TiVo Series 1 “Lifetime” Service Ceases September 29th


The venerable TiVo Series 1 that started it all, way back in 1999, heads off into the sunset come September 29th. And, apparently, about 3500 of you still rock the single tuner, standard def DVR-pioneering anvil. While those owners will retain access to their recordings, TiVo’s presumably decided ongoing support is too expensive. As such, they haven’t invested in migrating this generation to Rovi guide data next month and are, instead, pulling the plug.

Certain TiVo products require a TiVo service subscription, and we currently offer three service plan options: monthly, annual, and an All-In Plan. (In prior versions of this user agreement, the All-In Plan was referred to as Product Lifetime service.)

With an All-In Plan subscription, (a) you pay just once (rather than monthly, annually, or in some other frequency) for your TiVo service subscription, (b) your subscription lasts for the lifetime of your TiVo device (not your lifetime), and (c) you cannot transfer your subscription to another TiVo device (except in cases of warranty repair or replacement under applicable warranty terms).

TiVo seemingly violates their own Terms of Service in cutting “Lifetime Service” … but they do legal as well as they do DVR, if not better, and most of us were moved into a binding arbitration clause to head off the requisite calls for a class action lawsuit. With such a small number of active owners remaining and a $75 gift card to sweeten the deal, I assume TiVo is on solid footing and suspect many will be satisfied. Even better, for some, Product Lifetime Service purchased prior to February 2000 can be transferred to another unit. If nothing else and for comparison, TiVo handily beat the competing Replay TV service and American TiVo owners have long-outlasted their British counterparts. And, really, these units have had a heck of a run. Are there any other bleeding edge electronics that have lasted as long? From the same era, my prized possession was a Palm V. Which lost its usefulness (and support) years ago (with company assets changing hands multiple times).

So Series 1 owners will effectively be left with a digital VCR. Back in the day, there were projects to feed 3rd party guide data into less secure, older TiVo platforms. But with such a small number of users running obsolete hardware, I can’t imagine we’d see a resurgence.

UPDATE: TiVo admits it wasn’t cost-effective to retrofit the Series 1 for Rovi guide data, but will work with folks dissatisfied with the $75 buyout (or those excluded entirely?) and have already sweetened the deal. From CMO Ira Bahr:

This was not strictly an engineering decision but rather a resource allocation decision. As Series 1 active boxes made up less than .5% of our active boxes in the field, it was cost prohibitive on a per box basis to try to engineer a solution. We also don’t think we could have gotten it done in time.


Our offer is $75 off of a 500 GB TiVo BOLT or $100 off 1000 GB when you subscribe to a new service plan. Importantly, this is IN ADDITION to the $75 prepaid card, meaning that the net prices are $50 and $125 respectively. If you’re not getting an outcome you like, please do phone our S1 hotline at 1-877-407-1983, and tell us your situation. We’ve worked hard to assure that we have offers to accomodate all requirements.

30 thoughts on “TiVo Series 1 “Lifetime” Service Ceases September 29th”

  1. Definitely a good run for one of the most innovative products of all time. That said, the best remedy would be to transition any one of those users to a Product Lifetime Service on a new TiVo. There’s almost zero incremental cost to TiVO with this approach assuming they are at least close to break even on the underlying hardware cost.

  2. I disagree, no way I would transfer the lifetime service for the S1 users. It sets a precedent that will be impossible to maintain years in the future.

    Products have an effective EOL – A Series one unit passed that years ago.

    If you go ebay – $75 for a lifetime S1 unit is likely more than market value. TiVo is offering market value for these units, that is a pretty good offer IMHO

  3. Since the Series 1 only supports analog, what can still be recorded? Certainly not OTA, as it’s all digital. Are there still cable systems supporting unencrypted analog?

  4. Scott, my only issue is that “Lifetime” appears to be a marketing term of indeterminate legnth. When will I get a 6 week notice my Roamio is being bricked? That’s the bad prescendent I fear. Of course, realistically speaking, I assume CableCARD support will end before my TiVo guide data does…

    Bill, some cable companies still broadcast analog channels in the clear and, for OTA, there are a number of digital adapters out there. I assume there are also other scenarios.

  5. Not as old as the Series 1, but is there any news on the old rumor
    that the Series 3 will get an update for mpeg4?

  6. So basically Tivo is doing a buy out of the remaining Series 1 Lifetime Service contracts for $75 each. Considering that anyone who is still actively using a S1 at this point was likely planning to continue to use it for a while, that seems like a bad deal since a new unit would be considerably more expensive.

