TiVo Mavrik Is Dead (and all of retail is in jeopardy)

Dave Zatz —  May 30, 2017 — 37 Comments

Sigh. Sources indicate the TiVo Mavrik is dead. What was intended to be TiVo’s more modern take on antenna television now joins the Bolt Aereo Edition in the cord cutter dustbin as Rovi management calibrates a new TiVo. The Mavrik is was a dual-tuner Tablo-esque network tuner with cloud recording capabilities that would stream video to multiple sources, such as the Amazon Fire TV. But, beyond business prioritization, I’m hearing that the technical realities of the product did not live up to the prior management’s hype. In fact, “bad” is an adjective one source levied. Further, we’ve learned all of TiVo’s consumer-facing initiatives are on life support. This wouldn’t necessarily impact existing customers, over the short-term anyway, other than products like the upcoming TiVo Vox products, with bundled voice remote, may also end up on the chopping block. If you’re not feeling blue yet, I can tell you that the TiVo Hydra interface originally planned for 2016 has been delayed again… until late 2017. There remains a small sliver of hope, given third party licensing and TiVo’s search for a new CEO. Perhaps that individual will see more promise in retail and can more effectively wrangle the development staff.

37 responses to TiVo Mavrik Is Dead (and all of retail is in jeopardy)

  1. I’ll say it again and again.. the only TiVo hardware upgrade I’m willing to put my hard earned dollars into is a new hard drive for the Roamio. Who knows what going to happen at TiVo, but I agree the box business is going bye bye…

  2. “Further, we’ve learned all of TiVo’s consumer-facing initiatives are on life support — the writing was on the wall. This wouldn’t necessarily impact existing customers, over the short-term anyway,”

    As going out of business/my TiVo collection may be useless in this scenario?

  3. Quelle surprise. Oh well, maybe we have some good news to look forward to when Plex DVR comes out of beta (hopefully with a fuller feature set). Or possibly some better OTA DVR solutions from Android TV soon.

  4. ckelly33, As in consumer marketing has dried up while they evaluate the roadmap and a continued retail presence. No one is cutting off our service, nothing like that. If they do give up on retail, we could expect fewer software updates, fewer app updates, fewer apps, etc. We probably will also have less of an advocate when one provider or another tries pulling the plug on CableCARD (which they will given ongoing uncertainty in light of the new FCC regime)… that scares me more than ongoing guide data.

  5. TiVo sees the writing on the wall. Without an FCC mandated cable card replacement the stand alone cable DVR business will die a slow death as companies switch from QAM to IPTV. They have OTA covered just fine until/if ATSC 3.0 shows up. If you want a lower cost DVR you get a Roamio OTA with lifetime included or if you want to you can spend more on a Bolt. Both work just fine as an OTA DVR. There streaming platform has never been able to keep up with any of the major players and never will. It would be nice if they could get an updated Mini but I guess the one they have works well enough.

    If I were TiVo I would basically cut back ever where possible and see what happens.

    Perhaps there will be an opportunity to license software to a third party hardware provider when/if ATSC 3.0 shows up.

  6. Well… I’d like to see a beefed up 4K Mini and voice remote. Hope those make it to market. Although Verizon has new set-tops and voice control in the pipeline that I’ll be covering soon. I’m fine with TiVo killing their cloud DVR initiative. Doubt maybe Premiere, Roamio, or Bolt owners would partake and obviously Mavrik is no longer a driving force for that.

  7. I don’t know much about the TiVo business issues but as a consumer, I find that watching locally recorded shows is a much better experience than any remotely hosted system.
    The industry may love the control they get when we stream, but the user experience is terrible. I’ve got decent cable provided bandwidth, but he the same old issues with response time. It doesn’t matter how big the pipe is if it takes seconds to turn off the spigot.

  8. Agreed cev999. As much as cord cutting seems to be gaining steam, I don’t find any of the app based OTT options to be nearly as easy to use as a classic channel based guide with DVR…seems like we are going backwards in terms of ease of use.

    A perfect solution would be a TIVo that integrates directly with a DirecTV Now or SlingTV feed and has a unified guide with OTA channels. That would be the only thing TiVo can do at this point to offer a unique solution.

