purchase a Premiere 4 or Premiere XL4 in order to use the Mini means that the particular TiVo customer is profitable sooner versus a user who purchases a base 2-tuner Premiere.

    I do expect we will see new TiVo hardware this year but its not surprising that they won’t launch it at CES. I expect we would see a launch event later this year that includes a new TiVo box and the launch of their social initiative (Pique).

  6. Honestly, within the HOME environment, why the heck wouldn’t I just use a slingbox or maybe an ios device and and apple tv? One time cost, no montly fee, same access as with the “remote” on the LAN premier box.

    Am I missing something here.? I like the concept, but don’t charge me for it. Charge me 149$ ONE TIME for the box, and let me leverage my premiers within the LAN

  7. TiVo’s efforts to protect their current subscription base are misguided and wrong-headed.

    Q1: Why should they release the extender for sixty bucks with no subscription fee?
    A1: Because it makes their offering more attractive to NEW subscribers.

    Q2: What does TiVo do that your cable company’s DVR doesn’t?
    A2: …

    This could have been a great answer to that question. Instead, they’re foolishly trying to protect their dying business model rather than innovating. As always, TiVo is reacting rather than proactively acting. They’re inside it, so they can’t see the death spiral. It’s not a surprise, obviously. But it is sad.

    Hopefully the four-tuner restriction is a technical limitation. If marketing pushed that one through too… man.

  8. The integrated experience of staying in the TiVo ecosystem will be significantly better than using a slingbox. You’ll get essentially the identical TiVo experience but faster on the TV attached to the Mini. The Slingbox has its own set of advantages with the main one being placeshifting outside the home.

  9. Rodalpho, I won’t even start to tell you how wrong you are when it comes to a “TiVo death spiral”.

    The TiVo business today hasn’t been this healthy since the heyday of their DIRECTV partnership. They are growing subs quarter-over-quarter and their churn rate on retail is the lowest its been in over four years. The release of the TiVo Mini to retail will improve their overall retail satisfaction rate and value to their retail customers even with a subscription fee.

    What is going to kill TiVo and force them to file bankruptcy? Perhaps the mythical Apple Television or maybe the Xbox 720?

  10. TiVo’s business has never been healthy, including during the DirectTV heyday. It can’t compete with cable company DVRs even though it’s the only real alternative on the market.

    Without aggressive IP litigation TiVo would be dead already. They survive due to their patent portfolio, not their products.

    TiVo (the company) is sick. TiVo (the product) never achieved substantial market penetration.

    Roku/xbox/apple aren’t the threat. Netflix, amazon prime, hulu, and similar services will ultimately kill TiVo. I don’t see them filing bankruptcy for a long time, but they will continue to be less relevant year after year until eventually you hear “Tivo? That’s still around?”

  11. I’m not a business major, but what makes sense to me is for Tivo to go for volume. Break even (or close) on the Mini’s and use them as a strategy, not a profit center, to sell new 4-tuner boxes and keep existing ones running longer.

    The more entrenched their boxes are in the home, the longer they’ll stay. Don’t self-defeat by breaking our backs at every step with these fees that are hard to chew on.


  12. @Sam

    Thank you for the glimmer if hope

    I know lots of people want more tuners etc

    I personally would like more refinement
    Increases usability to find what I want and show me things in actual would want to see that I did not know about

    Example, I did not know how good breaking bad is but here I am it a season 5 help me start with season1 with out having to torrent it or pay $40 a season to get it

    And make special exception to season pass shows outside the 14? Day limit
    Like when we see a big new series being promoted weeks if not months in Adavanace like ‘do no harm’ I should not have to Remeber to wait till it two weeks out to season pass it, an no wish list is so not the same

    Sometimes my cellphone is not near me
    An optional pop up to let me know someone is calling via a Bluetooth sync might be nice

    The lack if amazon prime instant is also annoying tivo should aggressively pursue any popular streaming services, even if it means writting the code themselves

    They should consider an improved comercial skipping option, maybe they can’t Handel wing sued for an hopper autohop but they could find some compromise that’s more effiencent than the 30sec skip
    Like 3sec fast forward where u see all the commercials but in a 3sec window and the back to show, this would be manually started each comercial break with a button push

    They also need to fight harder maybe hire some lobbyist to get better cable interoperability ie the Comcast ondemand but everywhere with everyone ie Fios etc

    Not sure why they only alow sling tv in home or to be cached instead of a true remote view option, is that a legal issue

    Hopefully this piqué thing will be equivalent to me showing friends what I like and tivo seeing what my friends like and the. It suggesting hey all your friends like this other show maybe u would like it
    I can get you started on episode one via Hulu or something

  13. @Mike,

    That is the exact strategy TiVo is employing for the Mini and the Stream. Make zero or close to zero margin on the hardware but move their user base to 4-tuner boxes that further lower retail churn and provide a more satisfying user experience.

    I know from my sources that TiVo is struggling with the Mini pricing at retail. On the one hand they don’t want to anger their loyal retail customer while at the same time they don’t want to alienate their MSO partners that will be charging at least $9.95/mo for the TiVo Mini. I know there’s been a little tension with some of their MSO partners that a retail customer could buy the TiVo Stream at $129 without a subscription fee while they want to charge $9.95/mo for it with zero upfront cost.

    Pricing the Mini well below a Premiere 4 from both an upfront hardware cost and monthly/lifetime service fee is probably the right answer for TiVo at launch. Over time I expect we will see more bundles similar to what was offered at Best Buy over the holidays for the Premiere box with TiVo Stream.

  14. The stream pricing is outrageous from a MSO. It just shows how they want to screw the consumer. Letting them dictate the pricing of the Mini is just going to alienate the retail customer. Most already feel $129.99 is overpriced and yet the MSOs want to be able to recoup their cost in less than a year and we know they aren’t paying $129 for them.

