Archives For Cord Cutting

As foreshadowed by yours truly and then announced at CES, Alexa has finally come to TiVo retail boxes. Well, sort of. Over the weekend, a placeholder app appeared – announcing the imminent arrival of Amazon’s voice assistant. Although TiVo has introduced their own native voice remote, it requires an additional purchase, vs those who already own Alexa gear, and is limited to units running the less desirable TiVo Experience 4 (Hydra) on a subset of TiVo hardware. By comparison, Alexa will be made available to a broad swath of devices, dating all the way back to the Premiere and running either Hydra or the HDUI Encore interface.

The TiVo Alexa skill isn’t live yet, but we know it’ll utilize Amazon’s beefed up media api. And, based on some of the documented commands that’ll be available to us, the delay will have been well worth the wait: Continue Reading…


Noted Apple gossip blog Bloomberg indicates the company intends to beef up its TV app on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad:

Right now, the TV app aggregates content from other providers, allowing people to locate shows from a wide array of apps and channels like ABC, NBA League Pass and HBO, rather than having to hop between different apps. But then Apple sends customers outside its app to buy access to those channels or watch shows. With the pending change, subscription purchasing would move to the TV app. Apple could eventually move the streaming to its own app, instead of sending users to third parties.

Sounds a lot like Amazon’s Prime Video app and Channels approach, by becoming a streaming service content hub for, presumably, a more elegant end-user experience, that also happens to generate additional affiliate revenue for Apple — and not entirely dissimilar from Roku’s desire for a bigger cut on the content distribution front. Beyond 3rd party providers, this may also signal that Apple intends to leverage an updated TV app to distribute its own upcoming original programming.

The TiVo Hydra experience has seen a number of updates, since its October release, but they’ve primarily been focused on squashing (numerous) bugs. While that work continues, TiVo has begun rolling out their first “feature update” to existing Hydra owners — beginning two weeks ago with 5000 randomly selected boxes and now expanded to the general TiVo populace.

There are a number of visible changes, but the headline feature relates to the continued deprecation of textual lists in favor of a newly unveiled, graphically-intensive, dual-axis navigation. Another possibly notable revision is an update to the “mini guide” that closes the gap on the abandoned pioneering “Live Guide.”

As one pal told me, if you already appreciate the Hydra experience you’re gonna enjoy it that much more. If Hydra isn’t your thing, the 21.8.1 update won’t move the needle much… and I personally see no reason to give Hydra another go our home at this point. Our TiVos work just fine and predictably within the Encore HDUI. Although I do wonder if Hydra will be a pre-req when the delayed native Alexa integration hits.

(Thanks Daren, Mikey!)

We often jump on newly released gadgetry, as we’re wont to do, and my co-conspirator Adam Miarka just picked up the recently unveiled Tablo Dual Lite over-the-air DVR given his dissatisfaction with Plex DVR playback (as run from his Synology DS218+ NAS). The Tablo primarily records shows his toddler requires (hello Daniel Tiger and Ready Jet Go). While Tablo hasn’t yet provided a feature to offload recordings, Adam is running the community-produced Tablo Ripper from a Windows laptop to hoard move recordings from his smaller Tablo external drive to a Plex directory on the more capacious and aforementioned NAS. Tablo Ripper can be run as a service and does integrate with commercial skip software, but Adam’s keeping things simple by running on demand (and PBS doesn’t show a whole lotta commercials). From the NAS, Adam streams shows to his Apple TV Plex app and I suspect he’ll eventually get around to Plex iOS downloads for network-free mobile entertainment before the family heads out on their vacation.

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While Best Buy often functions as an uncompensated showroom for online sales, given massive Alexa and Fire TV displays, the big box store is clearly a valued Amazon retailer. As such, the two companies have announced a significant partnership expansion that sees Best Buy replacing Roku on Insignia house-brand sets with the Fire TV experience. Also, interestingly, Best Buy will not only sell these televisions in-store but optionally through Amazon.com for the first time.

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Hot on the heels of Philo announcing plans for Fire TV and Apple TV apps comes testimony word that AT&T will soon launch Watch. To hit the $15 price point, these two over-the-top streaming services provide fewer channels and do away with sports-centric programming that drives up licensing costs. For comparison, Sling TV starts at $20/mo … with ESPN. And most bundles run significantly more (although include a broader channel lineup, with local networks in many markets, and additional features like unlimited DVR from YouTube TV @ $40/mo). On the flip side, Philo will provide access to bundle networks’ dedicated apps and corresponding library of on-demand content — even the skinniest of bundles may be more appealing and cost-effective than individual network subscriptions. Sorry CBS All Access ($6/mo).

Nuvvyo, the company behind Tablo and a ZNF advertiser, has just updated their headless OTA DVR line up with the Tablo Dual Lite. However, there’s not much “lite” about the new dual-tuner unit other than a significantly lower price point than the Tablo Dual.  Whereas the Dual retails for $220, the Lite weighs in at a competitive $140 — more in line with transcoding HDHomeRun pricing. In fact, in some ways the Lite (MSRP $140) exceeds the capabilities of the original Dual (MSRP $220) — sporting a slightly better tuner, with integrated demodulator, and slightly better AC WiFi chip that may result in some minor real-world performance improvements when confronting marginal broadcast or wireless coverage scenarios. What you’d be giving up is the integrated high-quality 64GB eMMC storage, good for about 40 hours of HD recording. However, with external drive pricing so low there’s really not much downside. And, in fact, the Tablo Dual Lite offers a free trial of the company’s new Cloud DVR.

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