TiVo is to sell a DVR designed for over-the-air content. It’s a service aimed at cord-cutters, but the monthly service charge could deter potential customers.
The new model, the Roamio OTA, will cost $49.99 and is available exclusively from best buy. TiVo says it’s a limited edition, but that seems a meaningless phrase in this context.
The device can connect to any HD antenna and record whatever content is available in your area, with up to four simultaneous recordings. It shares several features with the cable & satellite-based models: an Internet connection with apps such as Netflix and YouTube; the ability to schedule recordings remotely through a mobile app; and compatibility with an optional $129 device that streams recordings from the box to mobile devices. It appears the box will have the same search, wishlist and season pass features available in other models.
The big catch with the new model is that there’ll still be a monthly fee to cover the detailed programming listing data that allows TiVo to be more than a glorified DVR. That fee is $14.99, which may feel too expensive for many when seen in isolation rather than built into a monthly cable or satellite bill, particularly when the service is aimed at people trying to cut down on TV-related spending.
The promotional push for the new box pushes it being “simple, brilliant and legal.” That’s a clear reference to Aereo, an online TV service that was recently declared illegal by the Supreme Court. The difference is that while Aereo involved customers “renting” an antenna for remote access, Roamia OTA customers will use their own antenna. That gives recordings the same fair use exemption that applied back in the days of VCRs.
The service is clearly aimed at people who are considering ditching pay-TV services. The theory is that keeping the convenience of a DVR for over-the-air channels, particularly for shows not readily available online, may persuade some people to make the move.
It’s actually a return to roots of sorts for TiVo. The original models launched back in 1999 included a tuner for over-the-air antennas and could record content both from that tuner and from external cable or satellite receivers. Those TiVo models used a somewhat Macguyver-esque gadget of an infra-red emitter on the end of a long cable, designed to hang over the front of the external box and replicate remote control commands to change channel, often with mixed results.
While that set-up remained common in international markets for several years, TiVo was soon able to strike deals in the US to have its technology built directly into cable and satellite receivers.