    The Mini is nothing more than an extender so if it costs more than the Echo and comes with less features it will be a big failure on TiVo’s part.

    At this point I am not very optimistic when it comes to what they do this year.

  15. @BB,

    I agree that the Ceton Echo pricing at $179 is a good stake in the ground when it comes to Mini Pricing. I think the hardware cost of the Mini compared to the Stream is higher since it likely has more parts, larger size, etc.

    It will be interesting to see what the MSOs charge for the Mini. Verizon FiOS charges $40/mo for their whole home DVR plus two satellite boxes. We heard from Engadget that they will be charging even more for their 1 TB Media Server announced today.

  16. If the Mini were to go for $200 after lifetime (for example) then it would take 3 years for it to “pay for itself” compared to the STB it replaces in my home… That already makes me wonder if I should even bother since it’s a tertiary TV set to begin with. So my tolerance for price gauging is not high here. Anything OVER $200 and I’m just going to laugh it off as a joke. I would agree that the price of the Echo is a good line to draw in the sand.

  17. But isn’t a logical competitor something like DirecTV’s Genie and it mini extenders? Three minis are free with a Genie.

    If Tivo prices their Mini anywhere over $100 total the product will be a flop.

  18. Wags, they appeared to be demoing it with a TiVo Slide and the Mini had a USB dongle. At The Cable Show, I believe it was shown with a traditional peanut remote. I assume to keep prices low, the Mini will not have integrated Bluetooth and it’s not yet clear what will replace the Slide.

    tivoboy, this is a way more elegant than a Slingbox to an iOS app to an Apple TV. Premiere to Mini is a much straighter shot and the UI is local.

    Mark, there’s still hope for new DVR hardware this year. But TiVo’s not yet ready to discuss what comes next. It’ll be interesting to see how their relationship with Pace plays out – will TiVo get out of the hardware business and release that same 6 tuner DVR to retail?

  19. 1. This makes me long for a six tuner device, with up to 4 minis. Especially if I want to stuff the main TiVo in a closet and not ever look at it, just schedule, watch and record TV from the silent minis. Would be even better if it has the stream capability built in a la the new hopper with sling.

    2. If the box is $99 with a $5/mo fee that seems reasonable. Though I expect it to be $129 and $7.

    3. Most of the “TiVo apps” are replicated on most smart TVs anyways (Netflix, amazon) so there is no real use in building those apps into the mini again. My main TV has 5 boxes plugged into it that can do Netflix. I don’t need any more.

    I’m eager to replace this old TiVo HD! Lets get this show on the road.

  20. Monthly fee? And… I’m out.

    I’m a long loooong time TiVo owner. I’ve held off on my upgrading my 3 HD’s, partly because of cost, and partly to see what innovations TiVo would make. I’m not impressed. I felt slighted that they moved away from the S3 hardware so fast, and that their fees kept climbing.

    With products like Roku, Apple TV, ,XBox, PS3, (and the promise of 3rd party apps from the TiVo S2 days), TiVo is way way behind on web content.

    Recorded television is (slowly) dying in favor of on-demand. TiVo needs to pivot soon, or people will start up the “death watch” talk again.

    Personally, for the amount of dvr programs (which is very little) that my family watches, I am going to build a HTPC and add another Xbox to the mix. The only monthly fee is what I already pay to MS anyway.

  21. the only upside for us OTA only’s or 2 tuner premieres is that it will be a streaming only device. its already been noted by tivo that it can work without tuner allocation.

    it will be a great “on the treadmill” device to stream netflix and recordings from the 2 tuner premiere.

  22. There are many who would love to jump away from cable DVR’s. Cox is terrible. The fees associated with their DVR (only 2 tuners)is criminal. Their whole home setup runs $5 more per month and only two tuners. I currently have 2 cable DVR’s that can’t share. Considering my current costs however, the break even point for me gets extended to over 2 years if I go with two Premier devices + lifetime, additionally I would have to pay for 2 cable cards. The sweet spot and better option is a 4 tuner box that I can share with another room (mini). I get the best of all worlds and hopefully an 18mth break even. I have been on this setup for years and Cox is way behind in the tech.

  23. @Sam

    I think the business reasons thing is a really interesting point… I could see how TiVo would think that this would take away from other subscriptions. I guess I see it the opposite way, TiVo has never really been as popular as they should be… the arguments I ususally hear are either about overall price, or about slow updates.

    In any case, I think not charging a monthly fee for the Mini would actually help them sell a lot more TiVos, similar to how a good iTunes store sold a lot more iPods. But TiVo never seems to think this way… it’s like it’s run by accountants or something. I think if they really wanted to sell more TiVos, they’d just make a Roku app.

    I really hope they don’t charge for this thing… it just sounds like another way they’ll be keeping them selves on the sidelines.

  24. Regarding Mini pricing, a few more thoughts… TiVo does license the guide data, presumably a recurring cost based on users/usage. Also, those of us with or considering secondary TiVo units general pay to rent CableCARDs – so that’d partially offset a monthly (or lifetime) fee. I think my Verizon cards are up to $4 a month, each.

    Al, *if* TiVo lets you mate a Mini with a 2-tuner Premiere or operate independently. I wouldn’t count on that…

  25. Schedulesdirect sells guide data directly to consumers for $25 per year, with the only restrictions being that you don’t share the account with others. You can use it on as many personally owned devices as you wish. They’re a tiny nonprofit and TiVo certainly gets better pricing than they do.


    Other companies like Sling, tvguide, zat2it, etc, offer free guide data on their apps and websites, presumably funded by ads, which as you know pay an extremely small amount per user. They manage to keep running and are presumably profitable.

    For the above reasons, I reject the reasoning that TiVo needs to charge becuase they pay for guide data. It simply doesn’t smell right.

  26. @Rodalpho There are definitely different tiers of data though. Compare the guide data to Media Center or your local MSO. I have always found TiVo to be more detailed and more accurate. Media Center would have generic data for shows that TiVo had complete data for. Media Center always had at least 1 less day of guide data going forward.

