TiVo (pronounced ) is a brand of digital video recorder (DVR) in the United States, Canada, and Australia created by TiVo, Inc.. It is a consumer video device that captures television programming to hard disk storage for later viewing ("time shifting"). The device also provides an electronic television programming schedule, and provides recording options based on that schedule. It was formerly also available in the United Kingdom, but was withdrawn from sale in 2003.
A TiVo device serves a function similar to a videocassette recorder, in that both allow a television viewer to record programming for viewing at a later time. Unlike a VCR, which uses removable magnetic tape cartridges, a TiVo device stores television programs onto non-removable hard disk storage. Also, the TiVo device does not have any buttons on the front panel; its functions are solely controlled by remote control.
A feature that distinguishes TiVo devices from similar digital video recorders is the sophisticated software written by TiVo Inc. that automatically records programs — not only those the user specifically requests, but also other material the user is likely to be interested in. The TiVo device also implements a patented feature TiVo calls "trick play," which allows the viewer to pause live television, and rewind and replay up to a half hour of recently viewed television. Finally, more recent TiVo devices can be connected to a computer local area network, which allows the TiVo device to download information and even video programs and movies from the Internet.
Users can select individual programs to record, or a "season pass" which records an entire season (or more). There are options to record First Run Only, First Run & Repeats, or All Episodes. An episode is considered "First Run" if aired in two weeks of the original air date.
When user requests for two programs conflict, the lower priority program in the Season Pass Manager is either not recorded or clipped where times overlap. The lower priority program will be recorded if it is aired later. TiVo systems with two tuners record the top two priority programs.
TiVo pioneered recording programs based on household viewing habits, this is called TiVo Suggestions. Users can rate programs from three "thumbs up" to three "thumbs down". TiVo user ratings are combined to create a recommendation, based on what TiVo users with similar viewing habits watch. For example, if a user likes The Simpsons, American Dad and Futurama, then another TiVo user who watched just the The Simpsons might get a recommendation for the other two shows.
A limited amount of space is available to store programs. When the space is full, the oldest programs are deleted to make space for the newer. (Programs which users flag to not be deleted are kept.)
While watching TV, the current channel is recorded for up to 30 minutes. (Dual tuner models keep two channels.) This allows users to rewind or pause anything that has been shown in the last thirty minutes: useful when viewing is interrupted. A viewer can also decide to record a show that they have already started watching. The TiVo will capture the previous recorded segment, up to 30 minutes, to ensure the start of the show is included.
Unlike VCRs, TiVo can record and play at the same time. A program can be watched, even if it's in the middle of being recorded, which is something that VCRs cannot do. Some users take advantage of this by waiting 10-15 minutes after a program starts (or is replayed from a recording), so that they can fast forward through commercials. In this way, by the end of the recording viewers are caught up with live TV.
Unlike most DVRs, the TiVo Series2 is easily connected to home networks, allowing scheduling recordings on TiVo's website (via TiVo Central Online), transferring recordings between TiVo units (Multi-Room Viewing (MRV)) or to/from a home computer (TiVoToGo), playing music and viewing photos over the network, and accessing third-party applications written for TiVo's Home Media Engine (HME) API. TiVo is adding 3rd party content. TiVo users can access Yahoo Photos, Weather, Traffic, Fandango movie listings (including ticket purchases), and Live365 music.
On June 7, 2006, TiVo announced TiVoCast, a broadband download service which initially offered content from the NBA, WNBA, The New York Times, Heavy.com, iVillage, CNet, Danger Rangers, H2O: HipHop on Demand, Union on Demand, Rocketboom, and Here! TiVo announced an agreement with Brightcove for more broadband content.
TiVo is expanding media convergence. In January 2005, TiVoToGo, a feature allowing transfer of recorded shows from TiVo boxes to PCs, was added. TiVo partnered with Sonic in the release of MyDVD 6.1, software for editing and converting TiVoToGo files. In January, 2007, TiVoToGo was extended to the Macintosh with Toast Titanium 8, Roxio software for assembly and burning digital media on CD and DVD media. Other means of manipulating files are described at the TiVoToGo Unleashed tutorial. In August 2005, TiVo rolled out "TiVo Desktop" allowing moving MPEG2 video files from PCs to TiVo for playback by DVR.
