A TiVo Mini Alternative: TiVo Stream to Apple TV

Dave Zatz —  March 8, 2013

sad_tivoMultiple data points had indicated a TiVo Mini launch this week… yet here we are, Miniless. As to the shifting announcement, one can only guess – perhaps TiVo’s still getting the device’s technical or marketing ducks in a row. Better yet, maybe they’re taking time to reevaluate the TiVo tax. Regardless, TiVo support seems to have confirmed the situation as we understand it:

We had to delay the release. Unfortunately we have not announced when the release was rescheduled to.

So while we wait, or perhaps in lieu of an eventual TiVo Mini purchase, by using an iPhone or iPad as an intermediary, TiVo Stream owners can already move video from TiVo to a secondary television via Apple TV. Now it is a bit of a hack and, in my experimentation, I did experience some dropped frames. But for occasional usage or those on a tight budget, here’s how you’d expand the capabilities of a TiVo Stream:


1) Jailbreak iDevice
To install and run the requisite services, the first step is to liberate your iPhone or iPad. While jailbreaking is a time honored, low risk tradition it’s important you understand this is not endorsed by Apple, potentially reduces the security and stability of your iDevice, not to mention the threat of data loss is real. So back up before you begin, and then head on over to evasi0n to download your untethered Windows or Mac OS X jailbreak utility. These days, the act of jailbreaking doesn’t require any specialized skills – just a few clicks and perhaps 5 minutes of your time. And, once complete, the alternative app store Cydia will be installed on your iDevice.


2) Install xCon
The next step, as described on the TiVo.com support forum, is to install the free xCon utility to ensure the TiVo app will continue to function on a jailbroken iDevice. Simply open Cydia, click Search, type xCon, tap the result, and then tap Install. No configuration or modifications are needed at this point, as TiVo’s previously been indexed by xCon.


3) Purchase & Install UnrestrictPremium
The next app you’ll need to install via Cydia is UnrestrictPremium. Similarly search the repository for it, link a Google or Facebook account, and set up the $3 payment. A little heartburn is to be expected at this point in the process and you’re wise to be cautious, and all I can say is my accounts haven’t been hacked nor has my PayPal account been emptied – but proceed at your own risk. Once installed, head over to the iDevice Settings screen to customize UnrestrictPremium. First, you’ll need to select TiVo from a list of resident apps. Then you may need to experiment with the various mirroring and Airplay options for optimal performance, as the ones documented on the TiVo Community Forum are a few days out of date, given a recent app update.


4) Turn On Airplay Mirroring & Stream, Baby, Stream
Now you’re ready to give it a shot, so park yourself in front of your Apple TV and ready your iDevice. First, turn on AirPlay Mirroring by double clicking the Home Button, scrolling to the left until you see the AirPlay icon, which you’ll proceed to tap and configure for APple TV AirPlay Mirroring. Once you see your iDevice on the television screen, launch the TiVo app and search for a live channel or recorded program you’d like to watch. Be sure to click Watch On iPhone (or iPad)… even though we know better.


If you give this method a go, be sure to let us know in the comments how it’s working out for you.

11 responses to A TiVo Mini Alternative: TiVo Stream to Apple TV

  1. After jailbreaking, I couldn’t use the TiVo app and it took a bit of searching to find the xCon tip, so I’m glad you put it in your notes here.

    Also, the xCon developers give their software aware for free, but you can donate to them and I’m sure they’d appreciate it. (I sent them a few dollars through PayPal). I don’t have the details handy, but I think there’s a way to do it through the Cydia store too.

  2. Seriously TiVo. Just take my money. I want minis and a 4XL. The only good reason to delay the mini is to release a 6-tuner box at the same time.

  3. Couldn’t you accomplish the same outcome with clever placement of mirrors and fresnel lenses, thus avoiding the transcoding pitfall?

  4. “As to the shifting announcement, one can only guess”

    The Minis are there. All boxed up and ready to ship.

