TiVo Bolt to Feature 4k

Dave Zatz —  September 3, 2015

As we continue to track the unannounced TiVo Bolt, we can now confirm the Roamio-replacement will feature 4k support. What my industry source couldn’t tell me is if this applies to all models and what it might do to hardware cost. But it’ll be quite impressive if TiVo beats both Apple TV and Roku to 4k. Of course, the real world value (in 2015) is debatable with only a subset of potential customers possessing a UHD set and a very limited amount of 4k content from the likes to Netflix and Amazon. Not to mention, many of those aforementioned 4k sets possess their very own Netflix and Amazon apps… although there are those who swear by TiVo OnePass.

tivo-bolt

Timeline:

53 responses to TiVo Bolt to Feature 4k

  1. Well if the Bolt handles UHD then my next question would be if it can downscale UHD content from 2160P to 1080P. If so then a TiVo Bolt might be in my future. And I would be selling my current Roamio Pro.

    I don’t have any UHD sets yet. But I wouldn’t mind being able to watch the Netflix UHD 4K content downscaled to 2K.

  2. “But it’ll be quite impressive if TiVo beats both Apple TV and Roku to 4k. Of course, the real world value (in 2015) is debatable with only a subset of potential customers possessing a UHD set and a very limited amount of 4k content from the likes to Netflix and Amazon. Not to mention, many of those aforementioned 4k sets possess their very own Netflix and Amazon apps”

    I continue to maintain that the first widespread deployment of 4K content will come to the multicast before OTT, due to bandwidth issues.

    So, yeah, the ability to playback OTT in 4K is not a massive competitive advantage, though keeping up with the Jones is still good. But more importantly, this positions TiVo to be there on day one when MSO’s start shipping 4K through the multicast.

    (Also, makes me wonder, depending on how much additional cost this will add, if TiVo keeps the Roamio around longer than we all think as a lower cost option…)

  3. I guess that explains the unintuitive name change. It certainly won’t hurt sales.

  4. Any chance the Bolt will support CableCard and OTA in the same unit? I’d like the legacy support of CableCard with the option to cut the cord in the future without changing hardware.

    I also hope TiVo finally gets that they have to compete with Roku, Apple and Amaozn on the app front with this new box. (They seem to be catching on…)

  5. “I don’t have any UHD sets yet. But I wouldn’t mind being able to watch the Netflix UHD 4K content downscaled to 2K.”

    I could well be ignorant about this, but from the little I’ve read, I don’t think 4K downscaled to 1080 is a real PQ improvement. Plus, it means that once bandwidth caps/tiers get widely implemented, you’d be paying more for something that wasn’t really worth it to you…

  6. Tom, I’m sure they know. It’s more about convincing potential partners to develop for, deploy to their box. TiVo’s S4/S5 footprint is tiny compared to Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, etc. Moving from Flash to Haxe probably lowers the barrier somewhat.

  7. I’m holding out for 8k support.

  8. “It’s more about convincing potential partners to develop (OTT apps) for, deploy to their box.”

    As always, I strongly think it’s almost entirely about the power of MSO’s to require MSO-authenticated apps to be approved on any particular piece of hardware. And as we all know, the MSO’s don’t really want to help out TiVo.

    You can see this in the fact that all the big non-MSO-authenticated apps are already on TiVo. Compare and contrast.

    (The only one missing is HBO Now, but that’s new, and I assume it’s coming to TiVo relatively soon. I assume the hangup is Time-Warner trying to convince MSO’s to allow HBO Go too, which the leverage of HBO Now makes a more palatable option for MSO’s.)

  9. “I guess that explains the unintuitive name change.”

    Wasn’t unintuitive. Turns out we all just missed it. “Bolt” means “4K” in Turkish.

  10. I’d love to replace my Roamio with a new 4K TiVo. But the important question that I have not yet seen asked is:

    Will they still have SD settings menus? And will the other existing menus stay HD? Or will they all be migrated to UHD?

  11. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Netflix, vudu, and Amazon are big on their UHD investment. This box should do all three. Hopefully they go all in for hdmi 2.0a to enable HDR output as well. This is awesome.

    Next up they need to build out the streaming apps to go wider with HBO go/now, wwe network, ultraflix, and so on.