Once a unit's commitment expires, it will continue to be billed at the current monthly rate. If the rate later goes down, TiVo will continue to charge the maximum monthly rate that applied at the time of purchase of the unit.
TiVo service was launched in the United Kingdom in the autumn of 2000. It sold only 35,000 units over the next 18 months. Thomson, makers of the only UK TiVo box, abandoned it in early 2002 after BSkyB launched its Sky+ integrated 'set-top' decoder and DVR which dominated the market for DVRs in homes subscribing to BSkyB's paid-for satellite TV service. Many manufacturers, including Thomson have launched integrated decoder boxes/DVRs in the UK for other digital platforms, including free satellite, terrestrial, cable and IPTV.
TiVo systems are based on PowerPC (Series1) or MIPS (Series2) processors connected to MPEG-2 encoder/decoder chips and high-capacity IDE/ATA hard drives. Series1 TiVo units used one or two drives of 13–60 GB; current Series2 units have drives of 40–250 GB in size. TiVo has also partnered with Western Digital to create an external hard-drive, the My DVR Expander, for TiVo HD and Series 3 Boxes. It plugs into the TiVo box using an eSATA interface. It expands the High-Definition boxes by up to 67 hrs of HD, and around 300 hrs. of standard programming. Other TiVo users have found many ways to expand TiVo storage, although these methods are not supported by TiVo, and may void the warranty or lock up the TiVo box.
Some recent models manufactured by Toshiba, Pioneer, and Humax, under license from TiVo, contain DVD-R/RW drives. The models can transfer recordings from the built-in hard drive to DVD Video compliant disc, playable in most modern DVD systems.
All standalone TiVo systems have coax/RF-in and an internal cable-ready tuner, as well as analog video input—composite/RCA and S-Video—for use with an external cable box or satellite receiver. The TiVo unit can use a serial cable or IR blasters to control the external receiver. They have coax/RF, composite/RCA, and S-Video output, and the DVD systems also have component out. Audio is RCA stereo, and the DVD systems also have digital optical out.
Until 2006, standalone TiVo systems could only record one channel at a time, though a dual-tuner Series2DT (S2DT) box was introduced in April 2006. The S2DT has two internal cable-ready tuners and it supports a single external cable box or satellite receiver. The S2DT is therefore capable of recording two analog cable channels, one analog and one digital cable channel, or one analog cable and one satellite channel at a time, with the correct programming sources. Note, however, that the S2DT, unlike earlier units, cannot record from antenna. This is due to an FCC mandate that all devices sold after March 2007 with an NTSC tuner must also contain an ATSC tuner. TiVo therefore had to choose between adding ATSC support, or removing NTSC support. With the S2DT they opted to remove NTSC, the Series3 supports NTSC and ATSC, along with digital cable channels (with CableCards).
The Series2 systems also have USB ports, currently used only to support network (wired Ethernet and WiFi) adapters. The early Series2 units, models starting with 110/130/140, have USB1.1 hardware, while all other systems have USB2.0. There have been four major generations of Series2 units. The TiVo-branded 1xx and 2xx generations were solid grey-black. The main difference was the upgrade from USB1.1 to USB2.0. The 5xx generation was a new design. The chassis is silver with a white oval in the faceplate. The white oval is backlit, leading to these units being called 'Nightlight' boxes. The 5xx generation was designed to reduce costs, and unfortunately this also caused a noticeable drop in performance in the system menus as well as a large performance drop in network transfers. The 5xx generation also introduced changes in the boot PROM that make them unhackable without serious soldering. The 6xx generation resembles the previous 5xx model, except that it has a black oval. The 6xx is a new design and the only model available today is the S2DT with dual-tuners and a built-in 10/100baseT Ethernet port as well. The 6xx is the best performing Series2 to date, outperforming even the old leader, the 2xx, and far better than the lowest performing 5xx.
