TiVo Cloud DVR Details Emerge

Dave Zatz —  April 5, 2017 — 29 Comments

When TiVo pulled the page hosting Mavrik imagery, they left behind a search box… and search I did. The TiVo Mavrik is confirmed as an OTA two-tuner network accessory, a la Tablo, that will beam both live and recorded content to web browsers, mobile apps, and the Fire TV.

Mavrik plugs into your HD antenna and connects to your wireless router so you can stream live TV to your tablet, smartphone, laptop or Amazon Fire TV through your home network. Going out? Let Mavrik record your favorite shows in the cloud, so you can access them later from virtually anywhereAccess your recorded shows from the cloud at home, at work or in your hotel room on the other side of the country. Wherever you have WiFi, you have your shows. Enjoy live and recorded TV on your Amazon Fire TV or Amazon Fire Stick. Just open the Live TV app in the Fire TV software and start watching. TiVo’s iOS and Android app allows you to watch your shows and recordings on compatible tablet and mobile devices. You can even watch on a web browser at TiVO Online.

Unfortunately it looks like we’ve also confirmed there will be no local DVR storage, with all recordings looking to reside within TiVo’s cloud. Making matters worse, they appear to be following in Boxee’s failed footsteps with regional restrictions and perhaps shared recordings.

Mavrik employs a patented, first-of-its-kind technology to record your favorite shows in the cloud without bogging down your home’s broadband performance. It’s cloud recording without the headaches. Cloud recording feature currently is available in solely the following San Francisco Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma.

However, the (draft?) documentation, does indicate Mavrik owners will be provided 20 hours of cloud storage on the house with the ability to upgrade to 50hrs, somewhat mirroring Aereo’s retired tiers – although exact pricing remains a mystery. Also a mystery is what over-the-air cloud DVR features will be made available to TiVo Bolt and Roamio owners that were in testing last fall.

29 responses to TiVo Cloud DVR Details Emerge

  1. Yay for cloud recording. Well, maybe not. Every time I see something like this it reminds me to check my router for this months usage. So far in 2017 my house has used anywhere from 450 GB to 1 TB. At least for now Charter doesn’t have a cap…

  2. So the wording is real, real interesting… is it just a draft, placeholder or will Amazon provide a Fire TV Live TV app that taps into TiVo??

    Jason, they’re sort of implying they’d locally fingerprint your show to access their recording. Didn’t think they’d go that way, seems risky in terms of content ownership and costly in terms of setting up shop in dozens of regions. Who knows. In any event, streaming live television outside the home would also infringe upon one’s cap. But no different than a Slingbox or the existing TiVo streaming features.

    By the by, didn’t search too hard on it, but didn’t see anything suggesting a Mini 2 or Mini 4K is imminent.

  3. Steve Lunceford April 5, 2017 at 8:58 am

    And I notice nothing about Roku, so that proof of concept app from a while back (a year?) may never see light of day.

  4. This is looking less and less cool without local storage…I’M OUT! :-)

  5. This is a let down. No Apple TV live tv app, no local storage, and location restrictions. Was hoping to switch to this in the fall when fios contract is up and I switch to OTA.

  6. TiVo really missed an opportunity IMHO – I gave up waiting on broader/better apps for streaming devices and made the switch. I am now running OTA HDHomeRun + Apple TV + Channels App (live) + Plex (DVR). Every TV now has same interface, content, remote. Setup is working very well for us.

    I may consolidate and just use Channels DVR so we only have one app but don’t like the monthly fee.

  7. No need for cloud storage here.

  8. Does the Fire TV support HFLS? I think that is what it is called. I am wondering if they are using the similar protection scheme like they used on streaming to IOS and Android. If so this might explain why no Roku, but I don’t know if Roku supports that or not. Didn’t they have to wait on Android to update their support before they could offer streaming to Android devices?

  9. Could be something similar to the rsync algorithm. They wouldn’t need to set up shop in all metros, just enable them. Local boxes would send small pieces of recordings up to the mothership which will assemble them into completed recordings. No one box has to send the whole recording, but each box verifies it saw the same bits come through the antenna that the mothership has.

    If they’re really clever, this could be a solution for folks who have crappy reception, assuming the algorithm (and legal tapdancing) can fill in gaps.