  27. Thinking more about the issue with MSOs, this has always been my big issue with them. Buying something outright should in the end cost less than leasing/rental. Leasing adds additional perks like the ability to swap a defective device for free, but that is included in the cost to lease/rent. It seems like MSOs want it the opposite way.

    They want leasing/rental to be the cheaper option while still being pricey which we all know they overcharge, and then want to penalize those that buy with a higher price. DirecTV has done this forever. Your purchase of hardware doesn’t save you a penny and costs more than the lease with the only benefit of not extending the contract. Imagine if going to Aaron’s Rent to Own was cheaper than buying a TV outright.

    I think a $179.99 price which includes lifetime while higher than it should be is balanced against a $10 monthly rental. The break even would be 18 months at a $10 rental. At most the Stream should have been a $7.99 rental, and the fact some charge $9.99 shows how broken the industry is.

  28. Rodalpho, TiVo doesn’t need to charge for guide data in a 1:1 manner, but it is an ongoing expense. As Brennok says, there’s also varying tiers and quality of data – in my experience, TiVo’s has been the best. Is that worth more money? Not sure. Bottom line here is TiVo probably doesn’t want to undercut their cable partners, who will also be offering the Mini, and intends to maximize their revenue opportunity. Some folks will be willing to pay, some won’t. And I imagine TiVo will be able to scale appropriately.

  29. Shrug, TiVo’s data comes straight from Tribune, which is the same source as Zap2it. The “TiVo has to pay for guide data” excuse simply doesn’t hold water as it’s a tiny cost.

    $180 for an extender is simply outrageous. Even $100 with no subscription is too expensive. All it does is stream from your main box. It should be sixty bucks.

    It should be a roku channel. It should be a free app on iOS, android, xbox, and playstation.

  30. Sorry, I replied before I read your post Dave.

    Of course you’re right, they don’t want to undercut the cable operators and they want to make as much money as possible, they are a business.

    The problem is that the former won’t support the latter. They have an opportunity to improve their service offering and they are doing the exact opposite by prioritizing their (reluctant!) cable partners over consumers.

  31. In talking to TiVo yesterday, I don’t think they’d be able to build a Roku app in such a way to appropriately protect and present content. Definitely not without a Stream (or future DVR) to provide the (transcoded) video. They’re never going to be the budget solution you pine for. And on the scale of priorities, retail customers probably come after licensing/patent litigation, cable partnerships, and probably even their analytics business.

  32. I agree completely with Rodalpho in that this should really be an app and not a separate hardware device, but the realities of licensing for protected content and their MSO partnerships make it a problem to do so.

    Just look at the announcement by Silicondust that they’re going to incorporate a DLNA server w/DTCP-IP in their Cablecard network tuners. Sounds great, right? Yep, until you realize that the only device out there that can access protected content w/DTCP-IP is the PS3, and even then all you get is basic file-level access (no program guide etc.).

    Tivo could work around this by rolling their own apps, getting certified on multiple platforms etc. but it’s not going to move enough hardware for them, they’ll take forever anyway and more importantly it will piss off all the MSOs that they want to be in bed with. That’s the real problem – their partners (either MSO or content) are often directly at odds with their retail customers.

  33. This
    “$180 for an extender is simply outrageous. Even $100 with no subscription is too expensive. All it does is stream from your main box. It should be sixty bucks.

    It should be a roku channel. It should be a free app on iOS, android, xbox, and playstation.”

    and this.
    “I wonder if they would at some point offer it with no subscription where it could only stream already recorded content from any existing Tivo. If you also wanted to have Live TV, you could then add the subscription for that feature.”

    This thing should be $89.99 flat no fee to extend recorded content.
    Add $3.99/mo or $89.99 lifetime if you would also like to extend live content.

    I partially agree with dave’s mention of the cablecard. With fios it’s 3.99/mo for a cablecard. what does the cable card do? it allows me to watch live content. when i got my second s3, i didnt even intend to put a cablecard in it, i was only going to use it as an extender. but i thought $4/mo was worth it to be able to watch the occasional football game on it live and act as a third tuner.

    i look forward to the mini’s release as it will influx a bunch of lifetime’d s3 and 2 tuner premiers onto the market that i can snap up for under 250.

  34. I just hope, if there is a monthly fee, it’s $5 or less. I’m only paying $6.95 a month for my two tuner Premiere while my Elites are on Lifetime. At $5 a month, my net cost would only increase $1 since I would no longer need a third cable card from FiOS. My two tuner Premiere would then be dedicated to OTA which the Mini or my Elite would be able to access any OTA recordings from it.

  35. @gt
    How can it be a roku channel? Doesn’t the Roku onluy handle MPEG2? If so, wouldn’t you need a TiVo Stream on the LAN to be able to view recordings from the Roku?
    Most recordings are in MPEG2. So wouldn’t you need a device to transcode to MPEG4 to be able to view the content from the Roku?

  36. Quick google search says that Roku hardware supports mpeg2 (which is what most content on your TiVo is stored as) but may need additional licensing to actually decode it.

    If the licensing fees apply then yeah, you would need a TiVo stream box or series5 to transcode first. Seems weird, since any SoC or CPU can play HD mpeg2 content completely in software, and nobody pays any licensing fees using ffmpeg on their linux boxes, but the intricacies of licensing video codecs are difficult to decipher for the layman.

  37. Well, the pricing does need to fit in the MSO additional outlet fee range. I think something like $5/month with $99 down for the hardware would probably be fair given the capabilities. Maybe $100 extra for lifetime. Much more than $99 and you’re getting into full TiVo box pricing anyway.

  38. The pricing needs to fit into the bogus ‘additional outlet fee’ range because of Tivo’s deals with the MSOs? Um, ok.

    There’s no way to justify a Mini service fee for the retail customer without pissing off a ton of them, so let’s just have a reasonable ‘lifetime’ cost for the Mini of less than $200 (and preferably something like $150) and call it even.