    If they are real aware, the box should support vidity too, so you can download high bit rate UHD to it given it has storage built in.

    This could be the most forward thinking TiVo has been. Pure awesome. Can’t wait to see details.

    Also have to comment how sad and frustrating it is to keep reading tech bloggers and podcasters continue to talk about UHD as being of questionable value. Have you seen UHD content? It looks amazing. This is the future. And HDR and so on only makes it better. These companies have to move forward to get it out there. If they wait then nothing happens.

    Nice job TiVo. Hope you go all in.

  12. Few other comments.

    It doesn’t matter that tvs have built in apps. That doesn’t work for many people because of the audio. It’s better to have a device feed into your receiver than get audio back out of the TV via arc or optical. I have a 7.2 living room setup where my rack is in the basement with my gear. I can’t use TV apps because I use hdmi baluns to get the signal from my rack to the TV. Arc doesn’t work. I need UHD source devices down there.

    Regarding any lack of content. It’s coming big time. Some of the best shows on Netflix and Amazon and such are now in UHD. Mgo and ultraflix are going in big time with plenty of big name movies in UHD HDR. Vudu is coming this fall. Every new original series coming on Netflix will hit in UHD. And the disc players are coming too. More than enough now and certainly in the pipeline to justify it.

  13. “Also have to comment how sad and frustrating it is to keep reading tech bloggers and podcasters continue to talk about UHD as being of questionable value. Have you seen UHD content? It looks amazing. This is the future.”

    Entirely agreed. 4K rocks.

    But still think that for OTT, there is going to be a major bandwidth headache for consumers as it rolls out wide. It is indeed the future, but at least for OTT, it’s going to come slower than folks seem to think, and it likely will involve non-trivial additional consumer costs.

    (The economics are much more sensible for multicast. Which is precisely why I think TiVo is out ahead of Roku, Apple, etc on this…)

  14. Jaremy, Yeah – HDMI 2.0 is kind of a wild card in everything UHD these days. 4k is the future, but will it drive up prices too far across the board? TiVo already has a shrinking userbase, partially due to pricing consumers have mostly been unwilling to accept. (TiVo’s next earnings call is 9/8 — we’ll learn more about their numbers then and I wonder if they’ll try to time Bolt announcement for that week.)

    Tony, this is TiVo we’re talking about. I’m sure there will still be at least one SD menu screen.

  15. I guess we can assume that the TiVo Mega is being redesigned with 4k support as well, assuming it hasn’t been entirely mothballed. That could explain the delay. CEDIA is next month, I’m sure TiVo intends to show 4k there.

  16. I wonder if it require me to upgrade my receiver to be HDCP 2.2 to pass that 4k. I suppose only time will tell and I’m guessing it will be HDCP 2.2 only for 4k.

  17. I think this is a great thing. As someone who has been with TiVO since 1999, i was going to pass on this one, but now will have to get it. It’s all about content at this time. If it can get/retain/replay more 4K content it’s worth it to us. Comcast is supposed to have UHD xfinity content soon. Hopefully this will tie into it and aggregate all the content to the TiVO.

    We are not that interested in the upconvert. Only pure 4k. Our samsung’s do upconvert BEAUTIFULLY. Personally dont want to mess with it.

    Here’s hoping for more content in one UI though.

  18. Followup: Any rumors at all on a 4K mini?????

  19. Haven’t yet heard anything on an updated Mini, but we should assume there is one in the pipeline. As to when it launches, who knows. But hopefully it also comes with WiFi… :)

  20. “4k is the future, but will it drive up prices too far across the board?”

    As stated, I do think 4K is going to drive prices up specifically in the OTT space, due to bandwidth issues. But again, it should be far less of an issue for the multicast, which is precisely why TiVo is out ahead of the pack here.

    As far as TiVo’s BOM for the Bolt, I’m assuming the increase isn’t significant, but I don’t have any real clue if that’s true or not. But if 4K does notably increase TiVo’s BOM for the Bolt, I again wonder if they’ll keep the Roamio around. Do we actually have confirmation from TiVo that the Bolt means the Roamio is EOL?

