How To Opt-Out Of TiVo Pre-Roll Ads

TiVo pre-roll advertising has arrived. And the experience is less than ideal. Basically, all retail hardware running the TiVo Experience 4 (TE4 aka Hydra) will insert video commercial interruption at the start of your DVR recordings by the end of the year. Sure, the ads are skippable. But that’s not the point. Especially given its quirky and sluggish first cut (given retail customer’s ongoing role beta testing potential TiVo MSO initiatives). So, how to opt-out?

Option 1: Downgrade from Hydra

TiVo pre-roll advertising is a Hydra-only exclusive. The TiVo HDUI (TE3) remains exempt with no current plans to bring ads to the platform nor force an upgrade. And, fortunately, nearly all Roamio, Bolt, and Mini hardware can be downgraded to TE3. The newest TiVo Bolt OTA and the TiVo Edge are the exception, sorry people.

The Hydra rollback process isn’t so challenging… assuming you’re OK letting all your recordings go. Unfortunately, you also give up automatic commercial skip in order to automatically commercial skip TiVo’s new revenue generator. And even more painful for those who have the hardware, you’ll lose Vox remote voice control capabilities… which will likely be replaced with frequent nags to upgrade to Hydra to enable.

Hydra downgrade procedure for DVR:

  • Go into Menu- Help- Reset to Defaults- Repeat Guided Setup- Select
  • Press Thumbs Down 2 times (NOT 3!), now press Rewind 2 times, Now press Select (not Enter)
  • DVR will immediately go to that right arrow screen, then screen blank, then you’ll get a message letting you know that the rollback process has begun

Hydra downgrade procedure for Mini:

  • Go to Menu- Help- Repeat Guided Setup- press Thumbs Down 3 times and press Enter OR
  • You’ll already see the “downgrade” screen and it will prompt you from there
  • You’ll now see the “old” Guided Setup. Go thru that so the Mini can phone home
  • The Mini will phone home and prompt you once again to go thru Guided Setup
  • After the 2nd Guided Setup completion, you should be back in business

If you’re intent upon keeping your recordings, the level of difficulty and time commitment is significantly greater. Should you be so motivated — pytivo is the tool you’ll want to move recordings from TiVo to computer, prior to the rollback, and then back again.

Option 2: Call TiVo to plead your case

While TiVo chose not to proactively alert its retail customers of incoming pre-roll advertising, nor to compensate us in any manner, their customer support team was ready primed and ready for our calls. And, apparently, a number of us will be able to opt-out:

our customer support organization does have the ability to opt a customer out of this functionality. I believe there are a number of criteria that go into determining whether a customer is eligible for this (tenure, service plan, etc.). I don’t think it’s as easy as just calling us up and asking to be opted out.

Fortunately, it seems that whatever criteria was initially prescribed has been at least temporarily pushed aside … as I’m not aware of anyone’s request being rejected. Call 877-367-8486 and ask that the pre-roll advertising be disabled on your account. Should you need a justification, feel free to cite the bugginess. There have been ads I’ve been unable to skip, times hardware has locked up, video rendering issues, and even reboots. The struggle is real. Should TiVo play ball, the “feature” will be removed from your devices within 72 hours. However, no telling how long the flag sticks or at what point the policy changes given the upcoming company split and ongoing executive roulette.

Option 3: Counter Measures

Unfortunately for my family, I’m taking neither Option 1 nor Option 2… as I intend to keep the ads around long enough to determine if there are any effective technological counter measures we might bring to bear. So stay tuned on that front.

39 thoughts on “How To Opt-Out Of TiVo Pre-Roll Ads”

  1. How long before the networks sue them over this? You want to skip my commercials for my content and add you ads for the content you did not produce? How long will the networks let that happen before they do something?

  2. Given TiVo’s small retail footprint and their massive patent portfolio (that oh so many must license), it’s unlikely. Once the company splits and the patents/licensing are gone, could be a more interesting target should an org make an issue of it. Think the cablecos who are forced to support CableCARDs but doesn’t bank similar ad revenue when customers utilize 3rd party hardware would the ones with the bigger beef.

  3. I’ve had a TiVo of one form or another for 19 years. My current TiVo is a Romio that I’m using with an antenna. (I used it with a cablecard in a past apartment) I’ve always bought the lifetime subscription, so no monthly fees.

    I’ve avoided upgrading to Hydra, and am questioning buying any new TiVo products with these practices.

  4. Thanks Dave, for keeping us in the loop on this and further investigating the opt-out potential and feasibility of technical measures to defeat that functionality if it is eventually imposed upon us without exception.

