TiVo Scales Back Retail Ambitions With Bolt Plus


From TiVo CMO Ira Bahr, 10/2015:

We probably could’ve delivered a BOLT with two more tuners and a larger HDD and called it a family, but we knew that the market–and especially our loyalists–deserved much more. Look for something new next year, right on our normal three year cycle.

From TiVo press release, 9/2016:

TiVo Announces 4K TiVo BOLT+ at CEDIA 2016 | Latest Addition to the TiVo BOLT® Family Creates the Ultimate Multi-Room Video Experience with Six Tuners, 3TB of Recording Capacity, and New Black Chassis

I’d sure love to know what had been in the pipeline. Alas, TiVo is a for-profit entity and the retail (CableCARD) market has remained challenging for a whole host of factors ZNF regulars are well aware of. At least we can take comfort in TiVo providing something more substantial than the Bolt. And the $500 Plus should meet the needs of many looking to expand or upgrade without TiVo, Inc investing or risking much – especially with the limited, but appropriately targeted, distribution channels.

55 thoughts on “TiVo Scales Back Retail Ambitions With Bolt Plus”

  1. Isn’t it effectively a Bolt with six tuners? The specs look similar to the four tuner Bolt. ie only two streams.

    I like the color. I really wish they would have released this last year. But at this point I can’t get by with only 3TB in a six tuner device. I already have 4TB in each of my Bolts.

    So if I were to get the six tuner Bolt I would need to put one of the 4TB drives in the six tuner Bolt. But then that is the bare minimum I could use.

    So it makes more sense for me to just keep my two, four tuner Bolts, and keep my One Passes separated between both Bolts. And now I can sell my lifetime Roamio Pro with a 5TB drive.

  2. David: Thanks for posting this. There is also an article from Forbes, and Engadget.

    Here is the one from Engadget:


    From their comparison chart (Bolt Plus vs. Roamio Pro), and with regards to OTA capabilities, do you think there is a mistake (swapping Roamio and Bolt) in term so Bolt Plus being capable of OTA? Roamio Pro is not capable of OTA, but it is listed so in the chart.

  3. Their ROamio Pro chart has another error. It lists the ROamio Pro as having a 100BT Ethernet port. When the Roamio Pro actually has a GigE port.

  4. No, the ‘streams’ is related to the transcoding to feed mobile clients (and the beta Fire TV app). Minis get the full MPEG2. At least that’s how I read it.

  5. So, is there a maximum number of minis that connect? If I look to swap out my quantum dvr, i don’t mind if I can just put minis (and use firetv app on the a few really not used TVS)

  6. So is the number of streams the number of Minis it can support at the same time?

    No, that is the limit of “mobile” streams; that is, concurrent streams to supported iOS or Android devices via the TiVo app, or to laptops/PCs via TiVo Online.

  7. Their ROamio Pro chart has another error. It lists the ROamio Pro as having a 100BT Ethernet port. When the Roamio Pro actually has a GigE port.

    Right/agreed. The text of the article doubles-down on the Fast Ethernet/100BT error for the Roamio Pro.

    It’s a great chart, really, but they should also have a line distinguishing the form factor for each model’s hard drive.

  8. The engadget article includes a few other notable excerpts (putting aside the OTA BOLT+ omission and Roamio Pro GigE error):
    * this box can get pricey quickly thanks to the $149 annual, $14.99 monthly (with 1-year commitment) or $549 “All-in” (but not Lifetime) service plan // How is “All-in” different from “Lifetime”?
    * there aren’t any other 4K apps yet, although most Ultra HD TVs on sale now will come with those streaming services built-in // pretty much undercutting the prime selling point of the BOLT
    * there is an eSATA port for external drives // “drives” plural?

    Disappointing product, for me; on the other hand, it’ll help maintain the value of my spare Roamio Pro that I’ll be looking to offload in the next few months.

  9. The $149 yearly is what i need to pay for each of my four tuner Bolts. It’s one reason I was thinking about switching to the Bolt+. If the Bolt+ took 3.5 inch hard drives, there is no question that I would dump my four tuner Bolts.

