TiVo To Retrofit Legacy DVR With MPEG4 Support

As Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, continues to transition from MPEG-2 to more efficient MPEG-4 video delivery, TiVo is walking back plans to abandon legacy hardware.

Whereas TiVo Series 3 and HD owners were originally told (in dramatic fashion) to upgrade their DVRs (at a cost, of course), I assume the fear of significant stand-alone customer defections motivated the company to rethink their approach … and they’re now engineering a solution to retrofit TiVo HD hardware.

TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL: TiVo is working on a software update which will bring MPEG4 capability to TiVo HD DVRs. Customers can expect this update sometime in the first half of 2016.

The original Series 3 is still out of luck as far as MPEG4 goes and both platforms are smarting from the loss of Amazon and YouTube video. Yet, I’d wager that most these TiVo owners have had a great 7-10 year run — a span pretty much unheard of in this space.

(Thanks Mike!)

24 thoughts on “TiVo To Retrofit Legacy DVR With MPEG4 Support”

  1. TiVo has like 5 or 6 times more cable customers, thru the likes of Virgin and RCN, than stand-alone subscribers. But on a per-subscriber basis, stand-alone is far more lucrative. Granted, many of these older ones are Lifetimed and no longer on the books as generating revenue.

  2. I’m surprised they’re doing this. I can’t imagine that people who bought TiVo HDs are bringing in that much revenue. When I got my Roamio, I lifetime’d my HD and gave it to my sister to use. She isn’t paying a monthly fee. So why bother?

  3. TiVo HD XL owner here. April 2009. And Commiecast Sufferer.

    I’d MUCH prefer the newer platform, of course, but it’s not quite in the $$$$.

    So, I’m happy, happy. Merry Christmas HD owners!!!

    I paid $880 back then with lifetime. So I’ve averaged $8.80 per month (and dropping) cost for the TiVo.

    My first cable card is free and Comcrap DVR’s are currently $22/month(and that’s the LAST I’ve checked it could be even MORE.)

    I always LAUGH when people say TiVo’s are “expensive” or cable DVR’s are free. I’ve saved a TON of money with my TiVo.

    Same thing with my cable modem. Bought my DOCSIS 3.0 modem for $88 about the same time. Cable modems are (last time I checked) $9/month.

  4. I suspect there may be a some potential reasons….

    1. Lawyers. Who knows? Maybe it’s in their best interest. Or the cost of the FW update isn’t worth the hassle or cost of a “potential” lawsuit; assuming anyone bothered. You’d be surprised how much influence a nudge from the company lawyers can have. Managers run scared.

    2. Numbers. If you haven’t replaced your HD by now you probably are not going to do it. There are still a lot of HD & HD XL’s out there. Maybe it worth it to inflate numbers a little.

    3. Money. There’s probably some HD owners who are still paying fees. Maybe someone ran the numbers and said “hey, we put in the tiny bit of work for MPEG-4 and we will still earn $XXX, which means it’s worth doing”.

    4. general PR.

    Probably some combination of all four and the likely VERY LITTLE cost/effort of activating MPEG-4 capability.

    We’ve known this was a potential issue since I got it. I wouldn’t be surprised if TiVo didn’t have a SW version with it already activated and running. Especially, since we know they had done at least SOME work on a potential SW update for the Series 3 that they never implemented, or finished. But it’ll need to be done on our current platform and tested.

  5. Hold it. Your link goes to a Comcast page. I really don’t trust Comcast with information about THEMSELVES, yet alone other companies.

    Has anyone confirmed this with TiVo?

  6. We had a comment edit button once… the real time database updates negatively impacted overall site performance (and my hosting bill) plus it probably wasn’t the most secure approach. Maybe in 2016 I’ll move to the more full featured Disqus comment platform. Or not. :)

  7. “I’m surprised they’re doing this. I can’t imagine that people who bought TiVo HDs are bringing in that much revenue. When I got my Roamio, I lifetime’d my HD and gave it to my sister to use. She isn’t paying a monthly fee. So why bother?”

    Why bother bringing the Bolt software features to older hardware?

    Keeping the TiVo mascot warm ‘n’ cuddly goes a long way. I recommend TiVo to friends for the same reason that I shop at Amazon: excellent consumer-facing attitude.

    (And part of the unwritten bargain between TiVo and its retail customers has always included bringing software updates to older hardware when it’s possible on a reasonable cost basis.)

  8. “Maybe in 2016 I’ll move to the more full featured Disqus comment platform.”

    Delete your account, Dave.

  9. Chucky.

    They are not bringing in the newer SW. None of the Series 3’s (including HD’s) can handle it, not even close. They are just “activating”, so to speak, the HD’s ability to handle MPEG-4.

    The UI will probably NOT change in any way at all. Most people will never even know it happened. Unless there’s a slowdown, but I assume MPEG-4 decoding is native to the processor/decoder. Theoretically, this “could” be just a switch type change followed by months of reliability testing. But it’s hard to say for sure.

  10. I’m surprised about this simply because I thought this would need hardware support they simply didn’t exist I the older boxes. I also am surprised that TiVo Stream needs updates to support MPEG4

  11. “They are not bringing in the newer SW. None of the Series 3’s (including HD’s) can handle it, not even close.”

    I know. I was talking there about the Bolt software upgrades trickling down to S4/S5.

    I was disputing Anthony’s reasoning that TiVo should have no reason for bothering with MPEG-4 on the HD, just as they should have no reason for bothering bringing Bolt software upgrades down to S4/S5. I was asserting they do have sensible reasons for keeping it warm ‘n’ cuddly.

