TiVo Bolt Sees $100 Price Drop (also drops free year of service)

Photo via jccfin on TiVo Community. Thanks!

Just seven months after launch, TiVo has gone back to the drawing board on Bolt pricing. While we don’t yet know every detail, based on new packaging Best Buy shipped out prematurely, the included year of TiVo Bolt service is no more.

New white box:
TiVo service subscription is required and sold separately.

Prior black box:
First year of of TiVo Annual service included.


TiVo’s likely goals are to limit potential customer churn (when that first year is up) and to lower the barrier to entry. As such, leaked dealer pricing indicates both the TiVo Bolt 500GB and 1000GB units drop by $100. Of course, this is mostly smoke and mirrors… as, after one year of service, new customers would actually end up paying more, should monthly and annual pricing remain unchanged — which I suspect will be the case, when everything gets official May 2nd.

Fortunately, you have a few days to get in on the original TiVo Bolt and service dealio during what looks to be a ReplayTV-esque transition should you want to roll the dice. $232.40 for the Bolt, with a bundled 12 months of service, is extremely compelling… unless you were holding out for that possible pro-level box next fall.

25 thoughts on “TiVo Bolt Sees $100 Price Drop (also drops free year of service)”

  1. That ‘v2’ in the dealer documentation likely refers to packaging, versus hardware changes.

    (If the post looks a little disjointed, it’s because I tried to salvage the original writeup … after receiving the pricing data. Probably should of rewrote from scratch. But who has time for that?)

  2. So this makes it more expensive for monthly/yearly subscribers. Since at $150 a year for service, the price is higher(for the Bolt and first year of service) than the Bolt that had the year of service included.

    But for the people that want to get All IN it works out better. Since you don’t lose that year of service that was included with the previous Bolt.

    Had the launch Bolt been $200 plus $400 for ALL IN, I would have probably gone that route. But since I paid around $240 for each Bolt with a year of service included, I will continue to use the $150 a year subscription plan. At least that is the plan for me in the short term.

  3. I like the cheaper price-point for the hardware, but as you mentioned, service pricing is where they get you unless something changes. I remember my Series 1 Lifetime pricing 15 years ago, and how cheap it was, and makes it difficult to swallow the current pricing structure.

    If they were cheaper, it seems they could sell more units, and bankroll more customers, which would offset the need for higher pricing per sub. At the current (well, as far as we know) pricing, it costs close to a grand to get up and running, and that is just way too much to entice customers to drop the $10 per month cable co DVR. I have close to $2000 in S2 hardware and lifetime subs sitting in my closet collecting dust (if they even still work anymore), but most people don’t want to spend that kind of money for something that they will upgrade every few years.

    I’d also like to see TiVo go with a software-only solution that could be sold at reasonable rates, and get apps for Roku, AppleTV, Windows, SA, and even home brew hardware to run the software in some form (even if only SaaS). Maybe doing a cloud-based storage solution with a TiVo Mini like hardware component, worst case (depending on how or whether unlock the box ever goes anywhere, which I don’t get a great feeling about).

  4. So this amounts to a $50 increase if you’re not buying lifetime service up-front but a $100 decrease if you are. I couldn’t see buying new TiVo hardware plus paying for lifetime service right now, given all the uncertainty. What direction will the newly merged TiVo/Rovi take with retail hardware and service? How much longer will your cableco distribute TV via QAM and support CableCard? On the OTA side, how will the transition from ATSC 1.0 to 3.0 shake out? What new OTT or IP-based pay TV offerings will emerge over the next year or two that may be attractive but which in all likelihood will not be compatible with TiVo? TiVo (at least their DVR hardware and service as it now exists) increasingly looks like a sinking ship full of last-decade tech. Why jump on board at this point with a big financial commitment?

    There’s no reason for us current TiVo owners to freak out but I don’t think I’d be spending several hundred dollars on a new TiVo set-up with close to a 3-year break-even time horizon at this point either. Especially given that at the end of that period, a lifetime TiVo box may not have much resell value as has traditionally been the case.

  5. TiVo is between a rock and hard place –

    On one side you have users who overwhelmingly choose lifetime service, and on the other side there is an MSO user base that will decrease over time due to industry trends (cord cutting) and consolidation (MSO consolidation via M&A w/X1 licensing or broadband only).

    In short, the headwinds for the next 10 years do not favor TiVo. Which is why they sold to Rovi.

  6. Many excellent points by Tim … that echo my perspective. Assuming, of course, monthly, annual, and Lifetime pricing don’t change.