  10. And I still might switch. I’m seriously thinking about getting the Bolt+ and cutting a slot in the enclosure to run a SATA cable through it. Then instead of using an internal 2.5″ hard drive, i would use an external 3.5″ hard drive, And I would use either a 6TB or 8TB WD Red drive.

    My two, four tuner Bolts included the first year of service. But the second year is coming up soon which requires that $149 payment for each Bolt. So I could take that extra $150 and put it toward the 3.5″ hard drive and enclosure.

    The more i think about it the more I think I might go this route.

  11. Sure you can have apps in a Tv, that may never be updated/abandoned. You may have your Bolt longer than you have your TV. It’s a DVR, streaming apps are secondary to it’s purpose.

  12. @MJR: I’d say TiVo’s streaming apps are just as likely to be abandoned/never updated as those in a smart TV. (In fact, TiVo’s HTML5 app platform is the same one used in certain smart TVs.) TiVo makes for a fairly crappy streamer but, as long as a new TiVo buyer sees that as secondary to its DVR features, he may still be happy. At least with the Bolt, the Netflix app launches quickly and, so long as you don’t get hit with that app’s audio drop-out bug, it apparently works well.

  13. MJR, Echoing Tim, we’ve seen our fair share of abandoned apps on TiVo. However, also as Tim indicated and as seen from Engadget’s chart, TiVo has started caching more of the app locally with the Bolt line – that plus a beefier processor improves performance. I’d further say it’s not an entirely secondary feature given One Pass and TiVo’s marketing/positioning. That’s one of the reasons folks are supposed to choose TiVo over whatever the cableco gives you.

  14. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but this looks like it’ll be the first time I am not upgrading my TiVo with a new product release. S2 Dual Tuner -> TivoHD -> Premiere -> Roamio Plus. With only 4k streaming and minor speed-improvements, that ~$600 upgrade cost after selling my Roamio on eBay seems to be a little too much this time around.

  15. Yeah, Dave, that’s the thing: TiVo’s big marketing hook for their boxes is that they seamlessly bring together traditional and streaming TV. They even refer to the Bolt as a “unified entertainment system” rather than simply a DVR. And it was that angle that got me to buy my TiVo Roamio. But the reality is certainly different; TiVo is great as a traditional DVR but not as a streamer. As a PSA to any folks reading this considering buying a TiVo, be aware that:

    Despite rolling out their first 4K/UHD cable model, the Bolt, a year ago, there are still only two TiVo apps that support that resolution: Netflix and YouTube. And, at least at this point, no TiVo, including even the new Bolt+, appears to support HDR.

    TiVo’s OnePass system, which lets users click from a unified watchlist into both recordings as well as streaming content from various providers, often fails to reflect newly available streaming content until 2-3 days after it’s already available in the underlying streaming app.

    Launching streaming apps on a TiVo Roamio is very slow. Launch times are better on a Bolt, especially for Netflix.

    The Netflix app on both the Roamio and Bolt have a long-running problem in which the audio repeatedly cuts out briefly (for a half second or so). Doesn’t affect everyone though, so maybe you’ll get lucky.

    After several years, Hulu finally released an updated app this year for TiVo but, like the one before, it’s also crash prone, particularly when transitioning from a show to a commercial break, or vice versa. (I’ve had it completely freeze up my TiVo requiring me to pull the plug.) Even worse, the new Hulu app on Roamio caps video at a very low bitrate of 1.2 Mbps — I can’t tell if it’s SD or really compressed HD. Hulu on the Bolt can display normal quality HD though.

    The Amazon Video app for TiVo has their inferior last-gen UI and is slow to navigate. Starting a new stream or rewinding/fast forwarding and then resuming a stream results in Amazon’s orange spinning circle for several seconds while it thinks about what to do. VERY annoying. Keep your iPad handy so you can read the news or something during these little breaks. Also, the app doesn’t fully support add-on video subscriptions (or “Amazon Channels” as they’re now calling them) like Showtime, Starz, etc. so if you have those add-ons, you’ll want to search for and add content on a different device, although you can still play it back on the TiVo.

