Charter Will Be Kicking TiVo To The Curb

By way of TechHive and the TiVo Community, we learn that Charter Communications has alerted Spectrum cable customers to replace TiVo ahead of obsolescence:

As we continue to upgrade our networks and technology, CableCARDs will not be compatible with future service upgrades for some time. We have other options for you to consider that will enhance your TV viewing experience, including providing you DVR functionality and access to thousands of Video On Demand options.

Avoid the monthly fee of a CableCARD by taking advantage of one of the below:

  • 50% off Apple TV
  • Free Spectrum Receiver for 24 months

In addition, we are offering free Cloud DVR services for 24 months!

As to the specific reasons why, other than being outmoded and poorly supported, we can only speculate. We’ve seen some channel loss from Comcast as they’ve migrated some content from QAM to IPTV and SiliconDust wonders if the move is a result of expanding bidirectional Internet bandwidth.

As to scale of impact, Charter indicates only “a fraction of 1%” of their customers are at risk … while failing to acknowledge these are likely some of the savviest and most committed customers on their platform. Indeed, despite the consolation prizes listed above, the Spectrum customer who tipped me off says he’s out — headed to YouTube TV. Also despite Charter indicating they’re working on restoring full access at a later date (but, I wouldn’t bank on that either).

In the end, the only real surprise here is retail CableCARD’s long-term and continued existence. The odds were historically stacked against flexible consumer cable access (but, hey, Comcast now does Apple TV), with the FCC throwing in the towel (again) two years ago and TiVo themselves largely disengaged from retail DVR.

(Thanks Henry!)

40 thoughts on “Charter Will Be Kicking TiVo To The Curb”

  1. Just Need to say that I’ve made the migration away from TiVo (customer since before the Humax). I am now on YouTube TV. The UX / UI is just horrific, and it ain’t cheap. You will likely hate everything about it. Including the commercials which you often can’t skip past. Oh, and they insist on your precise GPS of the TV. I only really wanted broadcast because we couldn’t get a good OTA signal. And winded up in the swamp.

  2. This is probobly indeed related to them wanting to upgrade the cable plant so the return path goes from 5-204 MHz (High Split).

    The traditional 5-42 MHz split just can’t get over 50mbps upload comfortably – well it could technically go higher but no operator will provision higher due to the shared nature of it.

    The next jump mid split, 5-85 MHz is still compatable with the majority of cable set top boxes and QAM, just the QAM frequencies start a little higher. The out of band addressing channel can still be located somewhere around 110 MHz. You could proboboly provision upload speeds in the 100-300 mbps range – maybe 400 mbps range if entirely using OFDMA and all customers had DOCSIS 3.1 modems.

    High split just goes too high. No out of band tuner is configured that high to get its authorization, so there goes Cable card devices. I think maybe some STBs have an OOB tuner from 72-130 MHz… so as you see if the return path goes up to 204 MHz…well thats now not usable. You can get about 1gbps upload on this type of cable plant.

    Because that also eats into the forward path, they will likely upgrade amplifiers for ESD (Extended Spectrum DOCSIS) out to 1.2 or 1.8 GHz. It certainly eats into broadcast QAM space so I would imagine the future is IPTV over DOCSIS QAM+OFDM.

  3. CableCARD had a good run, but so did the Hercules Graphics Card.
    When I moved a couple of years ago, I optioned having the new house wired for CAT6 instead of COAX. We stayed in the same town and kept the FiOS Internet service, but dropped the FiOS TV service for YouTube TV. It knocked a sizeable chunk off the bill. I sort of miss the TiVo remote, but everything has been fine. I don’t miss the TiVo DVR having to have the CableCARD paired about once a year.

  4. I’m finally selling my TiVo when my Comcast contract is up in Sept. I rarely use the dvr and the signal is choppy on some major channels. I use the app more and more every day.

  5. I’ve never used my TiVo as much as in recent years–but then again, I’m an OTA guy in a market with numerous channels. I hate to think of where I would be if TiVo drops out. :( :( :(

  6. I am holding out until the bitter end. I am still using a CableCard TiVo with Comcast, but I have also set up a ChannelsDVR ecosystem with a spare Mac mini, two AppleTV’s, a TV Everywhere login and a HDHomeRun 4K (I also tested this with a TiVo Stream 4K.) I still find my self using the TiVo more often for live TV, mainly because of the remote and the 6 live tuners. Even if you try to replicate multiple live “tuners” with multiple AppleTV’s like I have, it can still be a tedious user experience. But, I also know the end is coming, so I am forcing myself to get used to this. If TiVo were to die first, but not CableCards, I have a backup CableCard HDHomeRun too, because I don’t find TVE to be nearly as reliable.