  39. “The pricing needs to fit into the bogus ‘additional outlet fee’ range because of Tivo’s deals with the MSOs? Um, ok.”

    Exactly. Pardon my language, but that is f*cking bullsh*t.

  40. I only own one TV and therefore have no interest in the TiVo Mini. But I did purchase a TiVo stream over xmas and while it works quite well with our iPads, I consider it a bit of a one trick pony and I would like to see the TiVo Stream expand its capabilities so that it can stream to more devices such as Macs and PCs. My 24 inch iMac makes for quite a decent replacement for a small TV set.

    But I get the feeling that TiVo would never permit this; that they’d much rather have me purchase an additional TV set just so that I can have a suitable host for the new TiVo Mini. Back in the TiVo2Go days I was able to watch Tivo content on a PC with no trouble. As much as I like my TiVo stream I still feel that we haven’t reached that level of parity yet.

  41. As a long time TiVo owner, and one that already has a Roku, I am struggling to see what the advantage is to this if it is going to be more then $100 + monthly fee. As a person that uses OTA (in fact, most of the programming I watch is on the major networks) and Time Warner Cable (for Disney/Nick/A&E) this does not look like a good proposition to me. TWC is about to release a Roku channel that would let me watch over 300 channels of their programming at NO additional cost.

    With the requirement of the Premiere XL4, I would have to record on another source for anything OTA, so I loose that advantage, too.

    So, it looks like for LIVE TV, might as well go to TWC’s boxes (not my favorite, but gives me more features) and OTA antenna (already have a nice one) for locals on non-cable connected TVs. For OTA DVR, I would just use the tuner card that I already have and use software to save it in a format that I can play back via Plex to the Roku’s, Wii, Android, iOS, or even any modern browser, inside the home or out!

    I am still hoping that TiVo realizes that tying it to a specific DVR is not the greatest option for playing back recorded content, lets the Mini utilized people’s investment in current multiple Premiere “One Box” equipment, and does this the right way.

    However, I am no longer holding my breath. (sigh)

    I hope they get what they need from their MSO partners, because they have all but abandoned “TV your way” these days. They make enough off of the forced ads and viewing data to cover the guide costs and the hardware costs are not that expensive. This is really not more then a Roku in equipment, and they make a profit on each one of their devices according to their CEO. There is a wave of change happening in the market, and TiVo is going to have to change with it or they are going to have to play catch up real soon.

    What a shame….

  42. It’s been very interesting to read the different points of view in this thread. As I see it, the Mini is a late to the market, and may not be successful as a retail product.

    I say this because I think it’s likely that some of the other large MSOs will follow TWC’s lead and offer a Roku app, probably by the end of 2013. Assuming that their OnDemand programming can effectively replace a DVR for a less used second TV, then who needs a Mini on that second TV? You can buy a Roku HD for $50.

    A week ago I was still open to upgrading to a Premiere, but not now.

  43. Not sure how it works on the Roku, but on my iPad the TWC on-demand includes commercials. You can skip through some of them, and some you can’t. So that’s a major argument for TiVo right there.

    Remember, the main reason many of us got a TiVo in the first place was to skip commercials– I know it was for me.

  44. I first started with Tivo so that I could watch my favorite programming on *my* schedule instead of the networks’ schedule. Skipping commercials was an added bonus that I had not even considered before I made the initial purchase. Several years later, I definitely want to continue to skip commercials on my main TV, but I would not be willing to pay much $$$ to have this feature on a lesser used TV.

    So I will keep my TivoHD, but hope to replace my S2DT with the TWC Roku app. We’ll see…

  45. I look at it as a matter of principal– I haven’t watched a single TV commercial since 1999 and I don’t plan on ever doing so again.

  46. I think the perception problem with charging a “service fee” for the Mini is that they’re not *providing* a service for the fee. It’s useless without a full-fledged TiVo, which is already covered by a service fee, and doesn’t consume any additional guide data, etc. So it’s double-dipping, in essence.

    What’s next, a service fee for the remote? Or maybe that’s part of the lost remote locator roll-out.

  47. That is exactly what people are having heartburn with – there shouldn’t be a service fee for the Mini, and ideally it should be priced right where the Stream is ($129).

  48. By the same token, Verizon should let me purchase my set top box that connects to my Verizon Multi-Room gateway instead of charging me $11.99 per month. If TiVo has recurring monthly costs to service the Mini (which it does), why shouldn’t there be a service fee for the Mini? Could they go the DISH Sling route and charge for every app on every device? Of course. TiVo’s business model is to make nothing on hardware and recoup their investment via monthly or lifetime service fees. At the same time, their business model relies on maintaining and adding MSO partners. If the Mini service fee is significantly less than the Premiere service fee ($12.99/$14.99 or $399/$499PLS) than I think it will be a compelling offering. My view is “significant” means at least 50% lower than the current DVR fees (i.e., $6.50/mo or $199PLS). I believe TiVo should price the Mini to be price competitive with the cost of a CableCARD — in my case a Verizon CableCARD is $3.99/mo.

  49. @Ellipse

    Those 300 channels on TWC are live channels. Which means no pausing, rewinding, Fast Forwarding etc. It will be like watching TV decades ago. With the TiVo Stream or the TiVo Mini you can do all those things that is expected from a 21st century device. Instead of watching TV like was done in the 20th century.

  50. @Sam — Verizon doesn’t charge you $100+ up front for the STB, though. If TiVo were giving this thing away for free, it’d be a different story.

    And I disagree with the premise that TiVo has recurring monthly costs for the Mini. The thing is an extender, useless without the main TiVo. All the recurring monthly costs are well covered with the service fee on that unit.

    My MSO offers the Preview — a box with more capability than the Mini — for $10 a month with no up front fee. A Q+Preview bundle is $30.