    HBO Go finally came to TiVo this spring after years of calls for it. It works, although it’s a bit flaky, crashing sometimes or repeatedly requiring you to authenticate your HBO cable subscription. HD picture quality on it isn’t as good as on my old Apple TV.

    Plex is available for TiVo but it’s a slow buggy mess. Plex is often great on other platforms but using it on TiVo will really test your patience.

    Controls vary from app to app and from apps to the standard TiVo playback UI for recordings, so you can’t always press the same buttons on your TiVo remote to get the same command. For instance, pressing the jump back/instant replay button on your remote while watching something in the Amazon Video app will bring up a dialog to exit the video.

    Lastly, the list of popular apps missing from TiVo is long: HBO Now, Showtime, Showtime Anytime, Starz, Sling TV, PS Vue, CBS All Access, Watch ESPN, and all those other cable channel authenticated apps like CNNgo, Watch HGTV, etc.

  16. If you don’t have (or don’t plan to get) a 4k TV there’s no reason to upgrade from a Roamio to the Bolt+. I’m surprised they didn’t bother trying to at least create some additional differentiating feature besides 4k.

  17. From the picture in the back, it appears that Antenna capabilities exist. Just like Bolt. The Engadget comparison chart appears to be wrong. They have swapped Roamio Pro and Bolt + by mistake for Antenna. At least, that’s what I believe.

  18. The slow Apps are only on the Roamio. My Mini isn’t affected and the Apps launch pretty quickly so I just switched my main TV to a Mini and I don’t have to wait 30 seconds for Netflix to load anymore. With this fix and free lifetime service on the mini, replacing my Roamio Pro isn’t much of a priority anymore since it runs mostly headless. I’d take a new Mini with 1080p output and a faster processor though.

  19. thyname, you’re killing me. I linked that Engadget article and touched on the antenna label in the second comment. I assume TiVo will launch a full product page by the 15th (for pre-orders) and perhaps there will be more (or less vague) info.

  20. Dave: I am sorry. I saw your first comment, after I posted my first one. There were only a few minutes between our posts, probably the time it took me to type and look around the articles available.

    My subsequent comment with the link to the picture (and one before that) were mostly replies to one poster (I believe called “joe”) saying something like “no antenna, no Bolt+ for me”.

    I apologize for repeated posts on same subject.

    Your site rocks!

  21. It’s playful emoting, no worries. By the by, sources suggest Bolt+ is cable-only irrespective of the press photos and/or labeling.

  22. Jeebus. All these complaints about “functionality” and “price”. C’mon folks. Doesn’t the color trump those concerns? Black is always in style.

  23. As long as they keep treating the Roamio and Mini well with upgrades and new applications, I don’t care what they come up with. That bent design is just awful. It’s seemed pointless to me to abandon the Roamio look and branding so early in its life.

  24. I do not understand all the complains in regard to lack of 4k apps . How in the world is Tivo going to have more 4k apps than Playstation 4 Pro for example or even Xbox One S? I did check and looks like Xbox One S has Netflix and Amazon Video (but nobody has seen 4k content on Amazon Video yet using Xbox One S). Playstation 4 Pro is suppose to get Netflix and YouTube in 4k, I am assuming Xbox One S will get 4k YouTube at the same time. So at this point only Amazon Video is most likely candidate to appear on Tivo Bolt and Bolt + sometime in the near future. I am wondering about that 1-2 Streams limit lol mentioned by Engadget (what does 1-2 event mean, should have been listed as just 2). I think HDR will come with a Software Update in the future. This article explains that it might be possible to update some of the 4k TVs software to support HDR, so should be possible to update Tivo software it include it as well, Sony is doing it for all of its PS4s tomorrow with Software 4.0 so Tivo will probably do it as well, fingers crossed. http://4k.com/news/hdmi-2-0a-update-to-hdmi-brings-hdr-compatibility-closer-in-4k-tvs-6502/ “Most of the current 4K UHD TVs on the market aren’t at all ready for HDR content delivery and while the newest TVs from Samsung and others, particularly Samsung’s already released SUHD 4K models, come with built-in HDR compatibility, the HDMI 2.0a specification update for HDR should make even ordinary 4K TVs with the proper firmware updates to their HDMI ports capable of managing high dynamic range in their content.”