    But at this point, it seems anything involving an antenna is bordering on hobbyist territory. I think the majority of “cord cutters” these days will be going straight to an OTT option and not bother with an antenna.

  9. I certainly hope it’s not the end of the line.

  10. This was always a niche of a niche product. Many people go OTA don’t record OTA. In many cities now you can get the major networks OTT streaming. OTA as you know it, is actually not doing that well among the public at large.

  11. As one who has taken advantage of SlingTV’s DVR capabilities, I am of another opinion regarding watching shows recorded on the Cloud. I find it a lot more responsive than using my Slingbox to watch shows I’ve recorded on my TiVo. I had become quite frustrated with attempting to skip ahead in a show (using SlingPlayer) and TiVo skipping to the very end of the show instead. The killing of the Mavrik is rather sad, as I would have considered it for recording broadcast TV. If Sling TV would only offer all four major broadcast networks (and create a sort of WishList search function), I’d dump my TiVo altogether.

  12. Our exhausting experience with Tivo (won’t bore you with the details) led us to Tablo. The box just works for OTA. As long as Tablo is around, we are happy with this solution.

  13. Tivo should develop a long-term plan to abandon cable. In the short term, it makes senses to keep going to cable interface licensing, and cablecards, for as long as they last. But cable is a declining industry, like dial up internet. Tivo can still make some money during the decline, but recognize that the future is elsewhere.

    I think Tivo is particularly well positioned to capture the increasing cord cutter market. They mainly need to increase the number of apps that can be run on the Tivo device. If Tivo acquired Roku (which runs most of the apps), and integrated OTA recording with video apps, it could be the one-stop product that otherwise doesn’t currently exist. I would pay for that. It could also revise its business model and perhaps collect more revenue from the content providers, like Roku apparently does.

  14. Dave- is Tablo still so terribly slow? Tried it about a year ago and returned it. Thx

  15. Sigh.

    Imagine if they’d saved time, money, and dev resources by taking the no-brainer step of releasing the Bolt using the Roamio form factor, with just a faster chipset that could also handle 4K. (Not to mention that using 3.5″ HD’s would’ve let them increase margins.)

    Imagine if they’d never spent time time, money, and dev resources on a cloud DVR solution that never really made any sense whatsoever to me.

    Imagine if they’d put far, far less resources into Hydra, which never made any sense to me as a lean-back UI. (I can imagine Hydra making sense for mobile platforms, but the lean-back is what makes TiVo special, and is its core competency and reason for being.)

    Sigh.

    At least the software dev team did successful and highly useful work in making OnePass a reality before focus got scattered to the four winds and led to this sorry state of affairs…

  16. I’m not sure why this is a such a surprise, Rovi made it clear that they were not interested in the hardware business. There’s also a big difference between the retail business and the MSO consumer business. If you read between the lines, they always mention “consumer” business in an MSO / third party context, never retail. In my opinion Rovi has no interest in dealing directly with consumers.

  17. This is very depressing. I’ve been using TiVo since 1999 and would be really bummed if I could not continue to buy more units. How does the inventor of the most disruptive service ever blow it. I hope someone smart buys TIVO.

  18. While it isn’t obvious to this crowd here (of obvious retail TiVo users…), TiVo’s retail business has been in material decline for years. Their growth (and current existence) is arguably solely due to partnering with video operators. Not to mention the disdain and frustration those operators feel for TiVo’s historical retail first strategy and how that causes delays in delivery schedules for everyone.

    Say what you want about the ‘cable’ business – particularly linear subscription video – but Comcast and X1 *seem to be* showing (at the moment) that consumers embrace an advanced solution that integrates all/most of their video sources without input switching. For small and mid-tier operators in the US (and Europe and South America where TiVo also has business….), TiVo is that solution. If they have any chance of survivng on anything other than their deep patent portfolio, cutting their losses on the retail business and going all in on their operator partnering play seems the prudent business move. Even if that doesn’t serve well the need of the minority. 0001% of us that peruse news sources like this.

  19. “While it isn’t obvious to this crowd here (of obvious retail TiVo users…), TiVo’s retail business has been in material decline for years. Their growth (and current existence) is arguably solely due to partnering with video operators.”