  7. If I only use my TIVO for OTA recording, than whatever Spectrum does not affect me right? I only use Spectrum as internet provider and use Roku to stream.

  8. Wow that headline is EXTREMELY misleading. You can do better, Dave.

    The TiVo community (and Gacebook group) grossly misinterpreted a MARKETING EMAIL meant to scare customers into their AppleTV deal. Everyone got their panties in a bunch for nothing.

    And the TechHive article even ends with “ Absent stronger statements from Spectrum, it doesn’t sound like CableCARD support is imminently doomed.”

    As of today nothing has been kicked to any curb and no timeframe is known at all. Could it be tomorrow? Sure. But it could also be a year from now.

    “Still, it’s unclear what those interruptions might look like or when they might happen. Ruggiero did not comment on this topic and would not provide further details on Spectrum’s high-split rollout.”

  9. It’s been “imminent” for a while now, and it’s why a year ago, when my Tivo died in a lightning storm, I decided not to replace it with another traditional Tivo. I bought an HDHomerun with cablecard, and one with an OTA antenna, and switched to ChannelsDVR using the cheaper TivoStream4k devices.. I definitely miss my Tivo, for example I wish I still had 30 minute buffer on live but it has been workable. I also realize I haven’t solved the cablecard problem with my setup, but I am positioned to do so just by adding a TVE provider or something on the day my cablecard goes away (or when I can get Starlink so I can finally kick Comcast to the curb proactively). I really wish Tivo had used their traditional hardware, and just included TVE type functionality into it, so I could continue to use all the Tivo features I loved for 18 years or so, while eliminating the cablecard, but with the TivoStream4k being their focus these days, it seems that Tivo has given up on it’s base already anyway.

  10. Yes, there are ways to offload and decrypt TiVo recordings. If I blogged more frequently, that’d be a good topic to resurface.

    cypherstream, thanks for the technical detail!

    chris 1, yes if you use TiVo for OTA you’re fine. This is specific to Spectrum customers who access cable TV via CableCARD on TiVo or HDHomeRun Prime.

    Chris 2, I’ve come to a different conclusion than TechHive based on the available data: Spectrum customers who rent CableCARDs were explicitly told “CableCARDs will not be compatible with future service upgrades for some time.” I’ll take that at face value versus the vague and contradictory statements of a cornered spokesperson. Any lack of clarity belongs to Charter and my position is folks are best served by choosing an alternative approach before the axe drops. Having said all that, I’ve hopefully improved my characterization with a few article tweaks.

  11. I would like to leave Comcast. What internet service are people using? Cable co or phone co?

  12. I had 6 Tivos until a couple years ago. Due to elimination of Tivo support for some of my viewing methods, locking by cableco of every channel for out-of-home viewing, and being unable to watch Tivo on a remote TV, I went down to 1. This spring my cable company couldn’t provision a cable card move 10 minutes across town so now rocking Channels DVR (thanks Dave for the recommendation) with OTA and TVE (works great!). I can finally watch all my shows while travelling from one app. These companies lost out on my money all because they wouldn’t let me watch the local news when away.

  13. I will be really annoyed if my ability to use my TIVO is disturbed. I recently had it overhauled with a new hard disk, and I am hoping for years of service with it.

  14. I live in a Comcast serviced city and they are moving a lot of HD networks to IPTV, which my cable/OTA TiVo Bolt VOX cannot receive and in late 2019, all HD channels in my city went to 720p. I dropped Comcast TV service last month and went with YouTube TV, which is a LOT less than I was paying for cable. I setup my cable/OTA TiVo Bolt VOX as OTA and using it with a flat antenna. I don’t see Comcast dropping CableCARD support any time soon, but with them pushing more HD TV channels to IPTV, it is a ploy to have customers rent their X1 devices. I am not surprised that Charter is dropping support for CableCARD, as cable providers are not required by law to support them anymore.