  7. I was thinking about pinging you to ask what you thought about Tivo’s latest lifetime subscription offers. Upcoming changes to the Windows 7 update model mean that it’s going to be increasingly difficult to control what Microsoft is pushing, so I was thinking it might be time to end the HTPC in favor of a Roamio OTA with Lifetime Service – which is/was going for about $350 on sale.

    But given that Tivo is pumping out the hardware faster than before, uninterested in doing thorough updates (hello SD settings screens from 1999 in the latest UI) and is now apparently no longer owned by a company in the hardware business, I was wondering if it made any sort of sense versus, say, running a Mythbuntu VM and paying $25/year for schedules.

  8. @varun: My understanding is that the various alternative DVRs like MythTV, Kodi, etc can’t record shows with CCI bytes set to copy once, which makes them useless as actual DVRs for many people. Depends on your cable company, but I know time-warner cable sets the CCI byte on everything, including broadcast networks.

    If you’re looking to record OTA then sure, roll your own mythtv or grab a hdhomerun DVR or a tablotv. But if you want to record cable TV, your options are strictly limited and IMO TiVo remains the best option, followed by the cable company’s STB.

    Realistically, I expect TiVo to support their hardware for 3 years after the buyout completes. Don’t bet on more than that.

  9. As someone still rocking the Series 1…

    As our host mentioned, the base Comcast DTA does SD Analog; in fact, that’s all it does. (Getting any sort of HD is an upcharge.) It is true you can’t tie a Series 1 to an OTA digital converter box, but the analog TiVos were often hinky with OTA anyhow.

    The Series 1 can control the DTA via IR blaster, though I’m using a cable purchased from someone to directly connect them (still had to wrap it in foil).

    I actually thought about upgrading during one of the deals in the last year or so, but one of the things that disappeared from the HD units a few years back is 3x Fast Forward with subtitles on, which is something my wife likes to use (well, it’s closed captions for analog). I know there’s a new fast-watch mode, but it’s not as fast.

    That said, I’m actually surprised support continued this long, honestly. I’d be surprised if continuing costs for the phone connection were not also playing a part, though I suppose Series 2s also had modems.

  10. km, I thought TiVo had rolled out MPEG4 support to TiVo HD models which are Series 3 variants. Not sure I remember hearing anything about the original Series 3, tho.

    Varun, like Rodalpho, I believe you’d have at least several years of service on anything you purchase now. It’s proably safe bet. Not sure how far away the not-backwards compatible ATSC 3.0 is – something to possibly consider in regards to OTA investments.

    By the by, I briefly owned a TiVo Series 1 but I don’t recall if it had Lifetime or if I paid monthly. I’m thinking monthly. A coworker spoke very highly of the DirecTV model and I found someone online unloading the Philips cable variant. I met her in the parking lot of the community pool complex to make the purchase. But I ultimately went with Replay TV long term as they implemented component output before TiVo and 480p is vastly superior to 480i when hooked up to my (former) projector. Also the ease of offloading recordings (via DVArchive) was a huge selling point. I rejoined the TiVo fold in 2004 ahead of TiVoToGo.

  11. Arthur, re closed-captions w/ ffwd, that’s one feature I still loved on my HD S3, which was lacking on Roamio… until recently. Now my Roamio and mini’s all show closed-captions correctly during both QuickPlay and FFwd (first speed, not 3x. Not sure how you can read THAT fast!). So don’t let that hold you back from upgrading! It was a bit of a shock to see the quality difference on my old Sony “series1” SD, over composite, vs even SD channels on the S3 or the Roamio. And w/ cablecards, you won’t have to pay for STB or DTA costs either, and can often get HD for free w/o an HD converter box/ technology fee etc.

  12. Colin, I should note, when I say ‘3x’ I mean one press of FF, which puts the effective speed at three times faster. There is no way I’m keeping up with text coming in at 60x! So that’s some excellent news for me, might see if I can check it out in action.