Some TiVo systems are integrated with DirecTV receivers. These "DirecTiVo" recorders record the incoming satellite MPEG-2 digital stream directly to hard disk without conversion. Because of this and the fact that they have two tuners, DirecTiVos are able to record two programs at once. In addition, the lack of digital conversion allows recorded video to be of the same quality as live video. DirecTiVos have no MPEG encoder chip, and can only record DirecTV streams. However, DirecTV has disabled the networking capabilities on their systems, meaning DirecTiVo does not offer such features as multi-room viewing or TiVoToGo. Only the standalone systems can be networked without additional unsupported hacking.
DirecTiVo units (HR10-250) can record HDTV to a 250 GB hard drive, both from the DirecTV stream and over-the-air via a standard UHF- or VHF-capable antenna. They have two virtual tuners (each consisting of a DirecTV tuner paired with an ATSC over-the-air tuner) and, like the original DirecTiVo, can record two programs at once; further, the program guide is integrated between over-the-air and DirecTV so that all programs can be recorded and viewed in the same manner.
In 2008, some cable companies started to roll out Switched Digital Video (SDV) technology, which is currently incompatible with the Series 3 and TiVo HD units. Efforts are progressing to create a supplemental set-top box with USB connection to the TiVo to enable SDV. Such units may appear sometime in mid or late 2008.
In some instances, users have received a green screen display with an error message. This is an error message produced by TiVo machines, sometimes referred to as the Green Screen of Death. The message is displayed while the TiVo attempts to repair the data contents of its hard drive. The green screen is sometimes intentionally invoked as a troubleshooting measure to fix problems that a restart will not. In reality this error message is supposed to repair internal problems. This process should take about 3 hours, but if the process is, in fact, longer than this, then the user can contact customer support for additional help on this issue. This does not mean that the TiVo is completely dead in any way.
The Green Screen text reads as follows:
Many users have installed additional hard drives or larger hard drives in their TiVo boxes to increase their recording capacity. Others have designed and built Ethernet cards, a web interface (TivoWeb), and figured out how to extract, insert and transfer video among their TiVo boxes.
TiVo enthusiast groups located in countries where the TiVo is not sold have been able to reverse engineer the television subscription service schedule files needed by the TiVo and the protocol used during the transmission of those files to the TiVo. This allows the TiVo to be supplied with television scheduling data not available by subscription from the U.S. In some countries, these groups operate a simulated TiVo central server to make and distribute the necessary files for programs broadcast within their country. In other countries, each individual TiVo owner operates a simulated server and makes his own files using software that obtains free television scheduling data from the Internet. The ability to supply television scheduling data to the TiVo without paying a subscription fee threatens TiVo Inc.'s subscription-based business model in the U.S., therefore, these groups usually have strict controls over who can access the necessary software or join their group.
Improved encryption found in more recent versions of the TiVo hardware and software has made it more difficult to create the necessary files or to simulate interaction with the TiVo server.
While its former main competitor, ReplayTV, had adopted a commercial-skip feature, TiVo decided to avoid automatic implementation of that feature, fearing such a move might provoke backlash from the television industry. ReplayTV was sued over this feature, as well as the ability to share shows over the Internet, and these lawsuits contributed to the bankruptcy of SONICblue, their owner at the time. Their new owner, DNNA, dropped both features in the final ReplayTV model, the 5500. However, the automatic commercial-skip feature was simply replaced with Show|Nav, which requires only the push of the arrow buttons to jump between segments. ReplayTV now has a negligible market share, as they no longer manufacture DVR hardware.
Other distributors competing DVR sets include Comcast and Verizon, although both distribute third-party hardware with this functionality built-in. Verizon uses boxes fitted for FiOS, allowing high-speed internet access and other features.
In January 2005, TiVo announced a long-term strategy that includes support for HDTV recording, integrated tuning using CableCARD technology, the ability to download and view content from the Internet, and a program allowing third parties to develop applications for the platform.