  25. Jakub, the “1-2 streams” limit of the Bolt and Bolt+ mean that they can transcode and stream recorded TV to either two non-TiVo devices (Android/iOS/web browser) on your home network OR to one non-TiVo device over the internet outside of your home network.

    A major TiVo employee indicated via Twitter some time ago that HDR support would be coming to Bolt but nothing has been stated about it officially via press release or marketing materials. I would’ve thought that the Bolt+ would have it out of the gate but apparently it doesn’t. Even if TiVo is confident that it will gain that capability soon (by year-end), one would think they might include HDR as a bullet point in the initial marketing messages for it.

    Also, didn’t someone at TiVo indicate that a UHD version of the Amazon Video app would be “coming soon” back when the Bolt was introduced a year ago? It’s still not here…

  26. Failure to include a voice-powered remote may be the biggest shortcoming of the Bolt+, IMO. When Comcast’s X1 as well as Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and all Android TV boxes have it, TiVo appears to be lagging in comparison.

    I tried the voice remote on the X1 recently and was impressed. Name a channel and it quickly turns there. No need to know the channel number or go through the guide. Name a show and it gives you the air times for upcoming episodes as well as on-demand/recorded viewing options for already-aired episodes. Very slick.

  27. I like that they released this, but to Dave’s point, it isn’t what they promised (love the 2015 quote juxtaposed against the 2016 reality). I won’t be jumping on the Bolt+ bandwagon, as I don’t have a 4K TV, don’t like the design, and don’t really want to pay $1k for those features that don’t really entice me. I have always bought lifetime plans, so going with anything less than that isn’t worthwhile. My only monthly was when I rented the 2 tuner Evolution Premiere from my MSO for a few years. Much happier with my Roamio, as long as it continues to chug along.

  28. I assume HDR will hit all Bolts. Like all things TiVo, just a matter of when they get around to it.

    Voice control is interesting. We know they’ve been talking about it and working on it for some time, but we obviously haven’t yet seen it in the app or in hardware. Depending how far along they are, might they work to integrate Rovi’s approach instead? Hm.

  29. Hey Tim, yes I was aware that 2 was related to streaming for iOS/Android device. While I am not freaking out about it yet, I might a bit since my Roamio Plus can do 4 now and why would I want to spend $500 if not $1100 just to remove features. Sure I would be adding more speed, 4k and HDR, but without 4k TV or 4k TV with HDR I already have everything I need in my Roamio Plus, just like other did. I do hope that 1-2 is wrong, but if Bolt + is extension of Bolt with 2 extra tuners and bigger Hard Drive (which I feel it is) then this is not very compelling upgrade, unless you have a 4k TV with HDR.

  30. “I won’t be jumping on the Bolt+ bandwagon, as I don’t have a 4K TV, don’t like the design, and don’t really want to pay $1k for those features that don’t really entice me.”

    This is all well and good. But have you considered that the Bolt+ does not have a lithium ion battery? It won’t explode! A selling point folks seem to be ignoring…

  31. I don’t know if they’re available on the 15th or if it’s only pre-orders on the 15th. I was in my local Best Buy yesterday looking at iPhone cases and they didn’t have any out by the regular Bolt, but I didn’t check Magnolia.

  32. Anyone found (or anticipate) any deals on the unit or All-In Service for existing long term TiVo owners? $1,050 is a bit too rich for my blood considering the lack of HDR at present, limited 4k apps, and most importantly, a cloudy future for cablecard. Has anyone published an analysis of what last week’s FCC Unlock The Box announcement means for cablecard?

  33. I had the tivo website show me $200 off of All-In (Lifetime) with a coupon code I did not enter(or entered a long time ago and forgot about). However it was tied to the regular bolt in my cart and not the bolt+ and when I changed the bolt’s the $200 went away and now I cant get it back on either of them…

    Does anyone know what coupon code this was?!