    It’s obvious to this member of “this crowd”.

    I’ve long seen the retail business as a way for TiVo to leverage its MSO business by selling the same widgets it has spent money to develop at higher margins than it gets from the MSO market.

    And FWIW, I don’t think any of this is going to change. (Unless, CableCARD or a suitable replacement disappears, making retail DVR’s literally impossible, of course.) As long as TiVo is in the MSO business, it will continue to make sense for them to remain in the retail business for the same reasons it always has.

    The problem seems to be, at least as I’m able to gather from Dave’s post, that all TiVo’s product development of late has been highly dysfunctional. This will affect their MSO business in the exact same way it’ll affect their retail business.

  20. Yes…. Tivo has been HORRENDOUS for the last several years on product development and meeting any semblance of a timeline. Managing separate SKU’s, separate software builds, managing the retail channels and business is a bigger burden/distraction than it might seem on the surface and isn’t just icing on the cake. It’s the icing that spoils the cake some believe.

  21. “Yes…. Tivo has been HORRENDOUS for the last several years on product development and meeting any semblance of a timeline.”

    With the exception of OnePass, of course, which was a pretty nifty piece of development, skillfully executed. (And the more minor SkipMode as well.) Some portion of Margret Schmidt’s remit has been handled well.

    “Managing separate SKU’s, separate software builds, managing the retail channels and business is a bigger burden/distraction than it might seem on the surface and isn’t just icing on the cake. It’s the icing that spoils the cake some believe.”

    I don’t have an inside look at the numbers, but I find this essentially impossible to believe. Whatever channel hassles and minor extra software dev work this entails should be more than easily recouped several times over by the far higher margins in the retail business. Beyond the common sense calculation here, if you were correct, TiVo would have dropped retail long, long ago. It’s been a small bit of the business forever now, and it’s the tail the MSO business profitably wags.

    If you somehow are correct, they’ll just drop retail while continuing the MSO business, but I truly don’t see that as being the issue at stake here in any way, shape, or form.

    (Well, in almost any way, shape, or form. We do see a pattern of not delivering OTA solutions that aren’t mere repackaging of MSO products, but instead involve a more complicated repurposing of MSO products. And I suspect that’s what’s going on here, and the direction we’re headed: no more attempts at retail products that aren’t pure MSO products to begin with.)

  22. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am disappointed. Not in Mavrik per se, which seemed half baked from the get go, but in the larger sense. Rovi merger has probably accelerated the inevitable. My real “sigh” is in squandering that $1b cash and beloved “brand” due to a lack of vision, execution, and fortitude — as mentioned a few times, one defeatist former senior staff member would lament to me how “tough” their chosen retail business was. So why not change the business? They didn’t have to be a one trick TV consumer electronics pony… But this horse is dead, I’ve been beating it for years and my fists are bruised. Hopefully the 4K Mini and voice remote come to pass and I’ll find something else to blog about in 2018.

    Chucky, I’ve heard multiple, similar reports echoing Little Bird’s take on product development. I assume they stuck with retail as it’s what they’ve always done (thank you!) and generates significantly more money per user than the cable deals. But there’s obviously a point of diminishing returns and those same recurring fees that look so good on the balance sheet are what give consumers pause.

    Mike Ess, Tablo has continued to tune performance. Whether or not you’d find it satisfactory, I can’t say. Maybe worth another look? If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, Channels and HDHomeRun provides similar functionality.

  23. Andrew Kaylie May 31, 2017 at 9:47 am

    I’ve owned many Tivo’s since ’99 and have been a huge advocate. Then came the half-baked HD and the bug filled slow Premier. Still, after much thought, I took advantage (sic) of the recent HD to Bolt lifetime (sicx2) transfer opportunity (sicx3). The Bolt may be faster, but the bugs are still there with the ‘forgets its place during live recording bug, a pita when watching currently recording football’ still existing after 7+ years (my premier does this and always has and strangely, the mini attached to my bolt doesn’t do this). Then there’s the major Bolt HDMI handshake issue that’s been around for better than 2 years. Both issues and more have been promised an upcoming software fix, an obvious lie. Not to mention the big data downgrade that occurred when Rovi took over. This company doesn’t fix its past or present hardware/software, why expect anything out of their future? WHEN the end comes! I will miss the old early 2k Tivo, this one not so much. It’s my belief that the hardware will die off soon, the Bolt is the end of the line. Tivo will stay around only to enforce its patents and to collect the diminishing subscription fees.