  12. Some people wrongly assume Lifetime Service Plan means product software support for the life of the DVR. All it means is for the life of the product you will get television program data for free.

    No sane person could think a company is going to maintain software for a device 5 years out. Unfortunately there is a small but very vocal group of TiVo owners who think like this and feel TiVo owes them something for buying an item THEY feel is “expensive.”

    If you can’t afford something don’t buy it especially an electronics item which become obsolete quickly.

    That being said it is a nice thing that TiVo is doing.

  13. It only became “obsolete” because TiVo didn’t activate the HD/XL’s ability to handle MPEG-4. The HW was MPEG-4 capable the whole time. It still works, still records HD perfectly fine. Recording TV off cable/OTA hasn’t changed at all during this time, except Comcast (and probably more later) are starting MPEG-4, which, once again, these TiVo’s were ALWAYS HW capable. There are no Micky Mouse hacks to make it work correctly or anything. This is NOT a basically unusable analog cable box or an Apple II.

    I and probably a LOT of other people, have never complained about the whole Series 3 deal. I accepted it. However, the I hate the whole “want free stuff” crap that seems very popular to beat up other’s these days.

    But for the sake of argument, I’ll make TWO points…
    Lifetime is lifetime. Look it up in any dictionary. TiVo choose to do it and charged plenty, especially back then. There were other options besides lifetime, if you chose to do it.

    Now instead of comparing TiVo’s to smartphones, laptops, etc. How about comparing the TiVo DVR lifecycle to OTHER DVR’s. The previous Comcast DVR, The infamous Motorola , I had for 4 years BEFORE the TiVo and a very large number of people are still using the SAME model to this day. For a LOT of USA cable companies they are STILL the standard. – even Verizon was using them until recently.

    I’ve had my TiVo HD XL for 6 years and 8 months. The Motorola 3416 has been around for around ten years and is STILL probably one of the most popular RENTAL DVR’s out there. I think basic support for 8 years is reasonable. I’m NOT asking for NEW functionality, a new UI or anything, or even the Mpeg-4, really. But I’m happy they are doing it, because I really don’t need a new DVR.

    I could by a new TiVo, but why? I need it to record HD shows on cable. It did, it still does. I do more and more streaming and such anyway. There’s better places to spend money in tech.

  14. Always wondered why they didn’t do this, apparently it was done for S3 units in Australia I think. The hardware was never the issue and it’s been a long-standing gripe over at TCF.

  15. It’s not nearly as much as a monthly subscription fee, but every individual user is still bringing in SOME revenue, even if it’s just the paid recommendations, the pause banners, and so on.

  16. billybobby points out, ” If you haven’t replaced your HD by now you probably are not going to do it.” Never say never, but he’s right — I can’t rationalize decommissioning hardware that still works great. (Of course, so far as I know, so do my hinsdale-upgraded Series 1 and my Series 2. Then again, HDTV finally became a Thing.) I’m OTA, so getting a feature that revolves around Comcast isn’t important to me, but it’s nice to get scratched behind the ears once in a while.

  17. Sweet – I was seriously debating whether to go Roamio or move over to a cableco DVR box. Now I can punt that decision for quite a while yet.

  18. You could always push MP4s to the tivo using pytivo push feature (i.e. not transcoded) That was 2 tivos ago for me, but if I recall correctly the hardware decoder on the tivo HD is a bit wonky and did not detect aspect ratio properly, especially with 2.35:1 content. Wonder if they came up with a fix for this.

  19. Got a Roamio, mini, and stream last year but held on to my two HD’s in order to maintain my multi-service discount. Unfortunately, I did not Lifetime the Roamio and missed out. I have been thinking about putting them back into service as OTA recorders, but it is nice to know that I can connect them to comcast again if I choose.

  20. I wonder if this is the new interim CEO’s idea or something ol’ Tom was willing to do IF the numbers justified it. I think it is safe to speculate that after waiting long enough to see how many legacy users with MSO’s that have MEPG 4 in operation were going to “upgrade” to Roamio or Bolt, the numbers must have told TiVo that they had better fix the HD and HDXL to handle MPEG4 from MSO’s. TiVo will probably never reveal the numbers, but it has to be more significant than we might think for TiVo to bear the cost and trouble of updating HD and HDXL. However, I am sad that the S3 648 is not included for this MPEG4 upgrade. Many people on the TCF have who would know have stated the S3 648 could, indeed, handle MPEG4 via MSO with a software upgrade and often point to the Australian example of this happening.

    I love my S3 648’s and would love it if TiVo would include those units in the MPEG 4 upgrade. We can only hope.

  21. FWIW, I received the dreaded “Comcast letter” today, indicating that Tivo Series 3 models would not be able to receive HD channels once the MPEG-4 upgrade was implemented. The letter was received 11 days before the time the of the scheduled transition (it actually said that the upgrade “will begin on or about 2/23/16.”)

    When I called Tivo, they said that there is 1 model of the Series 3 that did not receive the software update which enables compatibility with MPEG-4. Two models did receive the update. As it were, my model has been updated. The rep confirmed that I have the appropriate software version to decode the MPEG-4 stream.

    My Tivo model is a bit old and slow, but it works fine. I replaced the hard drive last year (the old one was failing), saving loads of money compared to the cost of buying a new unit, and also significantly extending the recording capacity. I would like to have an improved interface, 4 tuners, and so forth, but I can’t justify spending ~$700 for features that I would rarely use or otherwise care about.

    So if you got the dreaded Comcast letter, call Tivo & ask if your model will work with MPEG-4. While I’m sure that Comcast would love to have you rent a DVR for who knows how much $ per month, your current Series 3 might just work fine.

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