The Movie Database Support

If you own a TiVo DVR or have been following the DVR market lately (cord cutting, cloud DVRs, streaming devices, etc.), you probably know at least two relevant things: TiVo (Rovi) owns TMDb, and TiVo is looking for buyers for both of the businesses (DVRs and IP/patents/licensing), which it has recently been splitting up into.

As a longtime TiVo DVR customer who also watches the business, I think that TiVo may have waited too long to wake up to the trend away from traditional cable TV and toward streaming and the cloud. They have been shopping for buyers for their businesses, without much success, and their stock price has been falling steadily over the long term.

I think they are getting desperate, because they just announced that the next "New User Experience" software update, as they call it in Orwellian-type Newspeak, will include advertising pushed on viewers before the playing of each DVR recording. If users want to avoid these ads (one of the main reasons they bought a TiVo Bolt, for example, in the first place), they will now have to FF through the ads each time they want to watch a recording. In their desperation, I think TiVo's owners are just digging themselves into a deeper hole, competitively.

I called TiVo tech support today and asked them about this upcoming change. They told me that neither my current TiVo Bolt nor my older TiVo Premiere will have this feature installed by default. I would have to navigate to a particular place in the apps section of the DVR and manually upgrade to the "New User Experience." I hope they are right, and that this change will affect only newer TiVo DVR boxes by default. Good luck to their sales department!

I have already decided that when my TiVos finally bite the dust, I will not buy any more of their products. I'll probably get a Tablo Quad or something similar. But I wonder what their plans are--or the plans of the prospective buyer(s) of their companies--for TMDb. Any thoughts, anyone?

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@Moon_Doggie said:

If you own a TiVo DVR or have been following the DVR market lately (cord cutting, cloud DVRs, streaming devices, etc.), you probably know at least two relevant things: TiVo (Rovi) owns TMDb, and TiVo is looking for buyers for both of the businesses (DVRs and IP/patents/licensing), which it has recently been splitting up into.

Yes, I think they finally understood that no one wanted to buy the entire thing, so they have decided to split into two businesses and see if maybe then can find a buyer for each instead of one for all of it. A lot easier, probably.

As a longtime TiVo DVR customer who also watches the business, I think that TiVo may have waited too long to wake up to the trend away from traditional cable TV and toward streaming and the cloud. They have been shopping for buyers for their businesses, without much success, and their stock price has been falling steadily over the long term.

Agreed. They have waited too long and become too dependent on cable, which is declining due to accelerated cord cutting. Cable is no longer an effective monopoly, and folks are finally getting revenge on the cable companies and their outrageous pricing. And TiVo is tired, I think, of having to fight a zillion lawsuits w/cable companies, etc., just to protect their patents, that are also becoming less valuable as time goes by and newer technology takes over.

I think they are getting desperate, because they just announced that the next "New User Experience" software update, as they call it in Orwellian-type Newspeak, will include advertising pushed on viewers before the playing of each DVR recording. If users want to avoid these ads (one of the main reasons they bought a TiVo Bolt, for example, in the first place), they will now have to FF through the ads each time they want to watch a recording. In their desperation, I think TiVo's owners are just digging themselves into a deeper hole, competitively.

Well, that sucks big time. I also am a TiVo customer, but not much longer, I guess. I think they probably are migrating to an ad-supported deal because customers were complaining about the huge cost associated w/their DVRs and/or ongoing fees.

I called TiVo tech support today and asked them about this upcoming change. They told me that neither my current TiVo Bolt nor my older TiVo Premiere will have this feature installed by default. I would have to navigate to a particular place in the apps section of the DVR and manually upgrade to the "New User Experience." I hope they are right, and that this change will affect only newer TiVo DVR boxes by default. Good luck to their sales department!

Thanks for the heads-up. I'll be careful not to upgrade into that "Screw User Experience."

I have already decided that when my TiVos finally bite the dust, I will not buy any more of their products. I'll probably get a Tablo Quad or something similar.

I, too, have started to shop around for the time when my TiVo boxes fizzle out. I'm glad there are plenty of options. It will be interesting to see if TiVo comes up w/something that people will actually want to buy, or whether its time has passed.

I already have Amazon Prime Video as part of my Prime membership, and I have a couple of Roku streaming devices and a Hulu + Live TV subscription, so I can get lots of quality programming, sports, etc., at a fraction of the cost of cable. (I've tested out most of the live TV apps such as Sling TV, Fubo, etc.; but each has some serious problems/limitations that aren't apparent until one tries them out for a while, and Hulu + Live TV seems like a pretty good alternative to cable. It even gives me the Turner Classic Movie channel, which is my favorite.)

But I wonder what their plans are--or the plans of the prospective buyer(s) of their companies--for TMDb. Any thoughts, anyone?

