DVR powerhouse TiVo is in the news these days on a number of fronts. On the financial and business front, their acquisition by Rovi Corporation closed last week with the combined company adopting the TiVo name. For those nor familiar with Rovi, originally known as Macrovision, it is a leading “behind-the-scenes” service company serving the cable, satellite, consumer electronics, and online content industries with products and intellectual property that, in their words, “powers entertainment discovery and personalization.” Their solutions include embedded services, program guide data, and analytics that allow carriers and suppliers to monetize their products and services.
At the top level, given the key patents, products, services, intellectual property of TiVo, the merger makes sense. After all, much of what TiVo does, such as providing viewership data and supplying software to non-TiVo set tops overseas, goes well beyond the DVRs that originally made them famous. With the growth of cloud-based streaming on one hand, the proliferation of carrier-based DVR products increasing, and the pending FCC regulations about “app-based” access replacing traditional STB, the acquisition seems to make sense all the way around.
Into that environment, and on today’s eve of CEDIA 2016, TiVo has just announced a new higher-end model, the TiVo Bolt+. Based on the initial Bolt models, it further cements TiVo’s place in the world of ultra-high resolution content even though 4K/UHD programming is not yet directly available for cable set tops or over-the air distribution.
The new Bolt+ model not only expands the current Bolt model line, it fills the void left by the discontinuation of the Roamio Plus model. Indeed, all of the Roamio models are now out of production with the exception of the over-the-air-only Roamio OTA, aimed at cord cutters at $399 including a “lifetime subscription” to the TiVo program guide service.
On the surface, Bolt+ shares some of the Roamio Pro’s features, such as a Skip Mode and Quick Mode playback, 3TB hard drive, access to popular streaming services, and, of course, six tuners. It also shares some of the features of the initial two Bolt models, including 4K capability for streaming services.
Where it shares Bolt features and differs considerably from the Roamio Pro is not only the obvious inclusion of 4K, but a faster CPU and three times the memory, the full set of Bolt features such HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2, gigabit ethernet, MoCA and 802.11 b/a/g/n/ac, an RF and IR remote, and a unique curved-top industrial design.
Along with the larger hard drive and six tuners, they Bolt+ does drop the ATSC (off-air) tuner and is cable and Fios-compatible only. For most users that should not be a problem since there will not be any off-air 4K content for some time. A visible difference is that while all Bolt models share the unique curved design, the Bolt+ is black, rather than the white finish of the earlier four-tuner Bolt models.
For a $50 price increase, the Bolt+ delivers a considerably improved package of features. Priced at $499, the new Bolt+ will be shown at CEDIA and available on September 15 at retail, through Amazon, and direct from TiVo and through custom install dealer channels.
One might wonder why this is important for those other than TV junkies, sports fans, and binge viewers. The answer is that with the TiVo Mini a user can access the live tuners and recorded programs in up to 10 additional rooms in a home, provided that there is a wired network connection. The one-time cost of a Mini for $149 per room adds access to any of the six tuners and large hard drive without any additional TiVo subscription fee, or the cost of a DVR from the cable company that can exceed $23 per month. Excluding the cost of the Bolt, that is a payback of less than seven months; an important factor in the world of cord cutting.
The introduction of Bolt+ provided an opportunity to get some additional background from Jim Denny, TiVo’s VP of product and strategy. With HDR becoming an important component of 4K/UHD content, Denny shared some insight into TiVo’s plans. While the current Bolt and Bolt+ models are not HDR capable, it will be added next year via a software update.
Recent software updates to existing TiVo models have also taken place to update the program guide to utilize data from Rovi, now TiVo, rather than a previous supplier. While all Series 2 and new models are compatible with the upgrade, the 15-plus-year-old hardware in the original Series 1 models makes them incompatible. Those models will not function after September 30, but all existing users are eligible for a $75 credit that may be used on any TiVo product or service.
While TiVo has always been an alternative to cable company-supplied DVRs, proposed changes by the FCC that will open cable and satellite content to third-party devices via apps could possibly affect TiVo’s market. With the new TiVo/Rovi combination’s strength, Denny said that TiVo is aware of the potential market changes, but that it was simply too early in the game for any further comments.
With its new ownership by the former Rovi, the combination of a massive base of intellectual property, and updated model lineup for the TiVo brand, the new TiVo is definitely going to continue to be a commanding force both behind the scenes and at retail.