TiVo Will Redesign Guide (to sell ads)

Although Hydra was just deployed about a year ago and remains a work in progress, TiVo has announced development of yet another new interface — intended to better aggregate linear cable content alongside streaming video… to generate revenue. From the Seeking Alpha transcript of TiVo’s quarterly call:

we began investing in a new opportunity that combines our expertise in Pay TV and OTT to build unique entertainment discovery platform for the Internet age.

With the proliferation of content from multiple sources around the world that is delivered through broadcast, TV, OTT, on-demand and internet streaming, TiVo offers a powerful platform to engage audiences through a single, unified content discovery experience. The platform will enable end-users to experience content from leading digital brands integrated with live, recorded and OTT streaming titles. We are re-imagining the guide as one integrated content network that allows you to access all of the content you want to watch seamlessly. We believe this product has the potential to change how you watch TV again.

In addition, this unified discovery experience and content network will enable multiple high CPM targeted advertising opportunities for TiVo. These include sponsored discovery, content merchandising, display promotions, in-stream advertising, DVR ad replacement et cetera.


we’re going to create the guide for the Internet age and create content network precisely to be able to enable digital content and linear content to be commingled and integrated and create a seamless discovery experience. So the content aggregators as well as digital brands are really interested in getting the content exposed to mainstream TV viewers and enabling the easy access without having to be discovered through a separate application or a separate streaming device. Now TiVo provides the ideal platform for them to be able to do that. And what we’re trying to do is integrate streaming with live TV and be able to create a very compelling experience. The advantage also for us is that we can introduce digital ads in that Sponsored Discovery, merchandising of content, and creates a number of opportunities for us to be able to increase revenues and growth for TiVo.


One example is content merchandising. Recently we did a test with our consumer base. We ran the test for about two weeks. We promoted content essentially for about three free streaming movies. We targeted about 900,000 retail and MSO devices. And the click-through response when we promoted this – these movies was about 12%, almost 100,000 devices. And very importantly, what it did was generate about 1.75 streaming hours per responding device. That’s really significant and this kind of uplift is what content providers look for and that’s why when I was asked the earlier question I said with this solution that we are trying to build we can create some unique capabilities and monetization potential. And so it will be giving us revenue growth through advertising.

Of course, advertising is nothing new in this business and has been a mainstay going back decades… although TiVo’s prior forays were mixed-to-poor as far as I can tell – both in sales and consumer uptake. However, Roku’s proven the model and advertising has been their biggest business several years running. As an aside, Comcast’s similar aggregation disclosure preempting TiVo is quite curious… given the ongoing litigation between the companies.

27 thoughts on “TiVo Will Redesign Guide (to sell ads)”

  1. 1 year, Hydra is still a MESS, and they are going to develop yet a third guide. Want to bet this one will be PUSHED out to everybody, and will be just as much a mess as Hydra?

    I love my Tivo Roamio with the pre-Hydra guide, but I don’t like ads forced on me. I also don’t want yet a huge learning curve and mess of a guide forced on me such as a Hydra/WTF abortion.

  2. …and thus begins the end… I’ve been a faithful Tivo owner for over a decade, but I will not submit to the ads. Sadly, it’s time for me to prepare for life after Tivo.

  3. …they know I bought the hardware and pay them for the service, right? Why would I allow them to push ads on me?

  4. Well, the question is: Where will this guide go? Existing boxes, new boxes, partner boxes? Given recent years and recent events, I assume retail customers will largely beta test for cable partner solutions… A follow-on question: Will the guide be so good that we don’t mind the intrusion?

  5. Dave Zatz November 8, 2018 at 8:19 am
    … A follow-on question: Will the guide be so good that we don’t mind the intrusion?

    VERY doubtful, but IF it’s force-pushed to everybody, it better be REALLY good, or they are going to kill their market for good this time. There’s a lot more competition out there these days, and they are either companies that Tivo already sued and got an agreement, or are not infringing, and are safe. Besides that, ATSC 3.0 will be here soon enough, and that alone will kill off ALL present OTA DVR devices and people will then be forced to decide how to go forward.

