Yeppers, TiVo Bolt Does HDR*

Dave Zatz —  October 24, 2017 — 48 Comments

As you’ve probably heard, TiVo announced three new Bolt DVRs and a 4K Mini today… which came as no surprise to me, since I’ve spent months tracking them. So, in talking with Ted Malone, my former colleague and newly installed VP of Consumer, I focused on other, geekier matters. And a question I frequently get is HDR. As it turns out, the entire Bolt line (old and new) is currently HDR-ready — specifically the more ubiquitous HDR10. However, it’s dependent upon partner providers, like Amazon and Vudu, to implement the expanded color spectrum within their apps. Given TiVo’s significantly smaller retail footprint, compared to say Roku, those orgs reasonably prioritize other platforms. But hopefully one day they’ll also see fit to service TiVo customers.

In regards to the news, I’m quite excited by the prospect of picking up a voice remote (with USB BLE adapter) for my Roamio or Minis in the near future, but somewhat apprehensive about flipping the switch on the Hydra interface, a voice remote prerequisite, when it becomes available next week.

48 responses to Yeppers, TiVo Bolt Does HDR*

  1. Did you just say Yeppers?

  2. Another interesting tidbit I picked up when talking with Ted. Like the HDUI at launch, Hydra will be a work in progress… and, news to me, some of Rovi’s Fan TV team is now contributing to the presentation.

  3. Any news on any price reductions on the previous bolt hardware or are they keeping both the regular Bolt/Bolt+ and the new Bolt Vox products in the marketplace?

  4. Any word on a TiVo skill for Alexa?

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Amazon still hasn’t make 4K content available to the BOLT yet…HDR is a dream within a dream.

  6. Is there a release date for Hydra on existing units? Before or after he new hardware 10/29 date?

    I hope they don’t stagger it too much since it’s a requirement for the new remote.

  7. Michael Burstin October 24, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    So what are the other differences between the old Bolt+ and new Bolt+ other than including the voice control? I upgraded when they had one of their lifetime service transfers and really don’t care about voice – at least not for now.

  8. Alex, Michael, good question. The existing Bolt line and new Bolt line are effectively the same – some branding changes, enclosure color, and addition of the new voice remote. Given that, I assume they’ll be phasing out the prior generation models and would expect some sales. Will check with Ted.

    Paul, an Alexa skill is being worked on. Although it seems the remote will offer more powerful capabilities and complex interactions, like successive, linked queries – moves beyond Xfinity to something more akin to Siri.

    Chris, 20.7.4 has already started showing up on boxes. If you have that and hit the blue voice remote button, you’ll be prompted to upgrade. Although they probably also have to flip a switch on the backend. As to how fast and exactly when all boxes receive, not sure – but I get the sense they want it available to everyone next week.

  9. Well that was quick – heard back from Ted. Sounds like they’ve planned well for the new models and there isn’t much original inventory left, so probably no crazy blowout pricing. Best Buy already has original hardware on sale.

  10. @ David
    4k on the Bolt from the Amazon app was implemented within the last few weeks. The Amazon app on my Bolts has showed that it was streaming UHD from the capable titles after it was implented.

  11. What are the chances of OTT apps/integration into the TiVo? I’m finally planning on cutting the cord and the Roamio OTA and Apple TV 4K will be my two main sources of content. Would be nice to have Directv now or Sling or PS Vue on the TiVo.

  12. > Hydra will be a work in progress

    Worst shipper ever. It took YEARS for HDUI to propagate, and I’m not even sure they ever even completed it. How much technical debt do you have to have in a product for it to be like this?

    Excuse the hate, it comes from years of abuse by TiVo!

  13. I still don’t have a 4k set so not seeing much reason to upgrade over my Roamio Pro. The new UI video was more concerning than exciting especially with Margret leaving. The lack of a price drop on the rebadged hardware means it will still be a pretty pricey jump to upgrade. I missed the previous upgrade sales due to their system having issues back during the TiVo HD sale and then was excluded this last sale since no Premiere so no reason to make the jump either.

    I guess I just find little to be excited for from TiVo these days. I keep waiting for some wow feature from TiVo, but it feels more maintenance releases now. If anything the new UI looked more like a cable box UI which isn’t why I use TiVo.

  14. Was hoping for some better apps/integration with the popular streaming/skinnies. As voice is for me not a big deal.

    Even casting would be great…

    Thanks Dave for all your insight and helpful posts.

  15. Anthony, it’s possible TiVo has had a change of heart. Management signals and sources had indicated retail wasn’t much of a priority. But creating this new role and bringing Ted on suggests they’re exploring additional opportunities. Obviously cord cutters are a growing market and TiVo has quite a few deep linking tricks, such as OnePass and new OTT search capabilities via voice – seems like there’s an opportunity to tie some things together if they can get a Sling or YouTube TV to play ball.

    Jon, Hydra is largely about wiping out nearly twenty years of technical debt via a hard reset. But it seems to gotten off to a rocky start with what appears to have been locking in a visual design before really getting into the usability of it all – unusual for TiVo – and possibly an internal civil war of sorts that ultimately led to Margret Schmidt’s resignation. There’s a contingent within the company that feels some overruled decision making and her departure has been a net win. A lot of it is heresy and I doubt I’ll ever have the time for such an inside baseball article. Although I’ve got some pretty choice employee quotes.