In January 2006, at the Consumer Electronics Show, the TiVo Series3 was introduced. This revision represented an evolutionary step in the TiVo service, adding the capability to record high definition television and digital cable content utilizing CableCARD technology. The Series3 includes two discrete video tuners. Each tuner is capable of tuning QAM (digital cable), analog cable, over-the-air (OTA) ATSC (digital), and OTA NTSC (analog). Encrypted digital cable channels will be decrypted via CableCARD. The Series3 will work only with cable and antenna input, it will not support satellite television. Unlike earlier standalone models, the Series3 has no A/V inputs aside from one cable coax and one antenna coax. All content is recorded via the internal tuners.
The Series3 model also includes a 10/100 Ethernet connection port and an external SATA port which supports first- and third-party storage upgrades—a first for TiVo. As an HDTV recorder, the Series3 also has an HDMI output in addition to composite, S-Video, and component video. TiVo announced the release of the Series3 on September 12, 2006.
On May 29, 2007 TiVo Inc. and Channel Seven Australia announced in a press release named, Seven and TiVo Inc Sign Strategic Partnership to Distribute TiVo Products and Services in Australia and New Zealand, that:
Seven Media Group, one of Australia's leading integrated media companies, and TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), the creator of and a leader in digital video recorders, today announced that Seven will be bringing TiVo to Australia in 2008.
TiVo is set to become "key platform in Australia's development of digital television and interactive communications.".
The price of the TiVo box for Australia and New Zealand is $700AUD with no ongoing subscription fees.
In May 2008 DISH and EchoStar filed a new suit requesting that the courts rule that the current version of DISH's DVR software does not infringe on TiVo patents.
In May 2008, TiVo boss Tom Rogers said that he was hopeful that TiVo would be relaunched in the UK soon. TiVo also revealed they are working on a hub or server box that would record for the entire family and serve to all the TVs round the house.
On September 3, 2008 Tivo and DirecTV announced a renewal of their agreement and their plans to launch an new DirecTV Tivo HD DVR.
On September 11, 2008 Tivo and Research in Motion announced that soon Tivo users would be able to control their system from a BlackBerry phone. The integration is expected by the end of 2008. No price -- if any -- was disclosed.
TiVo claims that all usage data is currently aggregated by ZIP code and that they don't track individual viewing habits. In the United States, users can request that TiVo block the collection of Anonymous Viewing Information and Diagnostic Information from their TiVo DVR by calling 1-877-367-8486.
A small percentage of early TiVo units were marketed without being clearly labeled that a subscription was required for full functionality, and some non-subscribing customers were unhappy when they were unable to use new and improved features that subscribers received. It is believed that early dissatisfied, non-subscribing customers received some form of settlement, probably a money-back offer on the hardware, and TiVo now clearly labels its products with a notation that a subscription is required for full functionality.
Some TiVo hardware can still be used as a normal digital recorder, recording by date, time, and channel, without a subscription: specifically, any Series1 which shipped with software revision 1.3 or earlier, as well as Toshiba and Pioneer standalone units, which include TiVo Basic. Nearly all Series1 units originally shipped with 1.3 or an earlier release, however, late in the life of the Series1 some units did ship with 2.0 and those units require a subscription. All other standalone TiVo systems require a subscription to function. All DirecTiVo units require an active DirecTV subscription to record new content.
At its announcement, the concept of extra advertisements drew heavy criticism from TiVo's lifetime subscribers. Some were upset that they had already paid for a service based upon their previous ad-free experience, while others argued that they had purchased the service for the specific purpose of dodging advertisements.
Early testers complained that the pop-up detector was glitchy, and would sometimes pop up during unrelated commercials, or even during regular TV programming. They also state that the ads are aesthetically unpleasant, and take up a quarter of the screen, obscuring enough of the image to make fast-forward scanning nearly impossible. TiVo says that they are looking into these issues and will fix all of these problems before the advertising functions are rolled out to the public. It is unclear if these advertisements will be rolled out to TiVo enabled boxes with DirecTV and Comcast or just to their own standalone boxes.