  21. I’m sure it will have WIFI … But most likely 802.11g…..

    We have been very happy with the MOCO networking. Solved the problem nicely. Not sure that would have enough bandwidth for full 4K. Let me find the slide rule……

  22. “Haven’t heard anything on an updated Mini, but we should assume there is one in the pipeline. As to when it launches, who knows. But hopefully it also comes with WiFi”

    Ha! With careful in-house infrastructure, you could certainly accomplish a functional 1080 WiFi Mini. But 4K is going to move those goalposts waaaaay back…

  23. I dunno… wonder if most folks currently streaming 4k to smart TVs and Nvidia Shield are wireless.

  24. Actually HVEC encoding will solve most of the bandwidth issues. Think about that currently using the netflix app on samsung tv’s, you get a fantastic 4K image. We use gigabit cat5, but over 802.11ac, it worked also. So theory says mini should be fine as long as the content stays encoded to the mini, and i think it would have to for DRM.

    Good definitiion here:

    http://www.tomsguide.com/us/hevc-4k-explained,news-18206.html

  25. “I dunno… wonder if most folks currently streaming 4k to smart TVs and Nvidia Shield are wireless.”

    I dunno… wonder how much OTT 4K content is shipping at a bandwidth rate only nominally higher than 1080 content, thus making it more of a marketing improvement than an actual viewer improvement.

    But when the MSO’s start initially rolling out twenty or thirty 4K channels to the multicast, which I assume is not too far down the road, I strongly assume they’ll do it with a big bandwidth jump, which will make a WiFi Bolt Mini far less viable in practice than things are currently with 1080.

  26. UHD streaming had received bandwidth jumps. Netflix I believe is using 25 Mbps and Amazon went higher than their 10 Mbps 1080p encodes as well. Ultraflix is claiming they can streaming up to 100 Mbps.

    UHD streaming will certainly challenge internet providers. It will force pricing and decision making to finalize. In my area Comcast does not have caps currently, but there were articles this week about them testing premium charges in some markets to unlock caps. Like another $30/month. At the same time they are launching 2 Gbps service as well.

    Ultimately, they can’t provide faster speed without having provisions to allow customers to absorb more data. It will work itself out.

    Comcast is also clear about launching UHD set top boxes of their own and newer ones again next year that do HDR. This next year could make or break TiVo’s long term viability IMO if they get left out by the providers and Amazon and Roku forge ahead with really strong UHD boxes for $100 – $150.

  27. Chucky, the 4k content I tried with my 4k media player, downscalef to 2k looks very good.

    Current Netflix 1080P content like House of Cards looks good streamed in 1080P. But nowhere else close to how it looks from a Blu-ray Disc. So I’m hoping their streamed 4k downscaled to 2k might look closers to how the BD looks.

  28. “Ultimately, they can’t provide faster speed without having provisions to allow customers to absorb more data. It will work itself out.”

    Sure. But those “provisions” will almost definitely include tiered pricing, where you pay more for more monthly data, ala cell phones.

    So, yeah it’ll “work itself out” by making good quality OTT 4K fulfillment quite expensive to the consumer across all MSO’s.

    “Comcast is also clear about launching UHD set top boxes of their own and newer ones again next year that do HDR.”

    Right. This is all part of why I keep saying we’re going to see good quality 4K first hit the mainstream via the multicast, rather than via OTT. The economics swing that way. (And again, it’s why TiVo is out ahead of the pure OTT boxes on this.)

  29. We’ll see… how many hours/channels of 3D did we have via MSO? Granted, 4k will be more akin to going HD than what happened with 3D, but it takes time. Sports will probably be first and most everything else presented in 4k will just be upscaled for a long while. That’s my hunch anyway.

  30. From the comparison analysis I have read, the UHD streams available now generally match or exceed Blu-ray quality. There is some discussion on this posted around AVS Forum in comparison threads.

    Home internet service will potentially get more expensive, yes, and they may very likely capitalize on packages forcing you remain a cable customer to get preferred internet service treatment.

    Look at what is happening in the cellular space though. Contract pricing is falling by the wayside, and the companies are offering bigger data packages for the same or less prices. The downside is each local cable market does not have the same amount of competition as with cellular. That could be the trouble point. Google fiber and Verizon really need to branch out their markets fast.

  31. “We’ll see… how many hours/channels of 3D did we have via MSO? Granted, 4k will be more akin to going HD than what happened with 3D,”

    Yeah. 3D was a marketing gimmick than anything real. As you correctly note, 4K is much more akin to the HD rollout.