  5. Not your best headline Dave… “How To Opt-Out Of TiVo Pre-Roll Ads” really gives the impression you can opt-out. Using older software, or hoping if you “ask nicely” they “might” let you out really isn’t confidence inspiring.

    TiVo remains one of the most expensive DVRs out there. If they become pushy with ads, I can’t imagine it bodes well for their future. I, for one, have been contemplating adding an antenna based solution. I can’t imagine going back to TiVo although I was a customer twice (once in the dial up days, once in the CableCard days with a Roamio). To pay $500 and up, or to spend $200-300 and $15/mo and have extra ads thrust upon me is really a bizarre business practice in the days of cloud DVRs for cable/OTT services and cheap options like Tablo and Recast for full on cord cutters. TiVo is pretty, and has a great remote, but Tablo works fine and I have my Caavo remote, so I’m good there!

  6. Thanks Dave. Actually your headline is spot-on. I was able to easily opt out of pre-roll adverts with a phone call to TiVo tech support. Took two days to take effect. Been with TiVo since 1999 and had many boxes including current Bolt+, newest mini, and Premiere XL4. There are many options versus TiVo these days. However, my family still prefers cable, prefers commercial free DVR capability, and prefers an easy to operate user interface. TiVo meets our needs. Savings over the years in cable company rental equipment have paid for our TiVos. However, TiVo must evolve to stay current and hopefully all they announced will help do that.

  7. I’ve been a huge fan of TiVo since the 90s, have personally bought upwards of 10 units – with lifetime – over the years for myself, family and friends, and have been responsible for the sale of countless more to others… I’m not going anywhere, with this huge sunk cost, and the truth is I rarely watch anything I record on my TV… I more often use it as a cache (some might say hoard) and download it to watch on my iPad when I travel…

    But it’s been occurring to me that TiVo’s time may have come and gone. The big selling point for me has always been time-shifting; the ability to skip commercials is great but I’m not bad at tuning them out anyway…

    Now that pretty much all content I record on my TiVos is available to stream (next day and for at least a few weeks after), I find myself “needing” them less and less. And that makes it harder for me to recommend them to new customers.

    I’m in the process of transitioning my folks from their FiOS set-top boxes to TiVo mini’s hanging off their 2 Bolts. I don’t see any reason to stop doing this (the investment in minis should pay off within a year, once they stop paying the rental on their current boxes)… But I’m going to hear about it if TiVo keeps screwing up the user experience… :-(

    (Sorry if this double-posts; the web site is being funky.)

  8. I’m a 20 year plus Tivo subscriber and called Tivo to request opt out of the commercials linked to the beginning of my dvr recordings, they agreed to my request. 48 hours later they were gone..

  9. Glad I never upgraded to hydra.

    But as long as the pre role ads can be fast forwarded, they’re just another commercial.

    Big deal.

  10. Looks like my decision to stick with TE3 was a good one, but I’m not confident of a future for TiVo. I get it that they are looking for new sources of revenue, but they are doing it in ways that alienate the very people who have supported them.

    I was talking to a rep at the local cable company yesterday. I was getting a replacement CableCard for the Bolt. He told me that though they are mandated by law to offer them, they don’t train any of their phone techs how to pair them. I’ll have to have a tech out to read the pairing info off to a guy in a back room even though I could have easily done that myself. Looks like they are trying to do a death by neglect strategy.

    I guess I’ll continue with TiVo until I run out of guide data or the cable company refuses to pair the CableCard, whichever comes first.

  11. The death by neglect strategy has been in place for years. That being said, FIOS has made is much easier over time to pair a CableCard, but it still requires a call. So long as Ajit Pai is FCC Commisioner and Republicans have the majority of the commission, the continued existence of the CableCard regime is in jeopardy. I’m just hopeful he doesn’t turn his eye to it now that Net Neutrality seems dead in the water from the Federal perspective.

  12. Of course, there’s a very simple solution: you can’t sell advertising if no one will buy it. If all TiVo users organized and agreed to boycott the product of any advertiser using the feature, it would stop being used in a heartbeat.

  13. Michael, simple LAN ad blocking hasn’t been effective yet because the container that delivers the payload still launches. So a pal who tried ended up stuck on a black screen. But we’ll continue to learn more and TiVo is supposedly working to improve its implementation. I don’t see it as an arms race, but it’s realistic to expect things to change. Again, I’m operating under the assumption that we’re the beta testers. I have some ideas. Unfortunately, I may be alone working this since most will simply select 1 or 2. :)

    Bill, CableCARD is dead irrespective of administration. That ship has sailed. We’re the remnants and no one will bother advocating for us as the infrastructure crumbles.