Yeah, I wonder whether a sale to someone would have any impact on TMDb. There's an old saying in marketing: When the elephants fight, it's the ants that get hurt. I wonder if we'll be the ants. And I certainly hope this place stays non-profit and doesn't get ruined by greedy corporate interests.

Here's more information that may be of interest to TiVo customers.

Moon Doggie, the bad news for you is that your tech support contact may have given you bad information, depending on what software version you have in your Bolt. Chances are that you already upgraded to Experience 4 version a while ago and just forgot about it. That's what I did, unfortunately, w/my Bolt DVR. And pre-roll ads on playback will eventually be implemented in Bolts running version 4 software.

There may also be some good news, however. It looks like long-time customers, particularly those w/all-in/lifetime service plans (no more monthly fees being paid), may be able to call tech support and request that they not have pre-roll ads on their boxes, ever. The only other workaround to avoid the ads (other than laboriously FFing thru them) is to roll back from version 4 to version 3 software. Tech support can tell you how to do that, but the cited article also does. The problem w/this is that you will lose all your saved recordings, and some new features may not be available to you. But for me, that's what I would do unless I get exempted as a long-time, lifetime service customer.

I guess we'll just have to wait to see what happens. I've been investigating alternatives such Tablo, HDHomerun, Plex, etc., but they all seem to have their added costs and/or technical limitations.

Wow, thanks PT 100 for the additional info and the article link. A lot of that seems to be coming from the horse's mouth at TiVo corporate, so that's encouraging.

I'm selfishly wondering what will happen to UK customers of Virgin Media. Their boxes are licensed from Tivo.

It is my understanding that TiVo will continue to support their existing customers' boxes, and is even releasing a new one (Edge). But their long-term view may not include new generations of boxes after some point. I'm not familiar w/Virgin Media, but it sounds like a cable TV company? TiVo still gets decent revenue from licensing their software to cable box companies, so I wouldn't worry. It's just that for their own consumer customers they plan long-term, I think, to move to streaming/the cloud.

In the U.S. it is projected that next year 60 million more people will quit cable TV and switch to streaming. That's a huge number, so cable TV companies should worry. Some, like Comcast, have released streaming apps w/a stripped down channel lineup and cloud DVR at a budget price (about $20 U.S. for a bunch of local channels and a few national networks). But some smaller cable companies are actually quitting the business and helping their customers transition to streaming services from competitors. Depending on how large they are, Virgin Media may eventually have to do the same thing. But the good news is that the new technology out there will make the transition relatively easy and painless.

The handwriting is on the wall for cable TV. It's only a matter of time now. Physical DVRs destroyed the VCR market, just as DVDs destroyed the CD market; and now streaming services and the cloud DVR are replacing physical DVRs and expensive cable TV packages. Change happens faster as new technology innovations accelerate. But, in the long run, it's better for consumers.

@pt100 said:

It is my understanding that TiVo will continue to support their existing customers' boxes, and is even releasing a new one (Edge). But their long-term view may not include new generations of boxes after some point. I'm not familiar w/Virgin Media, but it sounds like a cable TV company? TiVo still gets decent revenue from licensing their software to cable box companies, so I wouldn't worry. It's just that for their own consumer customers they plan long-term, I think, to move to streaming/the cloud.

In the U.S. it is projected that next year 60 million more people will quit cable TV and switch to streaming. That's a huge number, so cable TV companies should worry. Some, like Comcast, have released streaming apps w/a stripped down channel lineup and cloud DVR at a budget price (about $20 U.S. for a bunch of local channels and a few national networks). But some smaller cable companies are actually quitting the business and helping their customers transition to streaming services from competitors. Depending on how large they are, Virgin Media may eventually have to do the same thing. But the good news is that the new technology out there will make the transition relatively easy and painless.

The handwriting is on the wall for cable TV. It's only a matter of time now. Physical DVRs destroyed the VCR market, just as DVDs destroyed the CD market; and now streaming services and the cloud DVR are replacing physical DVRs and expensive cable TV packages. Change happens faster as new technology innovations accelerate. But, in the long run, it's better for consumers.

Good to know about the software.

I remain sceptical that streaming will be better for consumers in the long run. I've not done the sums, but I'm betting that subscribing to all the services will work out more than a top tier cable package. Plus the endgame would appear to be that we never own a copy of the media - we'll need to continue to subscribe if we want to see our favourites (assuming that they are still available).

@M. LeMarchand said:

I remain sceptical that streaming will be better for consumers in the long run. I've not done the sums, but I'm betting that subscribing to all the services will work out more than a top tier cable package. Plus the endgame would appear to be that we never own a copy of the media - we'll need to continue to subscribe if we want to see our favourites (assuming that they are still available).

Well, I follow the trends/data really closely (e.g., I subscribe to the daily edition of Cord Cutter News via email), which seems to indicate that most cord cutters try out several services before settling on just one or a few that don't add up to the cost of cable, which keeps going up as more people cut cable (they have to make up for lost customers by raising prices--sort of a death spiral).