    “Sports will probably be first and most everything else presented in 4k will just be upscaled for a long while.”

    Agree on sports being one of the initial examples. But don’t see any reason at all why “everything else” will be upscaled for a long time. Pretty much everything has been shot in 4K for years now. Back catalogs shot on film have already been massively remastered to 4K. The content is already there for non-sports in the multicast.

    The limit is QAM bandwidth, which is why the multicast 4K rollout will likely proceed along the lines of the multicast HD rollout, with only twenty or thirty channels (or maybe more) in non-upscaled 4K to start out with, and that number rising reasonably rapidly. That’s pretty much how HD rolled out, no?

    Compare and contrast to the bandwidth/economic headaches in OTT 4K. Worth remembering that well after the multicast HD rollout was mainstream, Netflix was still shipping massively pixilated “HD”. Now, if folks want to pay through the nose, good quality OTT 4K will be there, but I still see the economics overwhelmingly weighing toward good quality 4K being mainstream via the multicast well before OTT…

  32. “Dovetails nicely with Comcast’s transition from MPEG2 to MPEG4…”

    Yup. Always figured that was about 4K.

  33. I don’t think there are any linear UHD channels on the near-term horizon. I think we’re probably looking at a few years before we actually see such. Right now, the only cable company I’ve heard of to announce a UHD set-top box is Comcast, who will roll out the Xi4 soon. But it doesn’t deliver UHD channels, it delivers select UHD shows the same way all other UHD is currently delivered: by streaming.

    http://www.electronichouse.com/daily/smart-tv/comcast-bringing-first-4k-tv-set-top-box/

    I haven’t heard a peep from any of the major networks, from premium cable to broadcast, about broadcasting in UHD. And while, yes, there will be bandwidth constraints on delivering UHD via internet streaming, the problem may be even worse with cable and satellite. UHD is and will be delivered by more efficient codecs than MPEG4. It’s currently streamed with H.265 (HEVC) or, in the case of YouTube, VP9. Many cable systems *just* got done transitioning over to MPEG4. FiOS is still a long way from getting finished with even that, no? Upgrading an MSO’s transmission system and enough of its installed set-top boxes to handle a newer codec, like H.265, is a slow process. And linear channels will be hesitant to invest in producing a UHD broadcast until there are enough UHD set-top boxes in place. But the streaming world, which is all about individual on-demand shows and user-supplied apps (either built into TVs or boxes) is much more nimble. This time next year, we’ll see a lot more UHD streaming but probably still no linear UHD channel unless it’s some sort of UHD “sampler” channel that DirecTV cobbles together with content from various sources, sort of like what Comcast is offering on-demand through the Xi4.

  34. Transitions to new tech stink. Let me know once 4K HDR UHD is a broadcast standard along with a TiVo that records the UHD content.

  35. “Right now, the only cable company I’ve heard of to announce a UHD set-top box is Comcast, who will roll out the Xi4 soon. But it doesn’t deliver UHD channels, it delivers select UHD shows the same way all other UHD is currently delivered: by streaming.”

    Thanks for that link, Tim. I learn something new every day.

    “And while, yes, there will be bandwidth constraints on delivering UHD via internet streaming, the problem may be even worse with cable”

    Strongly disagree with you here.

    The matter of IP streaming having a twice-as-efficient codec is a bit of a red herring. Yes it does matter, but it’s of minor importance in the big picture.

    The real difference is that the MSO can send out thirty 4K channels via multicast without stressing the neighborhood local loop coax infrastructure in the least, since everyone is getting the same transmission. But when they try to start serving a large number of their customers via individual-cast high-bitrate streams, that puts all kind of stress on the neighborhood local loop coax infrastructure.

    The 4K transition will take a while to play out, and while I agree that OTT will lead the vanguard, I do think it’s clear the economics mean that OTT won’t scale anywhere as well as multicast as high-bitrate hits the mainstream.

    In short, if you want to send some 4K movies OTT, fine. But if you want to deliver Americans’ god-given five hours a day of teevee in high-bitrate 4K to the masses, that’s where the multicast starts to have clear advantages.

    As a thought experiment, imagine putting the Super Bowl on in high-bitrate 4K via individual streams, and think how that’d work out. Hell, imagine even doing it in 1080!