  6. If they limit the advertising to digital content that can be streamed, and they somehow manage to crack the challenge of blending linear and on-demand content into a usable guide, they may end up with something decent. Remember: this is the company that more or less owns the grid guide now. So I’d love to see if they could pull this off.

  7. I PAY a higher fee for a Hulu subscription so I don’t have to watch ads. My expectation of paying for a Tivo subscription is that I don’t have to watch ads. I won’t watch them. I’ve been a subscriber for over a decade, and have gone through two series 2 with recording ability, a Premier with lifetime service, which I still have but don’t watch because of the subpar picture, and my current Roamio Plus. I’ve never had a disparaging word to say about Tivo until now; I just figured any glitches were the price you paid for an evolving, unique technology.
    But now – I won’t put up with ads when I’m paying them almost $16 a month.

  8. Have been a Tivo subscriber and owner of several series of Tivo hardware and software since its inception. I also have FIOS and Optimum cable boxes, one in primary and one in vacation residence. The only reason I still have pre-hydra TIVO is their cable guide and ease of use. I enjoy this site and find it informative although understanding at best half of the technical jargon. Adding advertising and complicating present guide will bring an end to my use of TIVO.

  9. Mike,
    Stations switching to ATSC 3.0 are required to continue their ATSC 1.0 transmissions for at least 5 years so our present OTA DVR devices will last at least 5 more years.
    With Amazon getting into the OTA DVR game and Tablo I’m pretty sure we’ll see some quality ATSC 3.0 OTA DVRs available long before 5 years. It would be nice if the new OTA DVRs would include both ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 chips sort of like our TVs now have combined analog and digital tuners.

  10. Wasn’t One Pass supposed to merge linear and streaming content?

    And they can’t get that right. The Rovi data is so horrible new streaming shows appears weeks after they premier. The feature is worthless for any show less than a month old.

  11. Dave, whaddya make of this “reimagined” guide that integrates content from all types of sources? I mean, isn’t that what Hydra is supposed to do now? Is this just a revision of Hydra or is TiVo about to come up with a whole new UI after spending years designing Hydra? Hard to imagine that. Although, now that Margret’s gone and user feedback on Hydra has been decidedly mixed, maybe they’re gonna ditch it and go back to the drawing board.

  12. The last I read, the broadcasters will not be required to simulcast atsc 3.0 broadcast content on the atsc 1.0 broadcast signals. So, in other words, all the new, premier content of the major broadcasters and at least some of Main Channel local broadcasters content will only be available only on atsc 3.0. This is a change from what the broadcasters were originally publicly promoting implicitly: that atsc 1.0 and atsc 3.0 would be simulcasts, but the FCC will make no such requirement of simulcast, but will mandate that atsc 1.0 cannot go dark for a number of years after atsc 3.0 is implemented, but don’t count on atsc 3.0 and atsc 1.0 having all of the same content.

  13. Okay, now I see why TiVo, the Rovi management owners, changed course and decided to go with one more effort to make the DVR side of the business sustainable: use the TiVo DVR primarily as an advertising platform. TiVo, the DVR as we know it today in its current form certainly is not sustainable.

    This new focus on the TiVo DVR as a platform for ads is a Hail Mary pass, and if it is not successful, then I really do believe TiVo will pull the plug on the DVR side of the business, and I do mean in classic Rovi fashion: TiVo ceases providing any of the services that are necessary for the DVR to function as it does today, just like when Rovi unceremoniously ripped out every one of those On Air TV Guide Hardware modules from local stations across the country that were providing vital EPG and clock data for countless televisions, DVD recorders, the famous and well-regarded Sony DHG DVRs, and other similar devices that were rendered virtually useless overnight. Of course, I had some devices at the time that depended upon Rovi’s OTA EPG and clock data, and I lost a lot of features and gained headaches using those devices as best I could without the Rovi data these devices were designed to use.