  10. Orange, nice interpretation and the patents do seem to suggest a sort of community upload:

    https://patentscope.wipo.int/search/en/detail.jsf?docId=US189922272&recNum=4&maxRec=669&office=&prevFilter=&sortOption=Pub+Date+Desc&queryString=ALLNAMES%3A%28tivo%29&tab=PCTDescription

    However, it does seem extremely complex (especially given reception variances, as you mention) and legally murkiness. Perhaps that’s why we’re apparently way off schedule. Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly how Boxee implemented as they were extremely cagey (due to what I believe to be their own legally murky concerns). Wonder if they had pursued a similar approach.

  11. Might buy one when it supports ATSC 3.0, and when it can save to local Tivo boxes (not just on the cloud)

    BTW, there’s a “72-hour” sale on tivo.com on the older (500GB) Roamio OTA w/ lifetime: $249.

  12. “seems risky in terms of content ownership”
    ” legally murkiness”
    Is there anything murky about this? I thought that the courts had absolutely and clearly decided that community copies of programs in the cloud were not acceptable. Isn’t that why Aereo had their thousands of individual antennae? I hate the decision, but I didn’t think there was anything vague about it.

  13. Aereo decision was less about DVR and more about those hosted antennae, they were effectively a broadcaster – owning a box and antenna at your property may be a different proposition and cloud DVR has been blessed by the courts (thank you Cablevision).

  14. I still don’t understand. I thought the sequence of events was:
    1. Years ago, courts decide that community copies of programs in cloud are unacceptable. (I think because they don’t qualify as the individual, personal, recordings that were necessary to make VCRs legal.)
    2. Aereo tries to works around that by everyone having their own antenna and tuner … thus, there is no community copy. Everything would be a personal copy, just like a VCR.
    3. Courts, for murky reasons, decide that Aereo’s workaround is no good.

    The decision in (3) doesn’t do anything to negate (1), does it?

  15. Not sure what you’re referencing with 1) and again, in regards to 2) and 3), the SCOTUS Aereo decision seemed primarily about unlicensed retransmission of live content that Aereo didn’t have rights to — SCOTUS didn’t buy the individual antenna rental argument.

    https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-461_l537.pdf

  16. If not for (1), why would Aereo have bothered with the complexity/kludginess of the thousands of antennae and copies?
    It will take me a while to sort through all of the search results, but my memory of (1) is as follows:
    In the early 1980s, when VCRs were becoming popular, the copyright holders were deathly afraid of them, so they were threatening all sorts of legal action over them. Congress passed a law that clarified things and made individual recordings legal. That law made extensive use of language like “personal copies” and “individual use.”
    Twenty years or so later, the web was popular, TiVo was becoming popular, and someone decided to try making a cloud DVR which would keep only one copy of any individual show. Any individual user who had “recorded” that show would not get a private copy of it – they would basically be added to the list of users who had “recorded” the show. Some copyright or license holder complained about that, and a court ruled that since these community recordings didn’t qualify as the “personal copies” that were mentioned in the earlier law, the earlier law didn’t apply.
    My impression was that Aereo’s peculiar hardware architecture was largely intended to circumvent that decision by making every copy in the cloud a personal, individual copy. The court then squashed Aereo for reasons largely unrelated to the validity of their reasoning on the “individual copies” issue. (But for reasons which would seem to me to make almost any cloud DVR unacceptable. That, however, is a different question unrelated to the individual copies question of (1)).

  17. Aereo’s design was smart, strategic on multiple levels. However SCOTUS pretty much shut them down on the remote interception and retransmission so they didn’t really even need to get into recording considerations. I linked the ruling in the comment above, the opinion pretty much lays it out. The oral arguments were interesting – it seems that even though what they did appears legal on paper, the court decided they were trying to circumvent the intent of the laws and ultimately violated rights holders. Specific to TiVo, a pieced together and shared recording would be risky… if and when they have enough publicity and customers for the content providers to care. Boxee stayed off the radar.

  18. OK. I’m also confused. Do you have the understanding to clarify this in a paragraph or so, Dave? Or is too complicated / beyond your ken?

    1) The Cablevision case is so muddled that we still don’t understand if dedup is legal or not?

    2) If #1 is true, why would regional dedup suddenly make things kosher?

    3) My understand of the legal murkiness of dedup dates back to 2013. Has anything cleared things up since then?

    4) Are any MSO’s currently offering cloud DVR’s with dedup? If so, have they negotiated rights with all the programming sources they’re using?

    5) If dedup (either regional and/or national) is still unsettled, then TiVo obviously isn’t going to go forward with this, correct? And if so, why are they wasting their time?

  19. “it seems that even though what (Aereo) did appears legal on paper, the court decided they were trying to circumvent the intent of the laws and ultimately violated rights holders.”