    Interesting to note that I received a sales email from TiVo this week, in which they made an offer for me to purchase a TiVo Edge for cable or one for OTA and slashing the prices for them, as well as slashing the price of the “All In” lifetime service.

  15. You know it’s probably partially TiVo’s fault. First for not making an STB that could work with a high split cable system (OOB tuner agile enough to go anywhere in the band plan, not just 72-130 MHz)… maybe a software stack that can work WITH the MSO’s IPTV (xfinity, spectrum, etc).

    They were too busy stagnating the industry in the 2000’s by patent hogging and threatening any competitors product with legal action if it in any way resembled trick play, recording or a guide.

    They will just have some OTA, the TiVo Stream and existing MSO deals here and across the pond in Europe. My provider does use them and they do offer more HD channels than a regular iGuide box. You can also get their lineup over Ethernet or WiFi with a TiVo stream and add on cloud DVR. For MSO’s that’s great but for customers you only can choose who services where you live.

  16. You can try PyTivo. Download program to computer. Apply settings ( TiVo access code, etc) then run it. It will find your tivos. NOTE: this will not download copyrighted shows. Also downloads on .TS format. Need utility to convert to mp4.

  17. You can try Playon TV and/or Channels DVR. They both can record Spectrum video. Playon for vod and channels for live stream. I pay for the yearly plans for both and it’s about $10/ month total.

  18. It’s a shame how far TiVo has fallen. Such a great UI and remote. I can say that their TiVo Stream is absolutely the best streaming stick available, but at $30 bucks a pop, I doubt there’s much to be made from it. Perhaps a cut of the subscriptions might add up.

  19. Not a network engineer but I never understood the need for a clunky Card when all that was needed is a unique IMEI number or something similar. I hated the Cable Card I used, it required a digital adapter and it always needed to be reset on the Spectrum system.

  20. Yeah, PCMCIA was already archaic when the cableco’s began using it. They did begin seriously looking into digital conditional access in 2005 which launched in 2008 as tru2way. Never really took off for retail. Once again, the cable industry didn’t really care to open up and/or make it easy for consumers or consumer electronics manufacturers. And now many have left. Agree the SDV tuning adapters are brutal. As Cypherstream says above, there’s much TiVo could have done to help themselves and industry. But for a long while they were most interested in patent enforcement, since it paid much better than their subscribers, as a means of increasing shareholder value.

  21. Good riddance to TiVo and the cable card. As a cable technician for Charter, I am so glad. TiVo service is the worst to troubleshoot, and the tuning adapters and cards are horrendous.

  22. TiVo let their products decay, and thanks to you, Dave, I switched to HDHomerun Prime + ChannelsDVR. Herein lies the rub: I agree that it‘s only a matter of time until CableCard is no longer supported (Comcast is my local cable company). I tried to setup Channels with Comcast‘s IPTV (TV Anywhere?) but it was not as simple/reliable as the HDHomerun Prime. Might have to look at that again. Sigh.

  23. The way I see it, they’re deprecating CCs because high-split will get in it’s way, and they’re not working on an alternative.

    There are ways to keep CCs going – Spectrum uses SDV, they could set the TA’s to use DSG mode like the native cable boxes do, or they could do what Verizon does and use CPE to digest an IP stream and generate the signals onsite.

    But, so long as the FCC remains a toothless lion and allows CCs to remain “optional”, alternatives will not be researched.

    Frankly, there’s no getting the genie back in the bottle – a CC replacement should’ve been cemented by 2015, now it’s too late.

    The sad part is Spectrum users have a need for TiVos – unlike literally every cable service in existence, they never figured out whole-home systems, and even after absorbing TWC/BHN, instead of using their systems, they broke them and started shoving people into the (not ready for use) Spectrum Guide, or the Apple TV app.

    I’ve heard Spectrum is working with Comcast on licensing the XiOne streaming platform. Maybe we get lucky and they license X1 for STBs. It’s not TiVo, but it’s not half bad now.

  24. Karl-

    They’re only horrendous because your employer made them so.

    I’ve never met a Charter/Spectrum/TWC installer who gave a crap.

    Cable Cards work perfectly fine and are easy to install on Fios.

    The day I kicked Spectrum to the curb for Fios was glorious.

    Consider your own company’s priorities and lack of customer service before casting dispersions against the technology.

