TiVo Targets Cord Cutters With Bolt OTA

Dave Zatz —  September 27, 2018 — 21 Comments

While the cord-cutter-centric TiVo Bolt Aereo Edition was scrapped, prior to release, TiVo’s re-evaluated market conditions and unveiled the Bolt OTA DVR. And it represents a pretty significant upgrade over its Roamio OTA predecessor, including native streaming to mobile apps and  a bundled voice-control remote. Timing of the $250 device may appear challenging given Amazon’s Fire TV Recast announcement and marketing weight — the similarly specced 4-tuner, 1TB Recast runs $280, but free of fees. However, increased situational awareness, given Amazon’s marketing muscle, should benefit TiVo, Tablo, and HDHomeRun… with TiVo providing a somewhat more accessible approach, given traditional television output versus overcoming network tuner conceptual issues. Beyond core DVR capabilities, TiVo also bundles a number of native apps, like Netflix and YouTube. Plus, TiVo has sweetened the pot for potentially price sensitive cord cutters by reducing service fees to $6.99/mo or $70/yr, which seems entirely reasonable.

Having said that, some of those competitors stream to all sorts of inexpensive boxes… vs having to pick up a TiVo Mini for each television. Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. TiVo’s service provider IPTV endpoints are being reworked, expanded and, in talking to TiVo VP Ted Malone, they hope to release these Roku, Fire TV, and Apple TiVo “soft Mini” clients to retail TiVo owners in the first half of 2019. No fees.

21 responses to TiVo Targets Cord Cutters With Bolt OTA

  1. Some minor technical differences from the other Bolt– primarily no CableCARD connector and no MoCA bridge. The MoCA thing sounds more like protect the customer from themselves rather than pinching pennies – splitting the cable with a cheapie product could result in diminished network performance… not that most would even know MoCA exists or what to do with it. TiVo doesn’t support clear QAM here, which shouldn’t come as a surprise – they never have.

  2. If there was ever a time for TiVo to offer their own streaming TV package…now would be the time.

    Think of it, cable networks beamed right into the guide along side your local OTA channels in this one box with a native DVR + the TiVo apps to watch and steam on other devices?

    That would blow away all of the network attached solutions and cloud-based DVR offerings of the other competitors.

  3. The direct HDMI connection to a TV is a real issue for those that FF and RW often. Commercial skip buttons negate the need for that, and the “what did they say” on the Siri capable Apple TV is the best “network stream” version of that that I’ve experienced.

    I recently setup a Gen 2 Genie with a LG TV DirecTV client and it works better than I thought it woluld, alas you need MOCA or Ethernet for delay free content startup. My favorite of that app integration is the original DTV remote can control the app on the TV, so those used to that interface have no learning curve. This would be a cool capability of the TiVo app on new devices, alough extremely unlikely.

  4. bryan, they will never compete directly with their cable partners here. A streaming TV service ain’t going to happen. Best bet is a tacked on OTT app, vs integrated something.

    Dave, didn’t know about the ‘what did they say’ feature – sounds pretty hot, I need to try it tonight.

  5. Roku doesn’t do MPEG2, not sure how a Roku client would work for OTA users. Those like Emby and Plex always transcode OTA on the fly or use a pre-convert feature for Roku app playback.

  6. cybergrimes, the Bolt line (and the higher-end Roamios) all transcode. That’s how they currently stream to iPhone and Android. TiVo’s been testing 720/60 to the soft mini apps in development and says quality looks very good.

  7. One notable difference for me is that the Fire TV Recast won’t (officially) let you transfer recordings off the device. All my other options for OTA DVRs either give me that option (perhaps supported unofficially, e.g. kmttg, Tablo Ripper) or depend on it (e.g. HDHomeRun).

    For someone that travels regularly, having the ability to watch shows on a mobile device while not connected is a big plus (e.g. on planes and subject to the whims of dreadful hotel WiFi).

    I suspect it’s a deliberate choice to make the Recast a ‘walled garden’, so they have fewer concerns about delivering other premium content OTT directly to it, like Prime Video Channels subscriptions.

  8. @ Dave Mathews

    Why is “The direct HDMI connection to a TV is a real issue for those that FF and RW often” an issue? With the Bolt, Mini, Vox Mini, and Roamio there are no issues FF and RW with a direct HDMI connection to a TV.

  9. I tried D*Now this summer and I came to the conclusion that if its not built into either the TV or TiVo it work work in my house. The product itself wasn’t that great (the AppleTV guide was… bad), but after two weeks it never got used – but thanks AT&T for my discount AppleTV!

    For now I think I’m stuck with cable TV.

  10. why would they support clearQAM? No one broadcasts in it when they can force you to rent a tuner

  11. Anyone know if..

    1) They’ll offer a drive option larger than 1TB?

    2) They’ll still allow external drives?

    I might bite on this as lifetime for it is $249, and I do only antenna.

  12. Yes, attempting to change how TV content is accessed can encounter considerable resistance from family members :) Though it softens a little when they realize they can watch ‘their TV’ on mobile devices when out & about.