    If service is $6.50, as you suggest — plus $15 for the main unit — I’d be paying $21.50 a month in service fees for something I can essentially rent for $30. Presuming a $100 up front cost for the Mini (and $250 currently for the Premiere 4), it’d take almost four years to break even compared with renting. Not a good deal, by any stretch.

  51. @Sam
    So since Verizion screws you, it’s ok for Tivo to screw you. As long as it’s a little less of a screwing.

    TWC releasing a Roku app just shows how out of touch Tivo is with it’s retail strategy. The new 4-tuner cable card only units were the first step. I wouldn’t be surprised that when a “Series 5” gets released, there won’t be an ota option in any of them. They’ll just sell us the 2-tuner “Series 4” for “cord-cutters” as long as they can.

  52. @dtremit,

    Good points regarding the RCN pricing model. I’m pretty sure that TiVo has been struggling with the exact permutations you’ve described. IIRC, in general the break-even point for TiVo lifetime service versus monthly has been in the 24 to 30 month range. That range of ROI for retail consumers should drive the pricing model for the Mini, IMHO.

  53. TiVo still has a few months to work on the pricing and hopefully they see the feedback. But they’re probably OK being thought of as a “premium” DVR. As a FiOS TV customer, I’m wondering which will hit first and with better pricing. Ultimately, I will want that Media Server in my home as it’s going to feed all sorts of devices, probably more than TiVo. But it’s not clear when that functionality will arrive.

  54. Since I lease my residence, I’m not permitted to have additional outlets installed. I was looking forward to the Mini without a service fee, but Tivo has ruined that. I don’t see why they can’t just follow the same model as the Stream (which MSOs also are deploying so the argument doesn’t hold up). I think Tivo is thinking about losing out on Premiere Service Fees.

    Now I’ve got to figure out what to do with with 4 units, because I have 4 Xbox 360(s) and it looks like Tivo is forcing me to go with Ceton. The tuner should pay for itself rather quickly when I compare it to funds recouped from terminated service fees.

    I really expected a better effort from Tivo.

  55. The problem with Tivo adding a service fee to the Mini to recover the loss of service fees on a hypothetical Premiere is that Premiere profitability depends on the fee. The hardware has routinely been sold at a loss, with cost recovery accomplished through higher fees than those charged on other Tivo boxes.

    If a customer decides to buy a Mini instead of a Premiere, Tivo should be thankful. They are no longer selling a box which loses money out the door.

  56. Good point, Kwijibo.

    Quick and dirty math time.

    Tivo’s average subsidy is about $160ish per unit, correct? Would that put the actual cost of a 2-tuner Premiere roughly in the $250 range, start to finish? If we do the dirty math, assuming the Mini is based off the Premiere platform, the Mini strips $80-$100 off the cost of a 2-tuner Premiere. That can place actual cost for the Mini in the $150 range. Possibly lower if my retail price starting point is too high.

    They could have a lower MSRP and collect it back through a subsidy, but the Mini could also sell at close to cost for $180 (same as the Echo) making fees largely arbitrary.

    Just about any pricing permutation that includes a low monthly fee is going to tick off the MSO’s. I say just sell it for $199 and give the fees a rest. The upfront cost should be plenty high to differentiate it from the MSO rental fees.

    Or if they absolutely insist, they could do $99 and $10/mo with a 1-year contract, or a $5/mo with a 2 year. But the MSO’s won’t like either. So I say stick to $199 and call it a day.

  57. I wonder what the expected resale value of a lifetime mini will be. You can find a used lifetime premiere for $450 on ebay and use that in place of the mini without a cable card. You wouldn’t be able to do remote scheduling or allocate a tuner from the 4 tuner premiere, but you could use an antenna or straight cable to the premiere to watch live TV and schedule recordings from the limited source on the premiere. A new mini with lifetime could cost $300 and the resale market would be limited to 4 tuner premiere owners.

  58. I’m skeptical that the Mini is based off the Premiere platform. There’s way more hardware in a Premiere than would ever be used in a mini — remember, the coax is there for MoCA, not for a tuner.

    The hardware oughtn’t be much different from something like the Roku XS, plus a few bucks for MoCA.

    In other words, if their cost isn’t well under $100 for this unit, they’re really doing it wrong.

  59. It was reported in this article that the mini might have 2GB of storage. I don’t see how the price could be under $100 with a 2GB hard drive.

  60. @shwru980r,

    I doubt you could even source a 2gb hard drive. It’s far more likely the Mini will come with some kind of flash memory, which would cost just a couple of dollars retail.

  61. I need to understand something before I jump on the Mini bandwagon. There is a new option in the TiVo menus to dedicate 1 or 2 tuners for streaming.

    Here is the page at TiVo for this setup:

    Now, I did this (without the Mini’s of course) for 2 tuners. I noticed the next day that ‘Live TV’ just pinged between the remaining two tuners and that I didn’t see more than 2 shows recording at one time. It looks like the two ‘dedicated’ tuners can no longer record or be visible if not being used for streaming??? This is a showstopper for me. I was assuming they would be used as needed. Also, as such, I cannot think of any reason a monthly fee should be added. I paid TiVo for 4 tuners. Why would I have to lease adding 0 tuners from them? I find that mental model very confusing.

  62. @Derek,

    Yes, dedicating a tuner to a Mini removes it from the pool available to the local Tivo host for recording or viewing live TV.

    The sole function of dedicating a tuner to a Mini will be to enable viewing of live TV on a Mini. If live TV viewing is not necessary, we should be able to allocate zero tuners, leaving the host Tivo as a four-tuner device.

    Dynamic tuner allocation is one of the rumors we hear about, but is not expected to be available at the Mini’s launch.

    I believe a workaround for live TV with no tuner allocated will be to initiate a recording from the Mini, and then the Mini can stream that recording. So what’s showing at the Mini is not quite live, but a just few seconds delayed.