  24. “one defeatist former senior staff member would lament to me how “tough” their chosen retail business was. So why not change the business?”

    The retail business was/is “tough”. They knew it. We all knew it. That’s realistic, not defeatist. How the hell do you sell 3rd party DVR’s when the entire MSO industry is actively conspiring against you?

    For that matter, the MSO busines was/is “tough” when MSO’s have been consolidating for years, and wanting to own their box tech for years.

    TiVo knew they weren’t going to become Apple / Amazon / Facebook. We knew that too. So what? They’ve made the best DVR’s in existence for almost 20 years. That’s an honorable business to be in. They had to fund part of it through patent trolling. So what? They make insanely great products. Again, that’s an honorable business to be in. And if their market was limited, well, that’s part of makes it a “tough” business.

    What was the alternative? To give up because they couldn’t take over the world? Why not make insanely great products, and make your limited customer base happy? What should they have transformed the business into? TiVo smart thermostats? TiVo internet connected refrigerators? Is Roku going to take over the world? Should they have invented the iPod?

    Look, I’m not saying they haven’t made significant mistakes in execution. I could list many of them myself. But really, were they going to take over the world making OTA DVR’s even if they’d executed perfectly? That’s another “tough” business to be in.

    It’s been a damn good ride, they’ve done more things right than than wrong, and unless you know things I don’t, I assume the retail ride will continue until/if regulations no longer permit 3rd party DVR’s. Unless you know things I don’t, repackaging MSO DVR’s for retail will continue being a profitable avenue for them.

    There are far worse things to do than to make the absolute best products in a given product category, even if you don’t take over the world in doing so.

    (And if I want to go further, I’d argue that many of their execution mistakes stem from deviating from their core mission in trying to follow your idea to “change their business”. Why spend money screwing with the form factor of the Bolt for style points? Why spend money on the Mavrik when it’s hard to see a viable market for it? Why invest significantly in a Hydra interface when your bread and butter is in the lean-back? Instead, why not just keeping churning out the best damn locally cached DVR’s on the planet, and ride the product category into the ground? Investments should have been in the core, not in “changing the business”. The best buggy whip maker in the world was likely profitable for quite a while even when the car transition was well underway…)

  25. That’s my point… with a $1b in cash, they could have expanded into other consumer products/realms. (Even without or prior to the cash.) But that ship had sailed even back in 2014 when I riffed on this inevitable topic and mentioned some missed opportunities.

    http://investordiscussionboard.com/boards/tivo/re-goodbye-tivo-youll-be-missed-not-really-1

    TiVo didn’t necessarily need to innovate in the “DVR” space, which has proven to be of limited interest to consumers. I really think they missed a window of opportunity when they could have put their UI in a Blu-ray player, or made a Harmony-esque remote based off the TiVo peanut or pushed out a TiVo Roku – all streaming. TiVo used to be a beloved “brand” known for making difficult things simple – they could have leveraged that well beyond “DVR.” They’re sitting on a sh*t ton of cash – they could have bought any number of startups in a variety of lanes to expand their markets. But TiVo appears content to serve the cable companies. The guy behind the guy can surely be a profitable business – but you’re batting for a double instead of swinging for the stands. It just reinforces for me that it’s been a long long time since TiVo was a startup – they’re a publicly traded company who seems to invest more resources in IR than PR. (Also it’s been somewhat depressingly ironic that they often reiterate how difficult their current marketplace is, battling the incumbants and what not. They’re right. But they chose that market and battlefield. If it’s not working out, they have the power to expand into others. Self determination ftw!)

    Vizio doesn’t always succeed, but it’s been quite interesting to watch them get into computers, LED lights (that didn’t launch), streamers, and a very successful line of soundbar products. Remember when Jawbone was known for Bluetooth earpieces and is now a leader it fitness trackers?