  34. No over the air connection. Still just one HDMI output. Very disappointing for the extra price. This looks more like an OEM product designed to compete with X1 from Infinity. And their boxes all have at least 2 connections. This is nice as I have TV’s in the living room and kitchen that I like to keep synced. Using a splitter now, but that is lame.

  35. No OTA is a deal breaker. I will never order another item from TiVo if OTA capabilities do not return to their products.

  36. OTA is in Tivo’s products:


    (and of course https://www.tivo.com/shop/ota-detail )

    There aren’t any 6 tuner OTA solutions. They could kludge up a solution but there is no (last I looked around) off the shelf 6 tuner solution coming. With the changes coming just over the horizon, a solution is probably not coming if not already here.

    Could go with a kludge with one OTA input and one Cable input, but that would be a bigger box and more expensive. Tivo is at the edge of what most people want to pay for now. More expensive would just mean fewer boxes sold. If they don’t have deployed boxes then not going to get apps.

    Besides if need OTA it seems likely that a Bolt+ will likely have some mechanism (an app at least if not fully integrated ) to use this:


    to get 1 or more OTA streams. (and by the way is yet another OTA product. Doesn’t look to replace Roamio OTA. )

  37. I agree that TiVo is at that line of what most are willing to pay. Sure you can look at it over X months, and determine where the break even point is vs a MSO DVR, but most don’t look at it from that perspective. If Rovi-TiVo becomes an Android-like product where they license software to other companies, rather than an Apple-like product where they fully control the OS and hardware, they would have a lot of potential to become cheaper, and get services out to more customers. It sounds like that is at least what they have for their long-term plans for with the cable operators, just not sure whether it will find a good footing in the retail space. I’m hoping that they can deliver a solid product if/when they get to that point. I don’t want some crap Scientific Atlantic DVR with a stripped down TiVo interface and bloopy sound effects. I want the full, real-deal experience I have been used to from TiVo for 15 years. I’d love an iteration like the Sony TiVo that I had once, but updated to today’s specs. That was a solid unit that would likely still be running fine today if it wasn’t so dated (other than, y’know, the whole Rovi guide conversion thing).

    As a consumer of TiVo products. I much prefer to own mine rather than rent, but it is getting cost prohibitive for me to buy them. I am still very happy with the form and function of my Roamio Plus, and won’t deviate from that as long as it continues to function well. If it dies (beyond an easily-replaceable part like a HDD), I would definitely go for the Bolt+ if that was my only 6-tuner TiVo option. Otherwise, as I mentioned before, the few extra features that TiVo is offering on Bolt family DVRs is just not enough to draw me away from my Roamio.

  38. Looking to follow-up on an earlier inquiry. Anyone seeing discounted all-in pricing for long-term TiVo owners? By telephone? Coupon code, etc.?

  39. I have a new Bolt which doesn’t seem all that different than my old Roamio. I’m having a problem with the back button in the Amazon App, and TiVo simply won’t admit to a problem in their programming. The back button functions in all other applications, but they want to pretend that it’s a problem with the controller — wrong. Why has TiVo always been reticent to admit to problems?

  40. I’m having a problem with the back button in the Amazon App

    What is the specific problem? And are you referring to the actual ‘Back’ button or the ‘Instant Replay’ button?

    The streaming apps for TiVo are notorious for having inconsistent navigation control. It would be a dream if all the apps on TiVo allowed navigation similar to the TiVo UI, but this is what you get when app development is left to the individual streaming providers and the device vendor lacks the authoritarian control of an Apple.

  41. “The streaming apps for TiVo are notorious for having inconsistent navigation control. It would be a dream if all the apps on TiVo allowed navigation similar to the TiVo UI, but this is what you get when app development is left to the individual streaming providers”

    This is true. But FWIW, one of my favorite things about the TiVo Amazon app is that they clearly and repeatedly identify the buttons on a TiVo remote that handle various functions in the app. If only the other app designers followed that example, it’d help a lot despite the lack of universal consistency.

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