  7. “I don’t think I’d be spending several hundred dollars on a new TiVo set-up with close to a 3-year break-even time horizon at this point either.”

    3 year break-even doesn’t seem like a horrible bet to me. Especially if you value TiVo over the alternatives.

    Worst case, you lose a few bucks, and get a better experience for a few years for those few bucks…

  8. Here’s a little math, just for kicks and giggles. I’m using the currently stated All-In pricing but perhaps we’ll see that change come May 3.

    TiVo Bolt 500GB: $200
    All-In Lifetime Service: $600
    TiVo Mini: $150
    Total: $950

    Now let’s say that switching from your cable whole-home DVR with service for two TVs saves you $25 per month on your cable bill. It would take you 3 years and 2 months to recoup your up-front TiVo costs. What will the state of TV technology look like by the summer of 2019? Are you willing to bet that the Bolt and Mini will still work for you at that point? Seems like a big risk to take.

  9. OK, Chucky, maybe I shouldn’t say it’s a “big” risk. But I can’t see anyone other than hardcore TiVo fans who are sure that they wish to remain for the next few years with either cable TV or FiOS TV (and for sure won’t want to switch to satellite, Google Fiber TV, or some new OTT or IP pay TV service). And even then, there’s the risk that your TV provider switches from QAM to IP, rending your TiVo obsolete, a move that FiOS is reportedly planning to begin this year IF this article is correct:

    All signs point to the fact that at some point down the road, Comcast will switch from QAM to IP as well. All those X1 STBs out in the field have QAM tuners in them but they’re also completely IP-capable as well. And allowing subs beginning later this year to use their own Rokus to access the full suite of Comcast TV services via IP is another step in that direction. Meanwhile, CableCard is dying. (Did I read somewhere that no new ones are being manufactured, meaning that they will become increasingly scarce going forward?)

    For OTA folks like me, a Bolt with All-In at $800 just makes no sense. I mean, how much do you value recording OTA TV!? I can MAYBE see paying $400 for the new 1TB TiVo Roamio OTA with Lifetime included but those buyers should be aware that current ATSC 1.0 OTA broadcasts (the only kind that current TiVos can receive and record) could be deprecated in 2-3 years as many local towers switch over to ATSC 3.0 OTA broadcasts (with UHD channels and IP-based interactivity). At that point, ATSC 1.0 will consist of fewer channels and maybe only SD ones at that, meaning it will be a steaming pile of crap served up only for poor people or folks who really just don’t care much about TV (i.e. not folks who would ever buy a DVR).

  10. If you follow that Variety link to Light Reading you’ll find… I turned up the box. ;) It’s actually Verizon’s second stab at an IPTV set-top. The first was by Greenwave in 2013 I believe, the same company they used for Quantum Router and home control. It obviously hasn’t launched. With CableCARD possibly vacated, they’d have an easier time flipping their network if/when the time comes. Perhaps I’ll blog the two boxes and their intent one day.

    It’s not yet clear how or when the ATSC 3.0 transition will go down, but it certainly something to ponder for the OTA crowd.

  11. Another bit of crackerjack sleuthing, Dave! ;-) Look forward to reading your thoughts on what’s going on with Verizon’s TV service. Seems like it would be very expensive for them to force all their customers to switch STBs and move from the current QAM-based FiOS product to the new IP-based product, at least if the transition were done in a short span of time, e.g. one year. Some have speculated that this new IP service, using the acquired Intel OnCue tech, will exist alongside the existing QAM FiOS TV rather than replace it, but I don’t see how that makes any sense and, if true, the Variety article is completely off-base in its reporting.

  12. “With CableCARD possibly vacated, they’d have an easier time flipping their network if/when the time comes.”

    I was under the impression the FCC was going to keep the mandate for CableCARD service active for quite a while, even with the integrated mandate gone. Am I crazy?

  13. Is there any reason why the CableCard mandate should apply to Verizon FiOS when it hasn’t applied to AT&T Uverse since it launched several years ago?

  14. “Is there any reason why the CableCard mandate should apply to Verizon FiOS when it hasn’t applied to AT&T Uverse since it launched several years ago?”

    Arbitrary FCC decisions, to the best of my knowledge…

  15. CableCARD’s status is not entirely clear. Not to me, anyway. STELAR removed the provision that cable companies are required to implement CableCARD within their own equipment. But I’m not sure if there’s anything in there about being required to support third party equipment, which may have been previously vacated.


