Is TiVo done with streaming dongles? Not so fast

Final yr, some of the attention-grabbing new streaming gadgets got here not from Roku, Amazon, or Apple, however from TiVo.

The TiVo Stream 4K was an formidable try and make streaming easier, combining sources like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ right into a single TV information. For twine cutters, it was a welcome various to wading by way of a sea of app icons, and it additionally marked a brand new chapter for TiVo, which has been keen to interrupt freed from its legacy DVR enterprise.

So I used to be bummed to learn final weekend that TiVo may be abandoning the endeavor. Citing feedback by the CEO of TiVo mum or dad firm Xperi, The Verge suggested that the Stream 4K could possibly be TiVo’s final streaming dongle because it centered extra on embedding its software program in sensible TVs. A number of other sites rapidly latched on with similar stories.

However in line with a TiVo spokesperson, its foray into streaming hardware is not useless but. The corporate says to count on new Android TV dongles from TiVo, and that it’s going to proceed to enhance the Stream 4K “primarily based on client wants and suggestions.” Extra broadly, TiVo is “at the moment making hardware and can proceed to take action.”

I hope that is true, as a result of whereas the TiVo Stream 4K wasn’t good, it nonetheless had lots of potential.

By no means say die

Jon Kirchner, the CEO of TiVo mum or dad firm Xperi, did counsel final week that the marketplace for TiVo’s streaming dongles is narrower than it was.

In an earnings call, Kirchner famous that Google now presents its personal common streaming information on Android TV gadgets—beginning on the Chromecast with Google TV—which considerably eclipses TiVo’s capacity to supply another. As such, Xperi was transferring extra aggressively to embed its software program instantly into sensible TVs.

However even when the launch of Google TV was a intestine punch, Kirchner by no means mentioned that TiVo would cease making Android TV dongles. He even famous earlier within the name that TiVo Stream 4K system gross sales grew quarter-over-quarter, rising the platform’s footprint. Provided that TiVo monetizes its streaming gadgets by way of adverts, it has loads of incentive to maintain producing and distributing them.

tivostream4kbrowsegenre Jared Newman / IDG

TiVo’s information allows you to see what’s on a lot of completely different providers from a single menu.

To that finish, TiVo just lately began providing the TiVo Stream 4K to small cable firms that wish to provide a streaming resolution to their internet-only clients. As TiVo defined to me final yr, the hope is that these firms will share within the advert income that comes from providers like TiVo Plus, a group of free streaming channels that come pre-loaded on the dongle.

Moreover, a foray into sensible TV software program is not a protected guess both. That subject is already crowded with the likes of Roku (whose software program ships on 38 p.c of sensible TVs offered in the USA), Amazon’s Hearth TV Version televisions, Samsung’s Good TV platform, Vizio’s SmartCast, LG’s WebOS, and Google’s personal Android TV platform, whose TVs have began to incorporate the Google TV information. Comcast has reportedly thought-about putting its streaming platform on smart TVs as properly, and like TiVo, it has comparable concepts about providing a common information to streaming providers. 

In different phrases, TiVo is strolling a tightrope with its streaming platform it doesn’t matter what. Abandoning the crowded streaming system subject simply to deal with the much more crowded sensible TV enterprise does not make lots of sense.

The extra streaming guides, the merrier

My glass-half-full outlook does not come from any vested excited by TiVo, however quite from a want to see streaming get easier. With so many new providers rising over the previous couple years—from Apple TV+ and Disney+ to Discovery+ and Peacock—it is getting more durable to maintain observe of all of them, and having to leap from one app to the subsequent is beginning to really feel outdated.

tivostream4kmyshows Jared Newman / IDG

In contrast to the Chromecast with Google TV, the TiVo Stream 4K nonetheless consists of Netflix originals in its information.

The extra firms making an attempt to crack the aggregation nut, the higher, and TiVo is already doing a reasonably good job. It is the one common information proper now that covers the total Netflix catalog, and its “Not too long ago Watched” row is nice at serving to you choose up the place you left off on exhibits. Against this, Google’s information stopped together with Netflix originals in December, and its “Proceed Watching” row has patchy assist amongst streaming providers. The “TV” information app on Apple TV gadgets, in the meantime, has by no means listed any Netflix content material.

After all, the TiVo Stream 4K nonetheless has room for enchancment. Its stay TV grid information could possibly be extra customizable, and its on-demand menu is lacking a couple of providers that Google TV presents (Apple TV+ and Showtime amongst them). The hardware, in the meantime, could possibly be snappier, and its distant would actually profit from devoted quick ahead and rewind buttons.

However that is all of the extra motive for TiVo to maintain iterating as a substitute of strolling away.

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