  14. Dave, once CableCard inevitably dies, do you think that there will be any replacement (along the lines of AllVid), or will be simply be at the mercy of the CableCos from an equipment standpoint? Or will equipment simply go away given the proliferation of apps from individual content providers? The current method of access to the content providers apps relies on a very simple CableCo username / password authentication for most providers. I don’t see how this patchwork of access benefits the CableCo’s, though, given how many a la carte offerings are available currently.

  15. I find that I am able to hit the Skip button as soon as I sense a pause for the pre roll buffering. It’s become habit to skip, I barely notice anymore.

  16. My understanding is if I rollback my Tivo to TE3, it performs a full reset and wipes out any recordings. I’m okay with that but does anyone know if the Tivo will subsequently download my Season Passes from or will I need to re-add them all?

  17. Has anyone called to opt-out of the pre-roll ads BEFORE that got rolled out to your Tivo? I would like to proactively opt out of this nonsense if possible (I may still downgrade, I’m not blown away by TE4 and the wisdom of the interface update of using a back button instead of “moving back” eludes me).

  18. When TiVO stops selling retail DVRs all the complainers will say “Why?” If someone can come up with a way to replace the revenue of these ads then speak up.

    TiVO sold less than 6,000 DVRs in the Qtr ending June 30th on revenue of $1,675,000 (R&D was $36M.) With such low volume margins are tight. In 2020 when TiVO splits into two companies the hardware side will not have the patent money to subsidize hardware and R & D.

    You don’t have to like the one skippable ad but understanding why they’re necessary might help the discussion which currently is NIMBY.

  19. David, wait until you get them.

    Bryan, they’re a publicly traded company, not a charity or endangered animal. Most corporate decisions are financial. That’s not unique to TiVo. But if folks don’t want to deal with this product change/tax (on top of service fees), I don’t begrudge them. If TiVo can’t make a viable retail solution, others will (and have) replace them.

    TiVo hasn’t adapted to the changing consumer landscape in a timely fashion and, instead, chose to hitch their wagon the cable industry. Remember they had $1b in cash sitting in the bank. Tom Rogers both saved and destroyed the company we loved.

    But really this isn’t the Motley Fool or Seeking Alpha. We’re here to discuss the gadgets in our lives not corporate fortunes nor the decisions behind the decisions.

  20. TiVo, at least a TiVo OTA has been surpassed by Plex DVR in every way. Automatic commercial cutting – check. Streaming, including out of home, check. Downloading for offline playback – check. True intelligent season passes, check. Plex app is built into all major, and minor TV’s these days. You can but an Nvidia shield to act as a server, and stick a 10tb drive on it for storage.

    The only thing missing is a few cable channels you can’t fully stream (tennis channel), that will be fixed with time.

  21. As soon as the HDHomeRun Prime 6 comes out I very well may switch to Plex for all my DVR needs. As far as I can tell it has full digital cable support EXCEPT for non-copyable content (HBO, etc). I can handle that by switching to an HBO Now account for that.

    Has anyone heard when the HDHomeRun Prime 6 is supposed to be released (or better yet what it will cost)?

  22. @Bryan10024 – I doubt there will be people who cry when TiVo finally goes away like you think. Mismanagement is the reason TiVo is dying not because people didn’t buy enough boxes. I had TiVo since 2000 and I still have 1 box that hasn’t died for some reason Roamio’s seem to die. I got an hdhomerun and channels DVR and I could not be happier. The new TVE feature lets me put in my cable info so I can stream channels that sometimes refuse to work with a cable card. This and Tablo and where the market has gone. TiVo almost made an impressive jump to this sort of solution but decided against it. So be it. Their price’s are way to high and I for one will not wonder why they are headed out of business. They double down on junk over and over.

  23. Soon after opting-out of pre-rolls and announcing it here my 5 month old TiVo Bolt+ has suffered the dreaded 4-flashing lights with no signal to the TV. No correlation to opting-out of pre-rolls I think. This signals hard drive failure or less likely the power supply. This was my second Bolt+ replaced under warranty for failure of the now discontinued 3TB drive. No problem replacing as I purchased the $35 extended warranty…about the only gadget I’d get an extended warranty on. Guess that says a lot. Maybe I’ll get a new Edge model. We’ll find out this morning.

  24. Tivo user since 2005. Still holding strong with my Roamio and Mini from 2014. I haven’t seen any pre-roll ads yet, but the phone call was an easy 5 minute opt-out. They did put me on hold for a minute to check on my account. They didn’t say if there was something in particular that qualified me to opt out, but it was an easy request, no fight or sales pitch. Thanks for the info!