    (When everybody gets FTTH, the difference won’t matter anymore. But that future is so distant as to be imaginary. If you assume demand for 4K will start to take off relatively soon, and you look a year or two out, I’d still be betting on multicast as the way to deliver efficiently to a mass market. Of course, I could be wrong. I’m just not aware where my math is weak.)

  36. Mpeg2 to H.264 on Comcast is about DOCSIS 3.1

  37. Yeah, I see your argument on bandwidth. But the bigger picture is about the overall business. I’m not sure I see the whole multicast model surviving as it is now a decade into the future. It’ll probably still be there but there will be far fewer channels. The on-demand viewing revolution that TiVo kicked off has just changed the way people consume TV and the economics of the business are changing as more and more people leave cable and satellite for streaming. As millennials age and baby boomers die, I see that trend increasing. I’m doubtful we’ll ever see 30 linear UHD cable channels.

    And if we look back at how HD rolled out, it was a long process and it was led by the major OTA broadcasters. CBS began airing HD in 1998, followed by NBC in 1999. HBO launched their HD channel in 1999 as well, followed by Showtime HD in 2000, HDNet in 2001, Discovery HD Theater in 2002, and ESPN HD in 2003. I’m pretty sure all the other cable channels followed thereafter. I remember getting Dish’s Turbo HD package in late ’08 or early ’09 when there was finally a “skinny bundle” of just HD cable and local channels available. (Only $35 including DVR!) So it was around then when we finally had a decent bunch of linear HD channels available.

    I doubt we’ll see ATSC 3.0 with UHD OTA broadcasts before 2019, 2018 at the earliest. And I doubt we’ll see any linear UHD cable channels before that. (Maybe ESPN, HBO and/or Showtime.) In the meantime, broadband speeds are increasing and we’ll likely see HBO and Showtime begin offering their original content in UHD via streaming, whether through their new OTT services or through authenticated streaming to MSO set-tops like the Comcast Xi4.

  38. “And if we look back at how HD rolled out, it was a long process … CBS began airing HD in 1998 … and ESPN HD in 2003.”

    Sure. But I’d argue that the major factor that really drove HD mass adoption was the panels coming down to a mass market price point. And we’re pretty there already with 4K. Also, a lesser factor was the need to ramp up HD content production, something that’s already in place for 4K.

    At least for the multicast, we’re very close to the point where it’s just a matter of the MSO’s swapping in-home hardware, and the channels flipping some switches and doing pretty minor equipment upgrades.

    “And I doubt we’ll see any linear UHD cable channels before (2018-2019).”

    That’s where we disagree. To me, things already seem in place for a real multicast rollout in the next year or two. The ‘stakeholders’ have lots of incentives to move forward with alacrity, and little holding them back.

  39. Sorry, but no. UHD TVs may reach 10% penetration among North American households in 2016, if this market research firm is to be believed:
    http://hdguru.com/study-4k-ultra-hdtv-adoption-to-soar/

    That’s a decent amount but still not a point where the whole TV industry will “flip a switch” and go UHD.

    And there’s also a real question about which codec will ultimately be widely used for UHD transmission. Streaming pioneers Netflix and Amazon have been using H.265 but there are real concerns about the high cost for its use now being demanded by the pool of patent holders. So a new consortium (which conspicuously does not include Apple, at least not yet) is working on a new standard codec for UHD:

    http://techcrunch.com/2015/09/01/amazon-netflix-google-microsoft-mozilla-and-others-partner-to-create-next-gen-video-format/?ncid=rss#.plek7c:tV2x

    Meanwhile, standards for HDR (Dolby vs. Technicolor) and WCG, which many folks believe will be more important to UHD than the simple increase in resolution, are still being worked out.

    And the new ATSC 3.0 standard isn’t expected to be finalized until 2017 at the earliest (which would suggest no broadcasts for awhile after that date).

    There are just a ton of moving parts, competing interests, technological developments, and economic uncertainty going on here. For the next few years, if you want to watch stuff in glorious UHD, you’ll stream it (or possibly download it) or view it on UHD Blu-ray disc.