  16. “A lot of it is heresy and I doubt I’ll ever have the time for such an inside baseball article. Although I’ve got some pretty choice employee quotes.”

    Good gravy, Dave. I’d pay big $$$ to read that post.

    Even if you don’t want to spend the time to be comprehensive, you should write something quick and dirty on this when you have some free moments and feel the urge.

  17. Also, I haven’t visited TCF lately, but I wonder what the Hydra FAQ looks like.

    – We’re still sure it’s going to be optional on pre-existing hardware?
    – It’s going to be opt-in, rather than opt-out, I assume?
    – Is it going to be mandatory on new hardware?

  18. Hydra is certainly mandatory to be able to use the voice features with the new remote.

  19. “Hydra is certainly mandatory to be able to use the voice features with the new remote.”

    Yeah. That much I do know. I’m personally going to forgo the voice features in order to avoid Hydra. But I’m still curious if I’m safe with current equipment, if I need to take any action to stay safe, and if new equipment will be unsafe going forward…

  20. Chucky, Hydra remains an optional upgrade for existing boxes. While TiVo prefers you not revert, as this is the future of the platform, they will provide an option to do so… assuming you’re OK losing all your recordings. ;) New hardware is shipping with the HDUI (aka Encore) based on early reports, so take that as you will.

  21. “Chucky, Hydra remains an optional upgrade for existing boxes. However, TiVo prefers you not revert, as this is the future of the platform, but they do give you an option to do so… assuming you’re OK losing all your recordings. ;) New hardware is shipping with the HDUI (aka Encore) based on early reports, so take that as you will.”

    Thanks, Dave.

    And hey, the ability to revert is big news!!! (At least it’s to news me. I was under the impression they’d taken that off the table.)

    Between the ability to revert, and TiVo not shipping new boxes with Hydra, it gives me hope that Hydra will be avoidable for a least a fairly decent interval. And who knows? Maybe they’ll actually come to their senses at some point…

  22. So Ted is fielding questions on the TiVo Community Forum — makes my job so much easier, cut out the middle man here:

    https://www.tivocommunity.com/community/index.php?threads/tivo-vox-boxes-launch-available-october-29th.554322/

  23. “So Ted is taking questions on the TiVo Community Forum”

    Good stuff. I am feeling very reassured about being a Hydra-phobic TiVo customer after reading that.

    And I did love this remark of his, Mr. Funkadelic:

    “Nothing sneaks by Zatz though.”

    One Nation Under a Zatz.
    With the Rovi our only guide
    We shall all be moved.

    Ready or not here Hydra comes
    Gettin’ down on
    The Encore which we believe in

    Encore don’t fail me now. Ha, ha!

  24. I have had TVo for many years. I love system!

    With this new generation, will Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos be included now or will they be added over time? It would be a big mistake for TiVo to skip these obvious players.

  25. Me love TVo system too! Non-System bad!

    Atmos > Atmosphere.

  26. So how does one acquire the Hydra interface? Do they have to purchase the VOX remote or is there somewhere to sign up to download it?

  27. To get Hydra (when released on the 29th), TiVo has 2options available. You can either sign up for it via their website (for Roamio or Bolt users without the voice remote); or you can use the voice remote, if you have one, and simply press the blue Voice button to be prompted for the (up/down)grade. The same goes for the Minis. I believe Ted stated that anything manufactured/sold after 10/29 would include the Hydra interface as the default, and you would have to downgrade to use it within a non-Hydra environment.

  28. “So how does one acquire the Hydra interface? Do they have to purchase the VOX remote or is there somewhere to sign up to download it?”

    Check Dave’s link to TCF upthread. The TiVo dev guy answers all questions, including yours.

  29. My wife says I can upgrade us… but I fear her post-upgrade wrath. Maybe you guys go first and let me know how it goes. ;)

  30. 4k on the Bolt from the Amazon app was implemented within the last few weeks. The Amazon app on my Bolts has showed that it was streaming UHD from the capable titles after it was implemented.

  31. Dave, you seem to have a good relationship with the folks at TiVo. Have they given any indication that they’re reviewing their service charges? As a cord-cutter, I just can’t justify $15 a month or $150 a year when I can get SilliconDust guide data for $35 a year or even Schedules Direct for $25 a year. I can see that $15/mo plus CableCard fee is decent when looking at an underwhelming cable box, but for OTA it’s just too cost-prohibitive. I already have three other devices I can watch the “big three” streaming services on, and I don’t need to pay extra for a fourth, so my Bolt is sitting in a closet gathering dust.

  32. Actually, I’ve had a pretty hostile relationship with them the last few years – most of my intel has been backchanneled. But with Ted in the picture, I suspect we’ll get back to more traditional, productive interaction. But I don’t know where their current thoughts are and of course most cos don’t like to foreshadow too far ahead. Having said that, I’m sure they (and prior regimes) are quite cognizant of the market challenges. The question is can they both provide a compelling service while making money. I assume Ted wouldn’t have taken on this role unless there was more to it than just launching a voice remote… he/they must have some additional ideas.

