Is Roku Prepping DVR?


Roku’s announced a seriously impressive update… assuming you’re running recent, supported hardware. And, surely, the highlight of OS 7.5 is the ability to pause live OTA television on Roku Televisions. While Roku’s CEO declared the “DVR is dead” way back in 2011, the company seemingly recognizes the ongoing draw of linear programming in 2016 – but intends to “get rid of the five commercial block.” As such, pairing a Roku TV with 16GB USB thumb drive will enable a 90 minute buffer to pause television while hitting the head or intending to crash through a 60 block with 40 minutes of ad-free programming. Hopefully it’ll also allow us to scrub through the buffer to catch a bit of missed dialog or replay some dramatic event. But I’m left to wonder if they’ve invested the engineering resources to go this far might full-fledged DVR functionality also be on the roadmap? CES is just around the corner…

Other Roku OS 7.5 goodies: HDMI-CEC volume control (!) and “private listening” via smartphone.

Roku OS 7.5 will begin to roll out to some supported Roku players today, and following their recent launch, will conclude with the new lineup of Roku players in the next few weeks. Roku OS 7.5 will begin rolling out to Roku TV models next week and is expected to be available on all supported Roku devices before the Holidays.

12 thoughts on “Is Roku Prepping DVR?”

  1. OTA is still an under-served market… with staying power… and Roku’s CEO was also the CEO of DVR pioneer ReplayTV. It’s a nice theory anyway and a killer standalone feature even if it goes no further.

  2. I only wish the update would come to the new players first. I picked up a ROku Ultra to replace my Roku 4 when the Ultra Launched. I haven’t had my ROku 3 or ROku 2 models plugged in for months. I guess I’ll need to find them to check out the new OS.

  3. Adam, only select newer models with volume buttons on the remote (previously exclusive to “private listening”): 4640x, 4630x, 4400x, 4230x, 4200x

    My older Roku 3 is included, so I’m very interested to see how it performs. Having said that, I’ve got a review Sideclick here (and a couple to give away)… :)

  4. Too bad this is a feature that Roku is supporting only in TVs running Roku OS as their app platform. It would be nice if they took a page from Google’s book with Android TV 7.0 and rolled out driver support for USB OTA TV tuners that could be plugged into a Roku box so that live TV could be played and paused from within the Roku UI. But then I don’t know if any Roku boxes can handle interlaced video and considering that CBS, NBC and some PBS and CW stations broadcast in 1080i, maybe that’s not feasible.

    As for smart TVs, though, it does make a ton of sense to have built-in support for pausing and rewinding live OTA TV. I honestly don’t know why all smart TVs don’t have this feature built in to work with their on-board OTA tuners. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal from a software standpoint. And given how cheap solid state memory is, I don’t see why they wouldn’t build in enough memory to cache an hour of TV. Seems like the few extra bucks in cost would be more than made up for in additional marketing appeal.

  5. My love affair with my TiVo is slowly unraveling (both the Bolt hardware and the guide data since the Rovi merger have left a bad taste in my mouth), and so is my forced marriage with cable television in general. I do hope Roku heads down this road to a full DVR. I’d love a simple, single-input alternative for OTA DVR and OTT streaming services.

  6. My bedroom 2014 Roku 3 just got the update too. I’ve got HDMI-CEC changing inputs but nothing in relation to volume. Not sure if it’s the Roku or my older 2008 TV.

    Folks in the forums are reporting similar inconsistency but I don’t know that I care enough to relocate it to my “real” television downstairs (that runs Fire TV) for further testing.

  7. Paul, I’d also like to see Roku (and all the major streaming platforms) offer a unified streaming + OTA DVR solution. Right now, the Nvidia Shield Android TV appears the closest to offering such a “one box” solution but it’s still not polished. You can pair it with Silicon Dust OTA tuners and use the beta HDHomeRun DVR software for watching live and recorded TV, with recordings stored on the Shield’s hard drive (either internal or external USB 3.0). Alternatively, you can run a Plex server on the Shield and use Plex’s beta DVR feature to record shows from the Silicon Dust tuners.

    Meanwhile, Google has built driver support for a few USB OTA tuners into Android TV 7.0 along with DVR support in Android TV’s native Live Channels app. The only box right now that runs Android TV 7.0 and can access those features is the now-discontinued Nexus Player. Hopefully other Android TV boxes, including the Shield as well as the new Mi Box, get upgraded to 7.0 soon.

    Another promising option on the horizon is the Channels app on the Apple TV (4th gen). They already offer live OTA TV with guide, pause, and rewind and are working on building DVR service too, to be ready by Jan. However, it will require a separate box for recording, either a Mac, PC or certain model NAS, so it won’t really be a one-box solution.

  8. It appears that LOTS of smart TVs in Europe from all the normal brands support not only pausing live OTA TV but full-on DVR-style recording. You just need to attach a USB hard drive. But from what I’ve read, TV makers disable that feature for the US version of their TVs because of legal issues (copyright, I’m sure).

    This begs a couple of questions: why would having USB-based DVR features built into a TV run afoul of US law when OTA DVRs such as TiVo do not? Second, if LG, Samsung, Sony, etc. are purposely not providing this feature on their sets in the US market, are any TV makers going to be taking advantage of Roku’s new “pause live TV with a USB thumb drive” feature on their sets for the US market? Or does Roku anticipate that this feature will only be implemented in non-US markets?

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