    So I don’t know the current status, but it seems shaky. Regarding U-Verse, they’re not a QAM environment and couldn’t implement CableCARD without reworking just about everything. Which kind of points out some ridiculousness of Unlock the Box – it seems the FCC is trying to force cable to underwrite a technical design and management for not only their customers, but fiber and satellite too.

  16. Yeah, I get that U-Verse is IP rather than QAM, so therefore CableCARD wasn’t technologically feasible. But my question is, if that situation exempted U-Verse from the need to support CableCARD, why wouldn’t the same be true for Verizon, Comcast, or anyone else currently using QAM if they converted their TV system to IP? From Verizon’s perspective, that could be one more reason to make the switch — yay, no more TiVos and CableCARDs to mess with! And to get the FCC off their backs and avoid Unlock the Box, it’s pretty simple to create a Roku app for your TV service if you’re on IP. “Look, FCC, our customers can buy their own box to access our full range of TV services rather than use our equipment! (Never mind that it will be siloed away in its own discrete app with a UI that we control.)”

    Oh, and I’m betting the new Verizon TV service will, like Comcast’s X1, use cloud rather than local DVR. Much less costly to produce the STBs with no hard drives. Lower failure rates with no moving parts. Easier to provide customers “TV everywhere” viewing of their recordings on any device. (Also easier to some day disable FFing through ads unless customers pay for an ad-free service tier.)

  17. “if that situation exempted U-Verse from the need to support CableCARD, why wouldn’t the same be true for Verizon, Comcast, or anyone else currently using QAM if they converted their TV system to IP?”

    Well, there was (and may or may not still be) an FCC mandate specifically to prevent Verizon, Comcast, etc from doing so. U-Verse and Satellite never fell under the mandate, but those who did could not unilaterally get out from under it simply by switching delivery mechanisms.

    I was (strongly) under the impression the mandate hadn’t automatically disappeared with the end of the integration mandate, but Dave is unsure if my impression is correct. (And I have no link at hand to cite wherever the hell I got that impression.)

  18. Well. I already need a tuning adapter (TA) on Time Warner to tune those cable channels which are sent “on-demand” via SDV.

    Wouldn’t a new model TA work with my CableCard-equipped Roamio, even if channels are sent via IP instead of QAM?

  19. Bill, *maybe* Roamios and Bolts could be made to work with a given cable company that transmits channels via IP rather than QAM but, since there’s currently no universal standard for exactly how those streams would be secured, decoded and recorded by a DVR, it would be up to each individual cable company to work with TiVo to make that happen according to whatever system they have in place. If this were to happen, I kinda doubt the solution would be hardware based — I don’t think it would require a CableCARD, a tuner adapter, or tuners at all since “tuning” to an IP channel is simply fetching a live internet video stream — but would rather involve a software update to the TiVo. I’m skeptical that the cableco’s would bother doing this though if they weren’t forced to. I would imagine that would be entirely dependent on how the FCC’s “Unlock the Box” push pans out. Another question is what if the cableco no longer rents hard-drive based DVRs to their customers after switching to IP but instead exclusively uses cloud DVRs? That certainly looks to be where Comcast is heading. Where would that leave TiVo? (Eating Roku’s dust, that’s where.)

  20. New Bolt pricing is live on their site but I am not seeing a Lifetime/All-In option, just monthly and yearly. Am I missing something?

  21. Nevermind, found the details elsewhere on the site.

    The All-in plan currently is not available with purchases of any model of the TiVo BOLT on tivo.com, but is available with purchases of any model of the TiVo BOLT through TiVo Customer Service (at 877-367-8486) or through other retail sales channels. The All-in plan currently is not available with purchases of the TiVo Roamio Pro DVR on tivo.com or through TiVo Customer Service, but is available with purchases of the TiVo Roamio Pro DVR through other retail sales channels.

  22. I bought a bolt 500gb from monoprice for $221 over a week ago and it still hasnt shipped… I really hope I still get the 1 year of service.

  23. @John – Tivo should honor the pricing program that was in place prior to the change. You may have to call.

  24. I bought a bolt 500gb from amazon last Monday. Activated it Wednesday online. It included on year of service. No issues. I think it is tied to certain Tivo Service Numbers that are packaged in the boxes advertising one year of service. I paid $232.

  25. As of today, May 22, 2106; Shopping for the Tivo Bolt on their website – look at “top 5 reasons”, the 5th reason states “you own it and the first year of service is on us”. Go to buy it and you are only given the monthly or yearly option. I called them and they said that they were no longer giving a free year – even though the website plainly states it. False advertising!

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