As cable providers examine technological enhancements to reclaim and more effectively manage their finite network throughput, they’ve dabbled in both MPEG-4 encoding and Switched Digital Video. Whereas SDV manages tuning in a more efficient manner, modernizing from the MPEG-2 format results in fundamentally smaller video. And Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, will imminently flip the switch to MPEG-4 in some Georgia and California markets.
For customers running newer cable boxes and DVRs, the transition should be seemless. However, folks on older hardware will need to swap boxes. Those with Comcast gear need merely walk into the store to receive new Xfinity equipment or even arrange it online. But for TiVo owners, the inherent risk in purchasing retail cable hardware manifests…
Series3/HD: IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED! These DVRs will lose everything except local HD channels. All other HD cable channels will be incompatible.
TiVo has never disclosed model breakdown, but I’d guess 20-30% of their active DVRs are Series 3 and TiVo HD CableCARD variants. And, thus, if they had an easy fix to provide MPEG-4 compatibility to this generation of hardware they’d surely implement it. Especially given Comcast’s expected nationwide transition, ramping up towards the end of this year. Further, at some point, we fully expect Verizon to follow suit with FiOS – who’s also had a small number of MPEG-4 channels in the mix for a while.
UPDATE: Good news – TiVo retrofit HD units for MPEG-4.
But it’s not all bad news… Those of us on newer TiVo hardware should expect to see an immediate 30% increase in storage capacity. Further, it appears that TiVo owners in dire straights will be able to purchase a new Roamio and add Lifetime for only $100 – vs the typical $400-500. Yeah, it’s still money of out your pocket, but for those comfortable underwriting an upgrade, it’s not an entirely unreasonable deal.
Although I’m left wondering how many will simply choose to move on?
(Thanks for the letter, Kupe!)