  13. I have a Series 1 with Lifetime on a shelf somewhere that we bought within 6 months of first availability. I stopped using it long ago. In fact, I was using a S3 HD Tivo until about 2012, but it started having problems after the move to our new house. I finally took it over to my brother-in-law’s house when he was having trouble with his. Between the two units and some part swapping, we got one working. I think mine had a power supply problem and his had a HDD that was getting bad sectors. He’s still using it. When Comcast cuts over to MPEG-4 in our area, he will probably lose some channels. I think the Tivo HD has a different chipset that can handle the MPEG-4 but the original S3 with the OLED front panel cannot decode it. I was using Media Center for a while, but the WAF was too low, so we bit the bullet and bought a Refurbished Roamio Plus and I dropped a WD Purple 3TB disc in it. That and the Tivo Mini for the Master Bedroom are serving us well. The only weak point of this setup is the low res capability of the Plex client.

  14. I may be wrong, but isn’t it a bad idea to switch guide data at the start of the Fall Television season? Wouldn’t it make more sense to do that in August, so there is more time to transition and not risk impacting recordings of new shows? The timing of the Rovi guide switch, if in fact it is next month (Dave mentions it as a throw-away comment, but the timeline isn’t stated at the link provided, and I haven’t seen it anywhere — but I know better than to doubt Dave’s word), seems like poor planning on the part of TiVo and Rovi. Have I missed something?

  15. Interesting. But I guess not entirely surprising. It appears that $75 is merely TiVo’s opening offer and they presumably hope most will bite. However, if you call in, the CSRs have more carrots to dangle to stave off arbitration or other – including Lifetime transfers on discounted Bolts, plus that original $75.

    Bricketh, it’s poor planning on TiVo’s part. They’ve literally known for years when their Tribune/Gracenote guide data contract would expire and they’ve known for many months that they weren’t willing to pay to re-up. The new guide data is in testing now, on multiple platforms (S2, S3, S4, S5), and it seems as if most major issues have been resolved. As to when they’ll begin (and as to when they finish) rolling it out to the general populace… well, I’m not sure. I agree sooner is better than later. But, again, their own planning and execution put them at the zero hour and I don’t imagine the deployment will be entirely seemless.

    Regarding timeline, the contract that expire mid-May allowed for a transition period. Based on similar contracts and whispers, I had been going with 90 days. However, based on the S1 outreach, it was either 120 days or they purchased another month.

  16. “Colin, I should note, when I say ‘3x’ I mean one press of FF, which puts the effective speed at three times faster. ”

    This still works on my base Roamio.

    I normally playback in Quickmode (drives everyone else nuts) but if I want to finish a show even faster I also press FF once (no sound, closed captions still visible)

  17. @Rodalpho – this would be OTA only. We cut the cord a couple of years ago and other than NBC moving its antenna, we’ve not missed it. FWIW, when we did have cable, it was with FiOS and they don’t set any CCI bytes except for the premiums – and liberally there too.

    Dave, I’d forgotten about ATSC 3.0. I don’t know that the rollout will be that quick here anyway, but that’s going to be an issue I guess regardless of what we go with. Including AirTV.

  18. Varun, if you’re going OTA-only, I suggest grabbing a TabloTV. It’s the best non-TiVo OTA solution, in my opinion.

    Note you will need devices to actually display TV on your screens; FireTV sticks work fine for this, cost $40/apiece, and can also stream all the usual services like Netflix, Amazon, HBO Now, etc.

  19. Slow inside the Tablo app, or slow in interactive use starting apps, though?

    I have fireTVs (not sticks) myself and am very happy with them. The newest generation is particularly snappy.

  20. I have a Series 2 with Lifetime plugged in and phoning home for the sole purpose of keeping my very highly discounted multi unit discount on my Roamio. When I bought my Roamio I wasn’t willing to pay up the inflated PLS rate at the time. Now I’m wondering what the EOL is for my original S2 unit that I activated in 2004.

  21. “William Aprea August 18, 2016 at 10:41 am
    FIOS changed their CCI byte practices awhile back by marking all HBO and Cinemax as copy once.”

    At this point, there are other channels other than HBO/Cinemax marked copy once. IIRC, all of the Fox channels as well as AMC are copy once now.

  22. I got my notice about some intermittent down time in the next 24 hours, as they upgrade the guide data. I assume I will start seeing Rovi data in the next couple of days, or minimally when my existing data runs out… I’m ready for the change, and will be monitoring my recordings closely!

  23. I had a “Sony” Tivo 1 and paid the lifetime Sub on it. Given the current status of Tivo and their definition of “Lifetime” I decided to go with just a cable box and put the Sony Tivo out to pasture (aka my garage).
    Alas I am glad it worked as long as it did and while I understand the business reasons for Tivo’s decision it also does not instill confidence in me as a consumer to now turn around and pay $500 for another “lifetime” sub.

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