  63. @Kwijibo

    Okay, so I want to watch live TV at a second location. Now I can only record 3 shows at once? So, by adding functionality, I am removing even more important functionality. I cannot for the life of me see why I should pay monthly for that. I think charging a service fee for this is a seriously flawed proposition.

  64. @Derek,

    You’ve got it–allocating a tuner to a Mini removes that tuner from the XL4/Elite pool and cannot be used for anything except remote live TV. Welcome to your three-tuner DVR!

  65. I’m guessing that if the program you happen to be watching on the Mini is one that is scheduled and/or being recorded, than the other three tuners would be available to record other shows. A common use-case for me is to start watching a show a few minutes after it starts so I can fast forward through the commercials. I’m hoping that this use-case is supported and that I would still have three additional tuners to watch/record other channels.

  66. I am not sure why this is so difficult for Tivo to figure out. Today if I am watching Live TV and the Tivo needs the tuner because I have scheduled a recording I get a message asking me if it is okay to change the channel. Isn’t this as simple as a similar message coming up on the mini if the Premiere is trying to change the channel currently being streamed to the mini, whether because of a scheduled recording needs the tuner or user initiated a channel change on the streamed tuner. The person watching the mini could then reject the request (if no response from the mini say after 10 seconds then allow the channel change). As long as I could see which channel is being shared on the Premiere end (so I know not to change the streamed channel if I know someone is watching it) everything would be fine?

  67. Tivo is struggling to explain their value add in the ecosystem. The mini isn’t helping their cause. My tivo HD is working fine. I also have a comcast dvr. We’re adding a 3rd box and I’m heavily leaning towards the comcast dvr. The subscription model is the way to go but they need to give value to people who previously paid a lifetime subscription. They should ditch lifetime (although that is my preference) and go whole hog on going after subscribers.

  68. @dtremit When I say it’s based off the Premiere, I’m primarily saying its based off the same CPU for the sake of software compatibility. We know that the Preview is a stripped down Premiere. The Mini is just further stripped down to the bare cpu, memory, a bit of storage, and i/o.

    Additionally I believe it’s based off the same CPU because changing it would potentially mean a lot of additional custom code work rather than leveraging existing code. But whether it’s stripping down a Premiere or building up a Roku with MoCA and other Tivo needs, we’d still float in the same price range. MoCA can be kinda pricey still.

  69. Well, this is certainly getting people riled up…

    I’ll be watching the pricing model with interest like others. No religious opinion on the subject, it’ll be a straight-forward comparison of how much I’m paying now for a TivoHD. Which is $12.95/mo to TiVo plus ($8.95 extra outlet fee – $2.50 own equipment credit) = $6.45 to Comcast. So $19.40 per month.

    Compared to that something like $5 or $7.95/mo for a Mini would make sense to me. I’d save like $12/mo so assuming the Mini isn’t $200 it would work out for me. Plus I’m more interested in paying Comcast less for stupid fees than in paying TiVo less.

    That said, I do wonder what the landscape TiVo will compare itself to is going to look like in the near future. If that Intel/Arris Home Gateway thing materializes on Comcast, how much are they going to want (hint: not zero, not even close to zero) for it? So I can watch live TV on my iPad? Well, how much would I pay (hint: zero).

    In the future if that sort of thing replaced cable cards, and I could just drop a TV that I already owned in a bedroom (e.g. now we’re talking 10 years from now) how much would I pay? I guess $15/month or something might be workable. But that’s ages from now and would require me to replace every TV, TiVo etc I already own to get things that work with protected DLNA support etc. Not holding my breath for that…

    I remember when I thought those new fangled “shared data” plans were going to be a *good* thing that would let me share data between many mobile devices rather than just another trick to force me to pay more per month. Hah.

  70. I think all of you Mini price hawks are actually doves.

    The Mini should be priced at $29 with TiVo paying you $4.99/month for the privilege of running the unit. Will that make folks happy? Also, TiVo should ship you a free pony along with every Mini.

  71. So, as it stands, the majority of the stuff I’ve tried to transfer from one TiVo to another has been blocked by the coy protection flag..

    Do we know if a streamed show would be treated any differently?

  72. “So, as it stands, the majority of the stuff I’ve tried to transfer from one TiVo to another has been blocked by the coy protection flag. Do we know if a streamed show would be treated any differently?”

    Yes. That’s a large part of the appeal of the Mini. All streaming, no CCI-byte restricted xfers.

  73. I played with my mom’s Roku last night and it still makes me feel that TiVo is missing something by not making the Mini a better Roku. Maybe the Roku has some type of universal search, but I couldn’t find it.

    I really think TiVo would sell more if they offered the Mini as a Roku replacement first and then the extender functionality second. The service/lifetime fee would only be needed if you wanted the extender functionality. Of course TiVo would have to get a ton more apps or at least the main ones. It would also introduce people to the TiVo UI and some of the possible advantages over other DVRs such as TiVo’s universal search.

    I guess much like the TiVo Blu-Ray player it will only be a dream for me. I would be more interested in buying a Mini though since the Roku is tempting, but I prefer the TiVo experience minus the current app performance on the Premieres.

  74. I thought I read, and that we’d been told, that the TiVo Mini would launch with support for 4-tuner Premieres, but that support for 2-tuner Premieres would arrive soon thereafter. Has TiVo backed away from that? WTH? Gosh, that would seriously piss me off if my Premiere was precluded from this. I thought the monthly fee would be a deal-killer… and now this? Sheesh.

  75. Brennok, Roku recently added semi-universal search. It’s on the left side of the channel list. A bunch of items hit around my fall getaway that I failed to cover, including TiVo’s updated HDUI Season Passes. Need to get on that.

    Fofer, I wasn’t given a formal Mini briefing so we’ll continue to speculate. Maybe I need to develop the Chucky solution of offloading all TiVo-ed content and piping it back to the big screen via Plex. No Mini necessary (for recorded content, anyway). Hm.