    I agree that Aereo has absolutely nothing to do with this topic. Folks should get that through their heads.

    But yeah. What Aereo did was completely legal on paper. Which is how courts are supposed to interpret the law. If you find a loophole in the law which lets you follow the law on paper, even if it may contradict the intention of the law, you’re supposed to safe. Which is why I found the SCOTUS decision so utterly contemptible.

  20. Chucky, Cloud DVR seems permissible and has been implemented, however shared recordings are risky, likely not settled, highly contestable and I certainly wouldn’t recommend that business model. Aereo ruling didn’t really pertain to DVR as the buck stopped with transmission.

  21. “Cloud DVR seems permissible and has been implemented, however shared recordings are risky, likely not settled, highly contestable and I certainly wouldn’t recommend that business model.”

    OK. Consistent with my understanding so far. Do you know:

    1) Why would regional dedup change anything whatsoever?

    2) Are any MSO’s currently offering cloud DVR services with dedup to the best of your knowledge?

    (I’ll skip repeating the “why is TiVo wasting their time” question, since this is TiVo we’re talking about, after all…)

  22. Haven’t been paying attention, don’t know who or if anyone is using shared recordings. A few years back, Microsoft did brief me on a MediaRoom solution that AT&T could choose to implement for UVerse shared cloud recordings. Don’t know if they ever followed through. Also a different ballgame with MSOs who have contracts with the content owners (and in some cases are the content owners).

    Regional would be in play to appease the local affiliates due to things like regional programming, regional sports, regional news, and mainly regional advertising.

  23. “Regional would be in play to appease the local affiliates due to things like regional programming, regional news, and mainly regional advertising.”

    Thanks! That definitely clears up that one minor point for me. (Though even that still isn’t going to make it safely legal.)

    “Also a different ballgame with MSOs who have contracts with the content owners”

    Yup. Already aware of that. But just curious what the state of play is on that front, which you, quite reasonably, are not fully up to date with.

    ——

    In short, this is going nowhere. Good to see the Rovi takeover has only furthered TiVo’s dysfunctionality. Whoever came up with this initiative should be TiVo’s employee of the month.

  24. If TiVo really wanted to do a cloud DVR solution, they should forget about dedup, see if they can make the economics work without dedup, and if so, move forward on that front. (Even with that concession, there would still be legal obstacles that lawyers would have make a cost/benefit decision on, but at least it’d be a reasonable plan.)

    Cuz this “solution” is just flat out Elon Musk upload your brain to Mars via hyperloop insane…

  25. What I’m curious to know is why TiVo wants the Mavrik to be a cloud DVR. Is it just because of the marketing mystique of “the cloud”? Is it because consumers are more willing to pay ongoing fees for cloud storage as opposed to a service fee to make a local DVR continue working? Or is it truly because TiVo believes that having anywhere-in-the-world access to one’s recordings is so important to potential Mavrik buyers, and cloud DVR is the best way to meet that need?

    My preference would be to forget the cloud aspect (which would appear to be legally fraught, and possibly what is keeping Mavrik from even launching) and just make it a Tablo copy-cat device (with BYO hard drive). Then develop top-notch apps for it to run on not just Fire TV but also Roku and Apple TV (and maybe Android TV), and work with Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Amazon to allow the TiVo app to deep link to titles within those providers’ apps on the same device (if available), so that it could provide OnePass capabilities that unify OTA with various OTT sources.

  26. No option for local storage is a huge let down. With bandwidth caps implemented in most markets this will count against the allowance. I was hoping for stable Tablo competitor, oh well.

  27. Until proven otherwise, I’m defining “cloud” as really meaning “we can force you to watch commercials”. Also, unless TiVo rolls this out with a major investment in something like amazon servers to hold their cloud, I’m highly skeptical of their ability to make a cloud work at all. Most of the time their current servers are so bogged down and buggy I can’t even login.

  28. I’m thinking that there may be multiple Takeover Scenarios lurking here. TiVo also has the legacy longevity in this space and I can’t help seeing parallels with of all things like “Eminent Domain” as it relates to Real Estate. Has Common Good been argued against individual rights in this tech space? Sorry, haven’t read all of the legal opinions.

  29. The Mavrik shouldn’t take up too much bandwidth. Since it is probably re-compressing them to a more efficient codec and lower bitrate. Just like the Boxee Boxes used to do.The bandwidth used was much, much less compared to the bandwidth the original broadcasts used.

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