  25. Karl –

    You have issues with Tuning Adapters? Talk to your own higher-ups. THEY are the ones who mandated that crap.

    You think TiVos are difficult to troubleshoot? Maybe your higher-ups could have TRAINED the techs to support them. Hell, *I* had to do my last two cablecard swaps because Spectrum/TimeWarner techs had NO idea how to do it.

    You wonder why people have TiVo? Maybe it’s because Charter took over TWC with its varied DVR selection and forced the so-called “World Box” down our throats before software was debugged.

    But don’t worry, Karl. You won’t have to come to my house because we’re cutting Spectrum loose next month. Maybe my $167 per month isn’t much in the overall show, but I’ll be d****d if I’ll support a company that doesn’t care about the needs of its customers…..OR its employees.

  26. Landlord won’t let FIOS into the building so, I finally ditched Spectrum after the continual TA issues broke my back. My relationship with Cable dates back to the Group W days. TiVO needs to 1) Develop an ATSC 3.0 compatible OTA model pronto. 2) Provide a streaming service option to CC STB models 3) Provide app support for YouTube TV

  27. When we moved to the other side of town in 2019, my Premiere and Roamio had no problem making the move. The Bolt worked okay for about a week and then started gradually losing channels. SuddenLink was unable to re-pair the CableCard. After going through about 7-10 more CCs, I gave up and moved it to my wife’s home office where she used it as an expensive TiVo Mini.

    We moved to Tennessee in 2021 to a town with Xfinity/Comcast. I didn’t even want to mess with them. I tried OTA with a small antenna on the Bolt, which worked for about three channels (only one of which I would actually watch, NBC). An outdoor or attic antenna might work better, but we ended up getting Hulu Live instead. The TiVos are boxed up.

    If the TiVo Stream 4K was able to set a OnePass on any/all of the apps that can be loaded on it, I might try it, but it sounds like the TiVo app is pretty limited to which ones a Pass will work with, which isn’t good enough to displace our Rokus.

    It was a great run, TiVo, 2003-2021, but time has moved on and even though the interface to streaming apps isn’t easy or consistent, it’s better than struggling with a CableCard that doesn’t work.

  28. I am a Tivo/cable card user on Spectrum and have received no such notice from Spectrum. How were customers notified of this impending doom?

  29. The Charter experience (channel guide, vod, eg) is absolutely horrendous. It is an outdated and slow ui

  30. I’m with Spectrum in LA area. I have three TIVOs going strong. I’ve never had cable card problem. Very few service calls in the past 12 years. Lately, I’ve had a slight problem with certain channels breaking up for short periods and then clearing up. Annoying. I finally called for a tech to come out. I waited three extra days so they could send a service guy who had experience with cable cards. Turned out the problem was not at my house. The guy said certain equipment at the “street” needed changing. Ok. That’ll take a week.

    We talked about cable cards. His opinion is that for Spectrum in LA area, cable cards will no long work at all by about 2025. He admits this is a guess but it not a guess that it is coming. He thinks Spectrum is committed to cloud based Internet streaming type service, meaning no DVR at your house. Essentially something like YouTube TV. He said they are training for it already.

    I’ve never received anything YET from Spectrum about cable cards not working in the future. I imagine we will get some notice when it happens. I’m sticking with my Tivos for now as its still the coolest way to watch TV.

  31. The death of TiVo/CableCARD is but one of the little signposts along the way as the traditional linear channel-based television system is slowly replaced by direct-to-consumer streaming video apps designed around on-demand consumption with live events (e.g. sports, news) offered live.

    The advice I’ve been giving Charter TiVo owners over on TCF is to jump to a streaming cable TV service if they can live with a DVR that auto-deletes recordings after 9 months. (DirecTV Stream has the best PQ and offers an optional custom box and remote for the most cable-like user experience but also has the highest cost per channel. Most folks will prefer YouTube TV or, if they care about the Disney bundle, then go with Hulu with Live TV which now includes that full bundle.)

    For those who can’t stand the idea of no longer harvesting gigs of recorded video and retaining it indefinitely on their own hard drives, I point them in the direction of Channels DVR, which can record most cable channels’ authenticated “TV-everywhere” streams. Although it often cannot record local broadcast channels, so you may still need to add an HDHomeRun OTA tuner as part of your Channels DVR solution. And being a multi-part-roll-your-own system, Channels isn’t as easy for low-tech folks to set up, so don’t recommend it to Grandma. (Although, for that matter, I’d never have recommended a CableCARD TiVo to Grandma given its pairing issues. Throw in Charter’s tuning adapter and it sounded like a real PIA.)