  40. Will it support 4k at launch or will it be turned on with a later update?

  41. Those few SD menus are going to look amazing on a 4K TV.

  42. Several of unanswered questions like Harry’s. Which HDMI, which HDR, graphical assets updated, Duke Nukem Forever menus?

  43. With 4K support the Bolt will be using a newer and different CPU/SoC than Roamio’s Broadcom BCM7241.

  44. I think it’s highly likely that the now-aging silicon would be updated. I had a few uh, educated, ideas earlier in the year. Not sure where we’ve landed tho.

    https://zatznotfunny.com/2015-01/tivos-4k-plans-slowly-come-into-focus/

  45. “Sorry, but no. UHD TVs may reach 10% penetration among North American households in 2016, if this market research firm is to be believed:”

    Huh. I always enjoy dialoguing with you, Tim, cuz I always learn stuff.

    So, you say 2018-19 for 4K multicast channels. My ‘year or two’ would still qualify for mid-2017 at the outside. Approaching consensus. Though still think it could come early.

    Even if market penetration of 4K panels is projected as being so sluggish, the price point they’re approaching suggests to me that there could be upside with content to consume. Which would lead folks to chase a virtuous circle…

    “And the new ATSC 3.0 standard isn’t expected to be finalized until 2017 at the earliest”

    Yeah. I don’t think OTA is at the forefront of anyone’s minds this time around.

    “For the next few years, if you want to watch stuff in glorious UHD, you’ll stream it (or possibly download it) or view it on UHD Blu-ray disc.”

    It’s the LaserDisc phase of 4K!

    —–

    So, the question becomes, what’s TiVo thinking in getting in the game this early?

    If DVR is off the boards for a year and a half or more, then what? Dave’s EXCLUSIVE doesn’t even mention if the Bolt is 4K for DVR and OTT, or just for OTT. Of course, with slower upgrades for TiVo over cheapie OTT boxes, makes sense to forward-proof, if they can, I guess…

  46. “Several of unanswered questions like Harry’s … graphical assets updated, Duke Nukem Forever menus?”

    I’m just a caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the odd looking settings menus of your excellent DVR make me want to sell it and run off into the hills, or wherever.. Sometimes when I get to my rarely used settings menu and things look vaguely odd, I wonder: “Did little demons get inside and type it?” I don’t know! My primitive mind can’t grasp these concepts.

  47. Yeah, this is a pretty thin exclusive – more questions than answers. Probably a good time to remind folks about our contact page. You can leave out your contact info if you so choose. Conversely, you can upload files. FYI IP is recorded (by Jotform). The service is running me $10/mo, so why not make it worth our while?

    https://zatznotfunny.com/contact/

  48. “Yeah, this is a pretty thin exclusive”

    Don’t sell yourself short. We all heard it here first. Made it, Ma! Top of the world!

    (Drudge Siren)

  49. What Tim said.

    With no video standard for UHD, much less an audio standard, why not wait until the dust settles & avoid being caught on the wrong side of another “HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray” war?

    Wait a few years & even 4K OLED screens might be affordable. :)

  50. Given 4k and the presumed new silicon to power it, I hereby declare Bolt a Series 6. Related, I choose to assume all models will feature that hardware. And, given that, I’m going with Chucky’s though that Roamio will linger awhile as a lower cost option. I believe TiVo was still selling Premiere 6-9 months into the Roamio cycle, for reference.

  51. “So, the question becomes, what’s TiVo thinking in getting in the game this early?”

    Well, I think both Tim’s comments in this thread, and subsequent events have answered this question.

    1) Gotta preempt the Comcast Xi4, which will supposedly do 4K from Comcast VOD. As long as TiVo’s been existence, they’ve always, always had the best DVR on the market without question. Can’t let Comcast steal any of that thunder by offering an Input 1 box that can do 4K OTT before them.

    2) Gotta keep up with the Jonses of Roku and FireTV offering 4K boxes. Especially considering that TiVo has a longer replacement cycle due to the higher initial cost, better to be earlier than later.

    —–

    So, the remaining questions:

    – Will TiVo be able to do software upgrades to handle the evolving 4K standard? Or will initial Bolt customers be marooned at some point down the line? (One certainly hopes software updates can handle this.)

    – Will the Bolt be able to do 4K DVR, whenever 4K channels appear? (Which I still think may well come earlier than Tim thinks.)