    We should all hope this new TiVo DVR ad platform scheme works so we don’t lose on the Investments we’ve all made with Tivo the last few years. Does anyone really think that TiVo DVRs will have the footprint of Roku and Fire TV to make the new advertising scheme successful? And please, it’s only rational to question TiVo’s claims and numbers of their experiment regarding the streaming content and how wonderfully successful that one experiment was. Remember the old Rovi was about placing ads in its on air EPG, as well, for the many devices that depended upon the guide and clock data, and the advertising scheme didn’t work then. Considering how few TiVo DVRs are out there I wouldn’t count on it working this time either, well risking another disastrous EPG/UI experience in their attempt for the new advertising model.

  14. To jump on the anti-Hydra bandwagon, have tried it out and it is beyond horrible. As most who have found this thread probably are, loyal Tivo subscriber 10+ years, and will be cutting my subscriptions almost immediately if forced to go with Hydra, and ya, if they throw ads into the mix without doing away with the subscription fee, then also will say goodbye.
    Hanging on for now, not really sure why I’m hoping something will change when there’s probably not an original pre-merger Tivo employee left, but here’s hoping.

  15. The ads could be simply sponsorships that appear at the top of a show list or guide, etc, such as how Google or Amazon show sponsored items atop searches. I’m not expecting, based on what I have read, there to be any YouTube-like clips ahead of shows or movies, and I don’t consider sponsored items to be intrusive as long as it isn’t forcing me to watch something that I cannot skip or otherwise bypass.

    Dave, is your understanding of this that it is more than just something being sponsored and appearing on a list?

  16. You say this as if it’s OK. I pay for this hardware and this service. Any advertising is unacceptable to me. If they do away with the service charge, maybe I consider it, but today I don’t accept any ads. I don’t watch live, I skip all ads, and I have replaced radio with podcasts where (if there are ads) I skip them as well. Advertisers pushed to far, and they’ve lost me forever. TiVo is about to do the same, I fear. They tried some ads on the pause screen before, but I was able to permanently disable it. That is OK, as long as I can tell it to never bother me with these.

  17. To me, it is not intrusive if handled like Amazon or Google. If it’s big pop ups, or videos, or obtuse adds that block a large amount of content, that’s different, but if it’s similar to the ads on the bottom of Tivo Central, or even just a different selection of tiles across the top of the screen in certain menus that represent ads for shows that may interest you, then I see no issue with it. I pay for Amazon Prime, and I deal with those sponsored items, which are essentially the same thing, and I somehow manage to still find the things that I want. I have used Tivo for almost 20 years, and I guess I Just prefer the experience (non-Hydra) enough to not be turned off by these sorts of things, but to each their own, as long as it’s not a major distraction to my viewing or screen content.

  18. “In-stream advertising” and “DVR ad replacement” (with the presumption of blocking or limit ad skips) is pretty scary sounding stuff…

  19. Dave:

    The Movie Guide that TIVO is now providing is horrible for viewers
    like me who are interested in more than just watching a movie;
    and they are going to be losing 1 customer over this.

    I have been reading some of your old stories the last couple
    of days and that led me here to this more recent one.

    One of the reasons I want to get rid of our cable company (RCN)
    and the TIVO that is provided with it, is that I am disgusted
    with the TIVO part of the service that used to be great when
    we had TIVO/RCN 2+ years ago.

    First I’ll start with the TV and movie database.
    One word: horrible !!

    I don’t understand how this TIVO service has changed in
    such a negative manner. How do you go from excellent
    to dreadful in 2 short years ?? Usually technical products
    get better over time don’t they ?

    I hate the gui interface, it is constantly in the way and not
    an improvement. Sometimes tech companies make changes
    because the can do them, NOTT because they are a genuine

    I also question why the database for TV shows has become
    so useless. When I watch TV shows like SNL they now give
    you a listing of every performer who was ever a regular on that
    show any time in their 40 year history without any regard for
    the actors on that current episode you are watching.