    But to be honest, those recommendations are just interim solutions. Because at some point — 2027? 2031? — direct-to-consumer apps from traditional Hollywood media companies (e.g. Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, etc.) will have fully cannibalized the content offered on their linear channels (with some sports content having slipped away to other apps). And all our local TV news operations will offer their live and on-demand content through one or more free or paid apps. (In fact, most already do.) At that point, the old linear channel TV system will have no reason to exist, except for whatever sliver of Americans who are still on satellite TV. But then I suspect a merged DISH/DirecTV satellite TV service will go out of business for lack of customers by around the start of the next decade.

  32. ATSC 3.0 is coming. It will only affect local TV stations. We already have it in service by the major local stations in Nashville. I have a Sony Bravia TV that has a ATSC 3.0 tuner. It will be a while before it has more widespread usage across the US. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is all in on ATSC 3.0. The ability of local stations to offer paid services as a subset over their regular ATSC 3.0 signal is a driving force that will see widespread adoption of ATSC 3.0 as an additional revenue stream for local stations. One scenario is a local station could provide, for example, ESPN, as a paid service as a subset. And once the lower priced TV sets start including ATSC 3.0 tuners by manufacturers and cheap ATSC 3.0 converter boxes for non ATSC 3.0 tuner capable TV sets are widely available , I foresee major local stations in the US dropping their old ATSC 1.0 signals.

  33. Richard, hi neighbor! (I live in Nashville too.) I’ve been following the advent of ATSC 3.0, and posting about it over at AVS Forum, for years now. And I went from being a believer/hoper like you to being, well, pretty cynical about it. The broadcast networks show no significant signs so far of supporting their ATSC 3.0 affiliates with enhanced feeds (e.g. 1080p HDR w/ Dolby Atmos) of their live sports and primetime shows. And let’s face it, no one gets excited about better picture and sound quality for their local news. I believe that Disney, Comcast and Paramount (the owners of ABC, NBC and CBS, respectively) rightfullly see their own paid and free streaming apps, not ATSC 3.0, as the next-gen successors to the current channel-based TV system. It’s not those big media companies who have ever been 3.0’s boosters but rather the big owners of local stations, e.g. Sinclair, Nexstar, etc. (I wouldn’t want to own those companies’ stock in the back half of this decade.)

    In fact, I can’t see why the network owners won’t gradually shift all (or nearly all) of their high-value live sports content behind paywalls, while spending less on network primetime shows (think more game/competition/reality/talk shows) in order to bring down the networks’ cost basis. And then what happens? They do what The CW has been doing for years: give away their network content for free, with ads. I expect by 2030 that live national feeds for all the major broadcast networks will be available in those companies’ free ad-supported apps, e.g. CBS in Pluto TV, Fox in Tubi, etc. And they’ll also let you watch the most recent few eps on-demand there too. But to watch live sports and the most desirable new scripted series and movies, you’ll need to pay up for their subscription services, e.g. Paramount+, Disney+, etc.

    Meanwhile, local stations will have to figure out a way to be profitable via their own streaming apps. Right now, they just give that content away for free, with unskippable ads. Whether that will bring in enough revenue to keep them afloat once they’re no longer getting meaningful retrans revenue from cable subscriptions (which will have collapsed to near-nothing by 2030), I don’t know. I suspect that a mid-sized market like Nashville could only support a couple of free, ad-supported local video news operations. I suppose the next step in the industry evolution after that would be a change in ownership laws that would allow major media companies to buy up the best local TV news operations around the country. Perhaps our WSMV 4 becomes “CNN Nashville” while WTVF 5 becomes “CBS News Nashville” (with our other two, WKRN 2 and WZTV 17, going defunct).

  34. Back on topic: looks like some Cox cable TV subscribers should get ready to see their CableCARDs rendered useless before long too, as is already happening on Charter and Alaska’s GCI. Because like those two latter cablecos, Cox has indicated that it will be doing a broad rollout of high-split upgrades to their network in 2023. (Although they’re also doing mid-split in some places, so maybe not all Cox neighborhoods will lose CableCARD?)

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