    I’ve been pretty happy with Tivo and have no desire to switch. It was expensive up front for the box, HD upgrade, lifetime service, but with my OTA antenna I haven’t paid anything for TV in years. There’s been a few nice updates over the years, but for me as long as it records reliably and let’s me skip commercials, I’ll continue to use it as long as it works. If my box breaks down, I’ll evaluate the market options at that point, and I’ll be open to anything.

  25. Michael, ah yes the TiVo Maverick/Mantis. It was indeed a Tablo-esque network tuner developed in 2016 (and perhaps earlier) along with a potential cloud DVR option. Chatter indicated it needed help. But, beyond (or due to) performance concerns during its incubation, it was one of the first things cut in 2017 after Rovi management came on board. Kinda sad we’re still missing out on that Fire TV streaming app after all these years.

    They’ve built all sorts of cool things in R&D that they (someones) felt they couldn’t bring to market and/or the management changed. Like the really cool TiVo Stream sat on a shelf for several years before someone was like hey, let’s sell this thing.

  26. It’s sad to TiVo go down this road as one of the prime benefits of owning a TiVo DVR in the first place was to be able to fast forward or skip ads.

    I have owned numerous TiVo devices since they first started selling them years ago and have always liked TiVo primary for their ad-free and personalized Guide. But over the years TiVo’s value has dwindled – I hated the Hydra interface, and their remote viewing capabilities are not great.

    With the introduction of ads into the system, paired with the high price and poor sales support, I fear my Bolt may be my last TiVo product.


  27. I’ve been a Tivo user since the 90s. I’ve owned 12 Tivos. The values to me are time shifting, skipping ads and a simple interface. The new interface sucks. Hate the back button thing plus things like not being able to see which shows are about to roll-off (the green, blue & yellow dots next to the name in the list). There are other things as well. I have 4 Tivos now, only one of which is on TE4 The remainder are the old interface. (love my Roamio Pro!)

    My point is that Tivo is moving in the wrong direction interface wise, which means I’ll probably not spend more dollars for Tivo hardware. I know how to replace a Tivo hard drive, so my my current equipment will probably be around until cable cards or the Tivo Guide go away.

    I expect Tivo to die soon, as they really don’t have a quality user experience anymore. Sad they don’t seem to have any idea what made them great, and competitors will replace them. I’m guessing 2 years, and Tivo closes up shop. Splitting up the company seems silly to me, since the patent revenue helps fund the hardware side. What good are the parents with no hardware. Revenue from other companies that are better at knowing what customers want?? Sad.

  28. Each time I play back a recording, I immediately hit the AD-SKIP button, so how would I know if I was watching a “broadcast” ad or a pre-roll ad?

    I’m using a TiVo Bolt+ and don’t have auto-ad-skip enabled, and I honestly have no idea if I am getting pre-roll ads or not…

  29. Opting out worked for me just now. Been a TiVo customer since around Christmastime 2002 (monthly on that box for years). Currently have a Roamio Pro (lifetime) and two Minis.

    First the rep just told me I could skip them, but with some insistence, same rep took them off. I have not actually seen any pre-roll ads yet on my devices, although I haven’t really been able to watch any TV in the last week or two. Haven’t heard any mention of it from the kids.

  30. I was surprised to see this. I have been a Tivo customer since 2000. Am I thrilled at this development, no. but at least for me, and will try again when my Tivo is working again. Flashing lights on front started yesterday. You can click forward on the remote to skip the commercials.

    I usually let the commercials run. I would rather put up with a commercial in the beginning of watching a recording than Tivo increasing the price in service. If they did not do this, than we would see our monthly plan costs to increase. I am happy they are doing this rather than increasing the service fee.

  31. I hear what you are saying, I don’t begrudge a business making some profit, but I payed for lifetime service, so in that case this feels like double dipping to me.

  32. It also strikes me as a pretty sketchy move on Tivos part to advertisers. On one hand they have provided a feature that allows their DVRs to auto skip all recorded commercials, BUT now if the advertiser wants to pay extra for a Tivo based commercial that can’t be skipped they will be more than happy to facilitate that.

  33. Thank you so much for this. It took me 6 minutes on the phone with them, most of which was on hold and they have removed the pre-roll ads (up to 72 hours to fix).

  34. I think I have successfully figured out a way to block the hydra ad implement. I need to know if people are experiencing the ads and if so work together if you’re savvy about network traffic. I’ve been grooming my snooping and don’t want to undo. I’ll pass along what’s required after I have verified I’m successful in a few months. To be continued … but only with your help.

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