    But everyone at TiVo set their computer clocks back to deal with the TiVo Desktop issue, so they’re not aware that March 6th has occurred…

  5. Yeah, that would work if I only had an iDevice, and an AppleTV, and… well, you get the idea.

    Was waiting on the Mini to scope out going from a THD+S2+ to a 4XL + 2 minis, but if they’re never going to get around to releasing it… meanwhile, TWC releases their live streaming app for Android & Roku.

  6. At this point in time, I would not recommend a Premiere purchase as we expect new DVR hardware, using a more suitable and modern chip, within 12 months. Either that or be prepared to supplement an existing model Premiere with a Roku or Apple TV if you intend to dabble much in over-the-top content.

  7. “At this point in time, I would not recommend a Premiere purchase as we expect new DVR hardware, using a more suitable and modern chip, within 12 months.”

    Well, now we know why TiVo PR doesn’t like you ;)

    I’m personally skipping the S4 series hardware, but let’s look at Bill’s particular use-case scenario:

    “Was waiting on the Mini to scope out going from a THD+S2+ to a 4XL + 2 minis”

    Let’s assume that the Mini comes out on Monday, and let’s it performs well. Then, it might well make sense for Bill to purchase 2 Minis and an Elite, especially if he doesn’t lifetime the Elite, as it’ll be the first thing he’ll want to replace.

    So if Bill did that, he’ll have Whole Home over the next year, and whenever the new DVR is released, he’ll still have two Minis with an adequate chipset. Then he can, at his leisure, upgrade the Elite at some future date. Plus, if the Mini ends up being implemented well enough to sit under the primary TV instead of the slower Elite, the whole scenario makes even more sense, as he’ll have less need to upgrade the Elite sooner.

    Now, there are obviously advantages at this point to waiting for TiVo to stick the Mini’s brains into a box with a platter drive and tuners. But if the above assumptions about the Mini are true, and you’re someone like Bill who wants to go Whole Home, it could well make sense to just buy an Elite + 2 Minis and go do so. There are trade-offs to calculate.

  8. True. And TiVo is running some special now where you basically end up getting a Stream for free. But I’d personally rather not mess with the whole ebay or craiglist thing and would probably just wait.

    Interesting that you mention TiVo Mini positioning… Given the lack of hard drive and fan, for silent operation, I was originally thinking of sticking it in the bedroom. However, TiVo’s support note does indicate there’s “lag” in tuning live television. So now I’m wondering if we should keep the XL4/Elite in the bedroom as we channel surf at that location a decent amount. If so, we’d put the Mini in the family room, where our prior Premiere used to sit but now hosts a free-for-three-months FiOS DVR.

  9. The proper “fix” to the “Tivo Mini tax” is to license the Premier unit as “Mini enabled” or something like that. So it’s $14.99 for a Tivo Premier, or $20.99 per month for a “Mini enabled” Tivo Premier, which would add the ability to stream to unlimited Minis @ $99 each. They make money on the hardware AND receive a fair increase on the main unit for anyone wishing to stream to the Minis.

    When the next generation Tivos come out, they could do the same thing with those, AND/OR they could follow the Tivo tradition by raising the monthly rate and justify it by having them be already enabled for Mini streaming.

    Tivo, I really hope you’re listening. It’s a perfect fix. I would guess the vast majority of your customers are not going to ever pay more than 1 Mini subscription anyway. By licensing the main Tivo unit for streaming, you increase the number of Mini sales and increase customer satisfaction at the same time.

  10. I, too, am waiting for new hardware (Series 5?) to replace my faithful THD. I’m hopeful that the rumors are true and that the S5 will have Stream functionality built-in.

    Best case scenario: Apple opens up the ATV to third-party apps and we get a TiVo App, allowing us to stream a tuner directly to an ATV. Worst case scenario: I have to have both a Mini and an ATV at each “extra” TV.

    Either way, I can’t wait to get the last bit of Comcast hardware (other than one CableCard) out of my house.