    Maybe TiVo will surprise us at CES with Roku and Fire TV streaming end points. But I don’t think it’s going to change their retail trajectory – they need a digital and less painful solution than CableCARD STAT, assuming they’re still not ambitious enough to move into other products or services.

    Tangentially related, given the large sums they historically spent on R&D, their limited product lineup and incessant delays continue to befuddle.

  26. In November 2017, I will break even on my current Tivo investment (vs. renting cable boxes from my cable provider). After that, we’ll see. I won’t be too emotional if it all goes pear shaped.

    Since the streaming apps on my Roamio are so slow and miserable, I’ve been switching over to my Apple TV more and more. The integrated OnePass feature was neat for a while, but since it doesn’t automatically update which episodes I’ve viewed, it’s hard to really love it.

    TiVo has been the past for a long time. Caavo seems interesting as a front-end for all my streaming boxes and OTA TV. Maybe that’s the future.

  27. There is no good reason why TiVo doesn’t absolutely OWN the cordcutter/home streaming box market today. They should be eating Roku’s lunch right now, but they missed the boat.

    TiVo could have become the killer app platform for combining broadcast TV and streaming apps into one cohesive UI on one input and been a cordcutters dream. Don’t care about cable or OTA? Get a TiVo mini to put Netflix, Hulu and all the other apps on your dumb TVs. Bonus points, if you ever do decide to get a Tivo DVR, each mini can be an endpoint for a whole-house DVR.

    They sorta tried this with the Roamio OTA, but it was 4 years too late, overpriced (or came with a contract and subscription) and the app platform was crippled and buggy. You could get a much more complete set of available apps that ran much better on a $40 Roku stick than a $400 TiVo box in 2014.

    Now it’s 2017 and it doesn’t look like TiVo’s got anything in the pipeline to change things. I like my Roamio OTA, but I’m sure there’s going to be a Roku DVR before TiVo does something new or innovative–assuming they ever do . . .

  28. It’s a shame, but as long as I still get guide data for my Roamio OTA and Mini I’ll be content. If/when support for their DVR’s ends I would hope they open source the provisioning of guide data if Rovi doesn’t want to do it. Someone will do it because the hardware could be around for a long time. I still have two Tivo HD’s, and a Series 2.that is still operational.

  29. With the money they had at one point, they could have simply adjusted their price model to try and make it more attractive to consumers. This would have gotten them in more homes and increased their overall market share. Enthusiasts have always gone for TiVo and their various models over the year, but very few typical consumers jumped on board and stuck with it when there were so many alternatives as time went on. They could have used that development money that they otherwise wasted on phantom releases to focus on improving their software (and maybe tiered hardware models to appeal to a broader audience). With a larger market share, they could have created a situation where they could have offered a realistic competition to Neilson, which may have helped get them closer to the various broadcasters, opening opportunities. Of course, no guarantees any of this would have worked, and it’s all said in hindsight only after knowing how badly their attempts to branch out with different hardware bombed. I will ride this til the bitter end.

  30. Started with a Series 2 Tivo (life-timed in 2003)

    I’ll be keeping my lifetime Tivos, maybe add a (now life-timed) Mini, but maybe nothing else.

    As Replay showed, even thought they were sold multiple times, the only way Tivo gets out of its requirement to provide guide data to lifetime customers is to go through a full liquidation bankruptcy.

    Don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  31. I doubt they’d cut off guide data, as they did in the UK and for Series 1 boxes here, given the likely legal blowback from a larger (relatively) installed base and since they now own the guide data. It’d more likely be death by a thousand cuts of platform atrophy. So, yeah, even if they kill future retail products and marketing, we’ve got years and years of service remaining. And, by then, DVRs will be fully eclipsed by streaming and on demand cable programming (featuring commercial interruption that cannot be skipped).

  32. And when we get to the point that we can’t skip any commercials. That is when I give up watching those shows. No way am I going to go back to the way I watched TV in the seventies.

  33. It’s been a damn good ride, they’ve done more things right than than wrong, and unless you know things I don’t, I assume the retail ride will continue until/if regulations no longer permit 3rd party DVR’s. Unless you know things I don’t, repackaging MSO DVR’s for retail will continue being a profitable avenue for them.