  33. Even as a cable subscriber, I feel like $15/month for guide data is ridiculous these days… especially considering the guide data isn’t even very good! The “new” episode flag is completely arbitrary these days.

    The simple fact that they are hiring *anyone* in their consumer division (let alone a new VP) makes me feel infinitely better about sticking with TiVo all these years since Series 2. As they say, sometimes it’s darkest just before they turn on the lights.

  34. Since they now own the guide data…

  35. Allen Schreiber October 25, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    I feel vindicated that all of the new models are black. I railed against the white “Stormtooper” models on forums, TiVo’s Facebook page, and in TiVo’s surveys. I guess there were significant numbers of others who agreed. Good riddance!

    If TiVo offers another $99 Lifetime Service transfer, I’m much more likely to jump to one of the new 4 tuner models. And given that the Hydra interface is optional, that’s another plus in its favor.

  36. Exactly, Dave… they aren’t paying a fee to Tribune or some other company for data… I understand that it is more than just guide data, but they do have a an extremely high cost model (even if it can compare more favorably to CableCo DVRs over a two or three year span). If they made it a more affordable unit, they could sell more, maintain their incoming $$, but also build a more powerful bargaining chip with a larger user base.

    My biggest issue is the quality of the guide data. I know things can change, but my daughter wanted to see Hocus Pocus when it came on the other night, so we recorded it. She went to watch it tonight, and it was about two-thirds of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

    I also noticed that when I record anything now, I have to add a one or two minute buffer to it, or it will clip the end of the show. I used to have that once in a while, but it has become more and more prevalent since the Guide switcheroo. It may be something else, but the timing was too coincidental, so wondering if the clock sync source also changed when the data did, as I can’t figure out any other reason why it happens so frequently now.

  37. “Exactly, Dave… they aren’t paying a fee to Tribune or some other company for data…”

    Meh. Popular talking point, but they’re still paying themselves for guide data. And I mean that seriously. It’s part of why Rovi was motivated to buy TiVo in the first place. If you want to argue the product is overpriced overall, fine. But on this one specific point, end-users don’t get a price break simply because the company is doing synergy stuff.

    “My biggest issue is the quality of the guide data.”

    This is indisputably true. I truly do hate the Rovi guide data. There are all kinds of problems, but my issue is that crew/cast data for movies is completely borked. I like to find films by director, and with the Tribune data, I’d get a complete director’s filmography via Search in pretty much all cases. But with Rovi data, almost all filmographies have major omissions.

  38. So to use the voice interface, do you say “hail hydra?”? :-)

  39. Amazon Prime Streaming is still not in 4K on my Bolt +. I’ve tested the 4K titles such as Ex Machina. Netflix and Youtube work fine. is 4K confirmed for Amazon?

  40. @Allen Schreiber: I felt as you do about the white Bolt. But then I got one, and have come to appreciate its clean design, both the bend and the white color. Perhaps not for all my tech., but as a change. And hey, now that the Bolt Vox has gone all black, I now have a limited edition collector’s item.

  41. I’m in when they do lifetime transfers – otherwise, no real reason to ‘upgrade’ from a 4 year old Roamio Plus (until it breaks – knock on wood)

  42. So I can use Hydra without Voice Remote? If that is the case I am excited for this new interface. I am not sure why people are freaking out about new interface. If anyone should freak out is me because of my “OCPD”, any change in my life is almost catastrophic and can take few days/weeks to recover. If I can upgrade then our Roamio and 2 Tivo Mini’s will get it. I just might get the Voice Remote for main box, but we shall see.

  43. I’m surprised so many people like voice remotes.I hate to have to talk into my remote just to find a show,especially because just about every time i.ve used it on my roku my wife always thinks i’m talking to her when shes in another room. thers no way i’ll ever use this feature on tivo. BTW i already stopped using it on roku.

  44. Does anybody here have experience with a Bluetooth remote vs. HF one? (Specifically regarding range.) We keep our Roamio in a media closet adjacent to the television and it’s worked just fine with the Tivo HF remote… if we update to the new Voice remote with Bluetooth dongle, should we expect better/worse performance?

  45. ” As a cord-cutter, I just can’t justify $15 a month or $150 a year”

    Bought the base Roamio OTA w/ lifetime for $199 last Thanksgiving sale.

    Added a refurbished 3TB “AV” drive for $60.

    Hope to buy another Roamio w/ lifetime next month if the price is right…

  46. Wish they would find a way to use the Android platform. I can cast to my smart TV 4k and HDR better than any platform. Exception being Amazon, but tivo has that app. Also disappointed in audio in the tivo provided app. Now I find what I want in the unified environment, drop the tivo remote and cast from my phone for 4k, HDR, and full Dolby Atmos…..

  47. Larry Schachter October 30, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    What’s the difference between my Bolt+ And the new Bolt VOX? Is it only the remote?

  48. Correct – no hardware differences other than voice remote.

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