Do you remember TiVo? In the days before cable cutting, proprietary DVRs were ubiquitous – so much so that the term “TiVo it” was used interchangeably to mean recording a TV program. Now, the company is back as a third-party smart interface alternative to Google, Amazon, and Roku on top 4K TVs, with the first TiVo-powered kits expected to arrive in mid-2023 in both Europe and the United States.
This information comes from a business streaming publication Another televisionwho, quoting directly from TiVo Xperi CEO Jon Kirchner, also posted the news that the TiVo Stream platform will be bundled with “a leading tier 2 provider that produces multiple TVs under different brands.”
Making TiVo Stream a widely available smart TV interface option pits the company against Google, Amazon, and Roku, all of which have been regularly used by Tier 2 TV brands to run the respective operating systems of Google and Android TV, Fire TV, and the Roku TV platform.
It also pushes TiVo into a very crowded smart TV environment: in addition to the current Google, Amazon, and Roku options, LG, Samsung, Hisense, Vizio, Panasonic, and Philips kits all have their own proprietary smart interface. However, none of them are particularly distinctive, and some can be downright annoying. For example, Samsung TV owners need to set up an online user account to do something as simple as adding an app to the Tizen smart interface or adjusting its layout.
Compared to the proprietary interfaces offered by major TV brands, Google TV and Roku in particular have a clean look and are easy to customize and search for content, including using voice control. Google obviously requires the same account login to perform actions, but Chrome / Gmail accounts are common so most people already live in the Google ecosystem.
Tivo does not appear as a stranger in the world of TV streaming. TiVo Stream 4K, a $ 40 Android TV streaming device, has been around for many years and continues to sell TiVo Edge DVRs with cable TV and antenna-only connections that also provide built-in streaming from apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Vudu, YouTube, and more.
But Stream 4K has been overshadowed by other cheap streaming sticks from Roku and Amazon, while Edge is threatened by the 2020 FCC ruling that cable providers are no longer required to supply CableCard cards used by Edge DVRs for tuning and recording television programs. Given the fragile nature of its hardware business, it makes sense for the company to look for other options such as Smart TV integration to generate revenue.
Does TiVo have what it takes to be an intelligent TV player?
Between the existing Roku and Google offerings, the third-party smart TV ecosystem was already crowded, and the recent introduction of Amazon Fire TV to this mix makes it seem like there are now more than enough options for creators to turn to. if I don’t want to create my own platform.
Now let’s throw TiVo into this smart TV mess. The company is already working on the chip to its advantage, so TiVo-powered smart TVs are on the way in 2023, whether one wants it or not. Its hardware business may have deteriorated with the advent of cable cutting, but the TiVo brand continues to be highly appreciated by consumers, even though people are now much more inclined to stream than “TiVo” shows using a DVR.
As a former TiVo user, many years before I cut the cable myself, I was a fan of the TiVo interface and the remote control to control the company’s box. I also remember that its search features are infinitely better than what was available on the DVR provided by my cable TV service. Given TiVo’s tradition of superior usability, there’s a good chance the features that set it apart in the declining cable and DVR era will carry over to today’s smart TV and streaming.
It should be emphasized at this point that the new TiVo we are talking about, which will appear in smart TVs, will not have DVR-like capabilities. In the words of Xperi CEO Kirchner – quoted again on Next TV – the upcoming TiVo kits will be for “those looking for a TiVo-powered OEM brand experience, not a TiVo-powered TV.”
Still, apps like YouTube TV, fubo TV, Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, and others offer cloud-based DVR features that allow subscribers to record and store live TV channels online for later streaming, in some cases at no extra cost . Such a TiVo-like feature could be included in the “branded experience powered by TiVo” even if there are no current plans to do so.
If that happened, we’d go back to our old TiVo back to the TiVo stuff, but this time without the clunky external decoder.