    It’s true that, in the past, retail CableCARD DVRs have served as TiVo’s higher-margin direct-to-consumer testbed for products to be repurposed for their growing MSO DVR business. But I’m not sure I see that model continuing on. CableCARD use continues to dwindle and that will only accelerate as some MSOs like Comcast and Verizon further embrace IPTV rather than QAM, while more and more MSOs provide access to their services via apps on popular cheap streamers like Roku, Apple TV, etc. Meanwhile, the MSOs themselves are no longer required to use CableCARDs in their own STBs, which potentially severs the link between TiVo’s retail and MSO hardware.

    The Series 6 retail Bolt has been out going on two years now. In all that time, has there been a new Series 6-based MSO DVR deployed? (Maybe the latest Virgin TiVo in the UK, with UHD HDR, would count, although I don’t think it’s CableCARD-based and I’m not sure that it’s otherwise based on the same hardware configuration as the non-HDR Bolt either.) Instead, TiVo seems to going to a model of simply licensing their UI/UX/metadata to use with other companies’ hardware solutions, as is the case with Evolution Digital’s hybrid QAM/IPTV boxes for use here in the US (e.g. WOW’s Swivel box). As MSOs look to next-gen STBs, they’ll want something that will support linear and on-demand UHD content and, more and more, it looks like cable MSOs are leaning toward streaming that stuff over IP, not QAM. And they don’t want to fool with CableCARD security for all that now that they aren’t required by law to do so. And of course, TiVo can’t simply take those new non-CableCARD MSO boxes and sell them at retail.

    Now, you might think that TiVo’s retail CableCARD DVRs could still serve as a testing ground for changes to their UI and feature set before deployment to MSO units. Except they’ve already deployed their next-gen Hydra UI with Vodafone Espana’s boxes and are apparently shopping it to other MSOs. Meanwhile, we retail TiVo owners still don’t have the new UI and, per Dave, it may still be months away. So I’m not really sure what strategic benefit that TiVo’s new overlords from Rovi see in the retail business. They clearly see themselves as mainly a B2B service provider for MSOs; meanwhile, technological and regulatory changes have largely divorced their retail business from their MSO business.

    As long as they’re still making a decent buck selling retail Bolts with service, I see no reason why they’ll stop. But I don’t really see them selling any new model retail DVRs (other than maybe one last update to the retail Mini). And I expect existing retail devices will get less and less attention in the next few years in the form of updates, bug fixes, new apps, etc. As Dave says, “death by a thousand cuts of platform atrophy”.

  34. In doing more digging, it seems we may be entering an era more akin to Premiere with limited marketing vs a wholesale abandonment of retail — where products/initiatives that can spin off from cable with minimal dedicated, investment will be passed along to us. With that in mind, the voice remote and Mini 4K should still be on the docket. (Yes!) Hydra is coming as well… but hopefully after some serious soul searching incorporating additional usability research.

  35. Interesting. So it sounds like we’ve gone from a situation where retail was “the tip of the spear,” with its R&D and marketing costs justified by the fact that the investment could be repurposed for MSO use, to a new model where R&D explicitly supports the MSO business and newly developed technology only gets passed along from MSO to retail products if it can be done with low incremental costs / low risk (i.e. little additional development and marketing efforts). Makes sense strategically for TiVo, but not great news for retail TiVo owners, as this means Tivo’s retail arm is more or less an afterthought now. But, at this point, getting a new (optional) UI, a Mini 4K and a voice remote in the coming months is about as much as TiVo owners could hope for. I don’t know that I would have predicted even that much when the Rovi takeover was announced last year.

  36. I’m not surprised at all. This is not an innovative product.

    Streaming is the future. Every company that has a brain is moving on it. The world is more mobile with more hardware options. A solution needs to be platform agnostic now. If not for a few missing channels I’d be using PlayStation Vue.

  37. Atari was king of the home video game market in the 80’s and they went under in the 90’s thanks to Sony and some bad management decisions. Let’s see if Tivo learned from the lessons of Atari when it comes to business decisions and the hardware manufacturing business.

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