    Two years ago they listed only the actors who were currently
    a regular part of the show at the time it was recorded and also
    the guest performers who would be on that night.

    Then you could click on that guest performer and also see what
    else they have been in. More examples: When you look at
    the Jimmy Kimmel show or the Steven Colbert show the only
    actor listed is the host of the show !! Same thing, every single
    night whether you record the show or not, they aren’t giving up
    any information about any actors on any talk show.

    It’s pretty much the same thing when you watch a regular scripted
    TV show. They list about half of the cast and ZERO guests
    on every show.

    But it goes wayyyy beyond that, even when you look up the
    regular cast they apparently only list the movies that the actor played
    in AND are also available through RCN. I am only surmising here because
    I have no other explanation why veteran actors would have such an
    obviously short list of credits in their history. Before they used to
    list everything the actor in question ever did ** AND ** in chronological
    order. But that is just a pipedream now.

    2 years ago they also gave you a written bio for almost every actor,
    even older actors that were on old movies at TCM. They also listed
    their place of birth and birth date.

    Now there is no bio and half the birthdates are listed as Dec 31, 1969
    and there is usually no birth place listed either. They also added
    a place for a photo but most of the photos are blank leaving a large
    section of your screen blank, so that “improvement” ends up being
    annoying too.

    I’d love to know why the database is now so screwed-up and what
    company is the REAL source of this information. They must have
    changed database sources for some reason. Either it became too
    costly, somebody decided it wasn’t important and/or the original
    database was hacked and wiped out.

    I’d also like to know if the TIVO database is this screwed-up on
    systems not provided by RCN ?

    The curious part of all this is that I noticed a similar problem
    with Comcast that suddenly occurred 2-3 months before we
    terminated them. The Comcast database changed very abruptly
    1 day and when I called their support about it, they had no
    reasonable explanation and that was a big reason we changed
    back to RCN.

  20. Bill Zardus: Go over to the Tivocommunity.com site, and read the forum post on how to downgrade your Tivo to the OLD firmware. It still exists, and you do not have to stay on Hydra. It’s real easy to do, and many of us either stayed on the original firmware, or went back to it after trying Hydra. Be aware however if you do this, you will wipe your Tivo, and lose all recordings presently on your machine. It will not automatically upgrade to Hydra after that, so it’s a one time thing.


  21. Mike, Bill, if Bill’s TiVo is provided by RCN he may not be entirely in control of UI version… Also the new interface IS required for certain functionality, like utilizing the Vox remote that ships with new hardware.

  22. Thanks Mike, but Dave is right, we are new customer with RCN and an RCN tech brought us out a couple of new Vox remotes and new (Hydra ?) boxes required to use the remotes.

    I’m not that technical but after asking some questions at the https://www.tivocommunity.com/community/ forums it sounds like
    my issues with the TIVO guide have more to do with a change in who is providing the guide data, than the TIVO hardware. I was have probably having the same problem before they upgraded us, but we had the original hardware for such a short time after signing up, I didn’t notice

  23. Correct on the guide front. The appearance is driven by Hydra, but the inferior data dates back to when Rovi acquired TiVo and they switched providers. The merged company made some notable and positive data changes initially, but it’s not at the same level and there’s no recourse.

  24. Contrary to some, after having Hydra for the last year or so, its ok by me! I have no issues with it and I like new. Most people don’t like change, but the only part of Hydra I don’t like is the live guide. But I can live without it. Folks it’s only tv. Not a life altering thing. If you spend that much time in front of the boob tube, pick up a book once in a while. I can’t believe the complaints. TiVo is a DVR. It works great. Yes I do stream from it with zero issues because I am connected by Ethernet cable and only have one OTA tivo, no cable. Is it perfect no, but what I bought it for it’s the best thing out there.

  25. It’s not change in and of itself that’s the problem for me. It’s removed capabilities and more effort to get the same things done. They’ve been chipping away at things and hopefully by late spring, we’ll be nearly whole, feature parity.

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