  76. “Brennok, Roku recently added semi-universal search.”

    I dunno if Roku fully understands just what a killer app that semi-universal search really could be.

    As is, it’s sadly under-featured.

    – Let the back button go back to the search, if you ended up on a product page in a channel via search. As is, multiple search & explore missions are tedious and abandoned.

    – Let the search work on the iOS app, and immediately send you to the product page in a channel on the Roku itself when chosen.

    Do those two things, add a tiny bit of scotch tape in some minor gaps, and folks would be a lot more ga-ga over Roku’s semi-universal search, which even as is, really is the best thing about the box, (other than being the cheapest way to get HBO Go in the lean-back…)

  77. Dave, you said “knowing many, such as myself, would cancel an existing Premiere sub in lieu of a Mini and Roku-esque devices are pretty low margin, anyway. So I’ve been resigned to a monthly fee. ”

    But wouldn’t you NEED the Premiere subscription active as the mini is an extension of it via MOCA?

  78. “But wouldn’t you NEED the Premiere subscription active as the mini is an extension of it via MOCA?”

    But if you replace two Premieres with one Premiere and one Mini…

  79. Exactly, I have a Lifetimed Premiere XL4 and a regular Premiere on monthly… which is the unit I’d like to decommission.

    Ideally, I’d have a few Minis – one in the basement, one in the bedroom, one in the kitchen, and the XL4 in the family room. Although given TiVo’s initial pricing thoughts, quote in the article above, it may not be economical for me to go that route. Not to mention, as it stands, each Mini basically permanently steals a tuner from the host and there’s a two Mini max per 4-tuner TiVo. Sounds like they’re still working on making it a more flexible solution with dynamic tuner allocation, but who knows when that would hit. It’ll be interesting to see how Verizon’s new hub/client hardware will compare in functionality and pricing.

  80. It seems like it would have been better for Tivo to build in the tuner allocation and remote scheduling features of the mini into the exising DVR software and then offer a lower monthly/lifetime rate to use a premiere in extender only mode.

  81. I don’t care about live TV. I have a TiVo! Therefore I don’t care about tuner allocation. I just want (inexpensive) independent access to my Premiere’s Now Playing list in another room. Will this ever come to the 2-tuner Premiere, or has TiVo just given up on this front?

  82. @Fofer,

    The rumor is that Mini functionality will eventually be available to all Premieres, but limited to XL4/Elites at launch. I assume the Mini will spread to other Premieres around the same time dynamic tuner allocation is available.

  83. But Tivo already sells hardware that is capable of of performing the functionality of the Mini. All that is needed is a software update. It doesn’t make sense to release a new appliance with a cost that will probably be 50-75% of the Premiere.

  84. Tivo subsidizes that hardware. They lose over $160 on average, according to their financials. That wouldn’t be the case with the Mini. Selling more higher margin 4-tuner boxes and a profitable Mini would be more desirable for them.

  85. @Mike,

    Last quarter their retail hardware subsidy dropped to approximately $120 per new subscriber from $158 per subscriber in Q2. They attributed the improvement to the better mix of boxes. Based on their investor call commentary I believe the XL4 and Stream are not subsidized, the Premiere 4 has a small subsidized, and the base $149 Premiere is still subsidized. I concur that the Mini will likely be sold without a subsidy as well.

  86. I can’t believe some people agree with a subscription fee. To me, this is a hundred dollar add-on product to a high-end premiere. It should be priced as such. If it didn’t cannibalize a tuner from the premiere (which you already bought and/or continue to pay for), then I’d consider a subscription. Until then, it’s basically just a way to watch your pre-recorded shows on another TV (in my book). All of this could easily be solved by making tuner acquisition on an ‘as needed’ basis.

    I’ve owned over a dozen TiVos since the first 2 models came out. I have always been a huge advocate, but I think this is reaching. A sub is a non-starter on this. I think you’ll see most using it as a small box they can watch pre-rec shows on, and personally if that’s all it is, I’d rather they just make a Roku app and stop this silliness.

  87. It pisses me off every morning when I pay $4.80 on the toll road. But I do it anyway to bypass 20 minutes in traffic. If the Mini ships with a fee, I may not like it. But I may pay it to be beat the alternative (of no Mini or another full-fledged DVR).

  88. @Sam
    “Last quarter their retail hardware subsidy dropped to approximately $120 per new subscriber from $158 per subscriber in Q2.”

    so they’re losing 120 for each premiere. i dont understand why this ‘mini’ wasnt on the market as a ‘maxi’ 2 years ago, and have it literally be a premiere box minus a hard drive, fan, tuners, cablecard slot, etc. and just add some flash chip to it. have the OS on it and code to boot npl into the mrv menu.
    this product could have been on the market years ago, with much less testing, sold at cost for $150 or whatever. sure it’d be ‘big’, maybe thinner with no hard drive.

    instead, they are way too late to market, way too confusing with a separate stream and mini to the average consumer, and to us, wondering why we’re to pay for these two boxes that could have been one together, and should have been none and just a roku app and maybe some little dongle that plugs into the back of the premiere to boost transcoding.

    and now, they are trying to make money on it, when their focus should be to retain customers. they are trying not to cannibalize premiere sales, when most users would be just supplementing tv’s without a premiere. they are trying to push 4 tuner sales, and people here are thinking the 2 tuners will work with this ‘soon’? this is tivo people..are you kidding yourselves?

    and i keep hearing about a series 5, this year? hilarious.

  89. I’ve ridden the TiVo rollercoaster since the very beginning (when they were giving away series 1 boxes for winning poems.) Eventually went DirecTiVo, then paid far too much for a Series 3 HD TiVo… and now sit with the 2-tuner Premiere, upgraded to 2TB, with no intention of upgrading again. I’m watching less TV, streaming more, and life goes on. I’m single, have no need for 4 tuners, and don’t want to lose my library of recordings… again. Yet I was excited for the TiVo Mini. To enjoy my Now Playing List, in my den. And it seems like TiVo (again) is doing everything in its power to sabotage my optimism.