I've tried all the major players, and even Comcast's $20/month Xfinity Stream app on Roku, but have finally settled on just Hulu + Live TV for about $45-50/month, including an unusually large 200-hour cloud DVR. I also have antennas hooked up to my TiVo boxes, so I get a lot of local channels and some national ones (e.g., the four major network affiliates plus CW network, ME TV, My TV, Antenna TV, Justice Channel, Court TV, Laff network, Ion, Quest channel, Heroes and Icons channel, SWX, four PBS channels, etc., all for free and recordable on TiVo). And if I ever fall into a budget crunch, I can always drop Hulu for a while and just get plenty of free OTA stuff via HD antennas.

As for owning the media, I still have my trusty Toshiba DVD recorder w/built-in hard drive from 2002. (It's incredibly reliable, even after 17 years, but if it ever breaks down I can send it out to get it fixed.) I have recorded hundreds of movies and TV series from cable over the years and now have a huge DVD library from doing that. (In the U.S., the Fair Use Law allows me to keep one personal copy of anything for which I'm paying for access.) I buy the blank DVDs and paper jackets in bulk online, so it costs me maybe 25 cents U.S. per DVD to keep stuff in my library.

Now that I cut cable, I can still pipe playback from my Roku Ultra box, from the Hulu DVR or any other app, through to my Toshiba's hard drive, then edit as I wish before burning to DVD to add to my collection. It's legal since I'm paying for access to the content and am keeping just one copy for myself. If you're in a different country, though, this might not be legal.

I just spoke w/TiVo tech support again, because my nearly-three-year-old Bolt DVR has been acting up in several ways. A supervisor spoke w/me (some of their ordinary tech support people are clueless/useless), and stepped me through several diagnostic tests. She eventually said that it sounded like the unit was getting old.

They are trying to be really nice to long-time customers, apparently, because she said they would send me a completely refurbished, like-new Bolt to replace this aging one. They are out of stock on my current model (500 GB hard drive), so they'll send me a larger 1 TB unit. There will be no charges whatsoever, not even for FedEx shipping, and they will have me ship my old unit back to them via FedEx at no cost to me.

Since I will need to hook up both boxes at the same time to transfer all my recordings and season passes from the old box to the replacement, they are also giving me a free second AC adapter (normally they just give a replacement box w/no accessories at all, figuring I'll just use the accessories from my current unit). I must say, it's a pretty sweet deal. I also get to transfer the lifetime service contract to the new box, so no monthly fees ever. And if I want to get a three-year extended warranty (which surely paid for itself this time) for the replacement box, it will cost me only about $40 U.S. Again, extremely nice.

Re: the pre-roll ads issue on recordings that we were discussing before, they said that when it is first implemented, as soon as I encounter the first pre-roll ad when playing back a recording, I should immediately call tech support and they will remove the ad feature from my box within 72 hours. So no ads from then on.

Kudos to TiVo for their customer service. I think they know they're on sort of thin ice now, so it's nice to see them behaving honorably to loyal customers. Who knows? I might consider sticking w/them when my current boxes fizzle out if they come out w/a product I like at a reasonable price. My hunch is that would be some sort of streaming thing w/cloud DVR, but I'll have to wait a while to see what they finally do.

For anyone interested in the changing TV and movie content delivery landscape, I recommend you get the free Cord Cutters News daily newsletter. For example, here's an article relevant to what we've been discussing here.

Well, TiVo just launched its new EDGE DVR and also its TiVo+ streaming service. Personally, I think EDGE is too expensive, and the streaming service has the channels probably few people want.

With EDGE, they now force customers to choose between a cable TV model and an antenna model (no two-in-one model). The TiVo EDGE for antenna costs $349.99 and requires a service plan of $6.99 monthly, $69.99 annually or a one-time All-In Plan (lifetime subscription) for $249.99. TiVo EDGE for cable TV is available for $399.99 and requires a service plan of $14.99 monthly, $149.99 annually or a onetime All-In Plan for $549.99.

In contrast, my current boxes, Bolt and Premiere, can be used w/either an antenna or a cable card. IMHO they've taken a giant step backward. It sounds like the death spiral continues.

I really hope the mess the're in doesn't affect the future of this website.

Here is the latest on TiVo's plans. I hope they can stay afloat, or else sell out to someone who will continue to keep TMDb as a nonprofit venture.

Here is the latest update on those annoying pre-roll ads TiVo will push onto customers by the end of the calendar year. It sounds like those customers who have a long tenure and lifetime/all-in service plans can call customer support at (877) 367-8486 (in the U.S.) to get the pre-roll feature removed from their devices, and it may take up to 72 hours for the change to occur. For others, the options are limited and not customer friendly.

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