    I’m eagerly awaiting the Android TV version of the TiVo app. That’s the one piece missing to ween the family off ‘traditional TV’ (albeit the enlightened TiVo version) and onto the Nvidia shield for all their viewing. They already seem happy using Netflix and Plex that way.

    Plex is being fed shows recorded by the excellent Channels DVR aided and abetted by two HDHomeRun Primes. kmttg has also been providing sterling service pulling shows off our gaggle of TiVos for years now (we learned long ago that there was much less angst when each family member had their own dedicated TiVo).

    My family has been using the TiVo UI for years, and frankly the Plex TV show interface isn’t as good as TiVo’s for keeping up with regularly-broadcast episodic television (at least not yet). They can already watch their shows recorded on TiVos using the TiVo app on iPads and iPhones (though it’s not as good as the TV UI, it’s ‘familiar enough’ to be comfortable). The missing peice is the Android TV version for watching TV shows actually on a TV.

    Channels has some evolution ahead of it to match TiVo’s season passes, but it’s not fair to expect relatively young software to match the maturity of the category-definer out the gate :)

    I hope the Plex engineering team is investing effort in evolving Plex DVR. Channels already has a lead, with my family at least. And I wouldn’t disagree.

  13. I’ve purchased ‘base model’ Bolts and put 3TB drives in them. It’s a pretty painless process. The TiVo OS detects that it’s blank at boot, and automatically formats and provisions it. I don’t see why these new OTA Bolts would be any different.

    The only hard part is tracking down the right kind of high capacity 2.5″ drives – they need to be based on technologies suitable for DVR use if they are going to hold up in the long run.

  14. @Dave, yes that is unfortunate. They have the hardware/software and pedigree to have the ultimate cord cutting solution, yet have their hands tied because they still provide the hardware/software for some traditional cable companies.

    @Anthony – I too am using DirecTV now, and it is fine in a pinch to watch live sports and other cable content, but the interface sucks and the inability to pause/rewind live TV is just what makes these services not the same as traditional DVRs.

    Are there any of the OTT options that allow pause/scrubbing of the live streams?

  15. Tivo’s comparison chart weirdly includes two irrelevant non-DVRs. But I see on the site that I can get the Bolt OTA with the lifetime plan for $500 or the refurbed Roamio OTA with lifetime for $350. It doesn’t sound right now like the Bolt OTA is worth the extra $150, but my knowledge is at a pretty casual level. Assuming the lifetime subscription (so the Bolt OTA’s cheaper monthly plan, say, isn’t an issue for me), are there any Bolt OTA advantages I’m missing? (That it’s newer is a given, but I’m using a Series 3 HD now and it’s still running just fine, so I doubt there’s a significant difference in lifespan between the two OTA models.)

    (To the extent the display matters, I have a fairly basic 32″ Toshiba HDTV nearly a decade old and am unlikely to replace it short of its complete failure; 4K and HDR (which looks laughably oversaturated to me) aren’t features I’d pay extra for, though they seem to be pretty common even in low-end TVs now.)

    I sure appreciate any thoughts.

  16. Well you can’t stream to a cell or tablet with the Roamio ota. While you can with the Bolt OTA.

  17. You can stream with the Roamio OTA if you have the standalone “TiVo Stream” gadget.

  18. Stream was discontinued long before the Roamio OTA was discontinued and ran > $100

    Paul, Channels is a product by two people working on it in their free time. So they’re clearly amazing, but also maybe it says something about TiVo and Plex?

    John, last I checked, I still receive “the locals” in clear QAM.

  19. Thanks for the thoughts and info. I checked out the product and support pages, and the Roamio OTA product page has this bullet point:

    • Take live and recorded TV to stream on the go

    If that required additional service or optional devices, they’d need a footnote or parentheses to specify that. (That said, I found a few sloppy mistakes on each page.) And the support page for the Android app for streaming and downloading says

    The TiVo app can be used with:

    Any TiVo DVR (Note: Older TiVo boxes may require a TiVo Stream accessory for streaming and downloading)

    so I guess it comes down to whether Tivo’s support team says the Roamio OTA is an “older Tivo box.” I suspect they mean the old “Tivo experience” vs. the new “Tivo experience,” but I’d want them to confirm that.

    I did see that the Roamio OTA Ethernet is 10/100 while the Bolt OTA is 10/100/1000 and that may be an issue. It may be “Suuuuure, the Roamio OTA can stream wink wink” as long as I could put up with stuttering or other issues.

    My worst-case scenario for portability is that cTivo seems to work with both models, if I’m willing to accept its tradeoffs. I guess I have some thinking to do. Thanks again, and if anyone has more thoughts please do jump in.

  20. @Dave – impressive; though I’ve long believed the productivity of a development team is inversely proportional to its size. And to some extent, proportional to the passion for the work that the team members share.

    On the flip side, I’ve done stints in Engineering at both TiVo and Plex, perhaps I have some sense of the culture of those teams, though it’s long enough ago that it’s stale, perhaps invalid, by now.

    Say hi to Ted for me :) Glad he’s back.

  21. Is the reduced monthly fee across all TiVo models? I have an OG Bolt gathering dust in the closet and this might actually make me break it out

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