    That said, I’m afraid I have to agree with hfcs’ “dose of reality” above.

    I mean, let’s be real:

    The HDUI of the base OS *still* isn’t complete. I’m embarrassed for this company already.

    All of the apps (every one of them) are slow and clunky.

    While the addition of Spotify was welcome, character entry doesn’t even work with the TiVo Slide remote’s keyboard. How is this overlooked? It makes the app an absolute BEAST to use.

    TiVo’s Amazon app is the single redheaded stepchild that still can’t do Instant Prime.

    It’s all a mess.

    I’ve lost any faith whatsoever that this company can deliver on anything beyond the base DVR functionality we’ve had for over a decade now.

    So now we have a Mini that will only work with the 4-tuner Premiere (for functionality of live tuner I couldn’t care less about) and there’s going to be a ridiculous monthly fee for it, too. I’ve even resigned myself to pay for it, but if they can’t even come out of the gate, after all this time, for the 2-tuner Premiere, I don’t have much faith that they’ll magically begin supporting it a few months later. What a nightmare this will be to market in retail.


  90. So the mini offers the same benefits of an HDMI splitter and infrared repeater offers. Only the Tivo Mini will cost more than the simple option, cost a monthly fee, remove tuners available to your 4 tuner Premier, have less built-in features, and create new opportunities for advertising in the interface.

    Personally, faced with the choice of using a HDMI splitter & infrared repeater vs the Tivo Mini- I think I would pass on the Tivo Mini. For the mini- I would have need a Ethernet cord at every TV for internet anyways. So why not use a HDMI splitter. They already have HDMI splitters that run to each tv over Ethernet cable to save on costs. Lastly, they could also take multiple devices and split them to all TVs and still be less cost. (for reference: checkout http://www.monoprice.com/products/search.asp?keyword=hdmi%20splitter

    I feel that the market strategy for Tivo Vs generic DVR being all about features. Other than interface, suggested shows, hulu/netflix/youtube- what makes Tivo soo special. Content can be ‘streamed’ with an HDMI splitter from either DVR.

    If one with a Tivo has a second TV they are considering using they have some options. Second Premier, generic DVR for 2nd tv, HDMI splitter, or Tivo Mini. The cheapest becomes generic DVR or HDMI splitter. The Tivo Mini loses out to an HDMI splitter because of features lost & almost any retail price. Personally- I think it is bad for Tivo’s future to let people consider stepping away from Tivo and should sell for under $50.00 with no monthly fee. – The MSO should be happy to lease Tivo DVRs and can charge a premium to rent them over generic. Making the Tivo Mini as vanilla as a ‘router’ is to an MSO seems like the right move for Tivo

  91. Why in the name of God would I ever consider paying a monthly fee (or lifetime fee) to use a box that draws pre-recorded programming and current tuner use from another box that I’ve already purchased a lifetime fee to supply the programming? TiVo, this is a non-starter for me. I’d consider paying anywhere from a breakeven price point up to a small premium for the Mini itself, but if it requires a monthly/lifetime fee, you can just forget selling me any of them.

    -A longtime TiVo customer

  92. I’m in for at least one with a monthly fee of $6. Of course $5 would have been better but at least it is still less than the $6.95 a month I pay for my two tuner Premiere. Although my two Elites have Lifetime service. But I’ll hold off on lifetime for the Mini.

  93. most people i know don’t even consider TiVo an option, and with good reason. their pricing is bizarre and their lack of transferring subs from one box to the next is crazy.

    a big company like apple or google needs to own tivo. forget subs of any kind, make the box one price forever. are you telling me they can’t make a decent box at a profit for $400? thats BS.

    give the box a real OS like droid or iOS or surface RT, and give it some real capability.

    market it as a home theatre device that replaces your cable dvr. stick a blu-ray player/rec in it. give it an app store, and get revenue from that. make it possible to do mobile gaming at least.

    the people running tivo are running it right into the ground.

  94. @Mike,

    There’s good reason that Apple and Google haven’t jumped into the retail advanced television game. The friction associated with CableCARD makes it impossible to spur retail adoption en masse. TiVo’s strategy of partnering with cable operators is their only choice. Retail generates significant recurring revenue for TiVo but the answer you are suggesting will not work for countless reasons. TiVo is not going to migrate their platform away from Broadcom/Linux/Adobe Air. They’ve invested way too much money in unifying the platform across retail and cable partners. I won’t repeat what Chucky said above, but TiVo is the best alternative to leased cable operator alternative solutions.

  95. Speaking of warm fuzzies:

    Remarkably, I’ve maintained my warm fuzzies for TiVo through the whole S4 debacle.

    But even though it doesn’t affect me in the slightest, Alviso not allowing folks to use a P2 as a Mini hub seems very un-TiVo behavior to me. That’s not what I expect from the happy TiVo mascot.

    If they don’t roll out a software upgrade to the P2 at some point, or explain an actual hardware limitation preventing it, it’d notably diminish my warm fuzzy feelings towards TiVo. It’s all about trust…

  96. If the TiVo Mini ends up not working with the 2-tuner TiVo Premiere by, say, this time next year, I have decided TiVo will not get any more of my money. There’s simply no way I am upgrading to a 4-tuner Premiere for that functionality alone as that would be rewarding TiVo for piss-poor development and coding. In that case, the TiVo Stream will be the last piece of TiVo hardware I purchase. I’m simply sick and tired of being led on and ultimately disappointed by TiVo’s half-baked solutions.

    Dish’s Hopper and Joey products are *much* more aggressive, capable and flexible, specifically when it comes to place-shifting and time-shifting recorded content.

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