TiVo Launches $50 Streaming Video Player to Take On Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV

Discussion in 'TiVo Stream 4K' started by mbernste, Jan 7, 2020.

  1. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, IIRC, that second software update that was originally slated to roll out by the end of June was supposed to address always-on HDR as well as various lingering bugs. Maybe it ends up hitting by end of July instead.

    My guess is that the HDR thing is the new feature "close to this community's hearts". The settings will gain a new option similar to Apple TV 4K's "Dynamic Range Matching" feature that, when turned on, sets the dynamic range and color space to match the native values of the streamed content.

    Your guess is a good one too. The live TV guide in the Fire TV UI now supports several different OTT vMVPDs, so perhaps one or more of them have also agreed to integrate with the grid guide in the TiVo Stream app. Or maybe the app will integrate some additional SVOD sources, like Showtime, Starz, Epix and/or Peacock.

    Anyway, I was just passing along Zatz's latest posting on the matter. Who knows, he could be wrong. But given that the company *just* refreshed the TiVo Mini product line and upped it to $200, it seems unlikely to me that we'll see them turn around and undercut it with a free software update to a $50 product.
     
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  2. cwoody222

    cwoody222 Well-Known Member

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    Even if the Stream 4K gets the ability to access DVR content it won’t nearly replicate the experience the mini offers - in features (full control over One Passes) or picture/audio quality.
     
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  3. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    You're right, it wouldn't be a perfect substitute for the Mini. But for a lot of folks, it would be "good enough" and that would eat into Mini sales.

    It's interesting to read consumer reaction to the TS4K on this forum versus other sites. Reviews tend to be significantly more positive elsewhere, such as on reddit, on Amazon.com (where the device is now sold), as well as professional reviews. On reddit's cordcutter forum, folks are asking every day now what they should buy to replace their Roku or Fire TV to gain access to HBO Max and/or Peacock and the TS4K for $50 is the most popular response.
     
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  4. rczrider

    rczrider Active Member

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    This blows my mind. I have zero interest in TiVo as a company; I own none of their previous products or services. I don't care whether it integrates with other TiVo offerings. To me, this is a cheap Android TV dongle with all the right specs (on paper).

    And with that in mind...it sucks. TiVo butchered the firmware; some of that seems by design ("Who wouldn't want HDR on all the time?") and some seems be accident (random freezes requiring a power pull). Heck, it seems that the only people who have positive responses to the cluttered remote are those who have other TiVo products. I actively hate Roku and don't particularly care for the Fire Stick 4K, but I'd take either over the TS4K.
     
  5. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Sounds to me like the worst of the initial bugs got squashed in a firmware update a few weeks back. Some folks don't care about always-on HDR (and many don't even have HDR-capable TVs). I see several folks commenting on how snappy the TS4K is, saying it runs faster than their Roku Ultra, etc.

    Again, if you get out beyond this site and read users' opinions, they're a lot more favorable. That said, I personally haven't bought one. If I get an Android TV device in the foreseeable future, it will probably be the one Google themselves will launch in the coming weeks/months.
     
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  6. aaronwt

    aaronwt UHD Addict

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    There is a new TiVo Mini? Did they make any improvements?
     
  7. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    As I understand it, they just swapped out the voice remote for the newer backlit voice remote and changed the product name from TiVo Mini Vox to TiVo Mini Lux. And upped the price from $180 to $200.
     
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  8. trip1eX

    trip1eX imo, afaik, feels like to me, *exceptions, ~aprox

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    It is interesting how opinions/differ from site to site.

    but Reddit skews much younger than this site as a rule of thumb. To me going to Reddit is like asking my 19 yr old what he thinks. (There's positive and negatives to that btw.)

    Also Tivo STream 4k has only 15 reviews on Amazon and only half are 5 stars. And 11 of the 15 reviews are Vine customer reviews of free product.

    Last the question of what device should I get in order to gain accces to HBO Max and Peacock doesn't speak much for the device except that you can get those 2 apps on it. At this moment in time, the TS4 is the only $50 and under device with a remote that can get HBO Max and Peacock so it's the only answer in town if those are your criteria for a streaming box.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2020
  9. BillyClyde

    BillyClyde Active Member

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    Pretty lame if that’s all it is!

    That wouldn’t be too bad, but I can already get those apps elsewhere on the device, so not anything earth shattering for sure.

    The best thing to happen to the Stream 4K is the Channels DVR integration with the remote to turn Channels into your pseudo “TiVo DVR” on the Stream 4K, better than they did for themselves!

    But didn’t they do something similar when they decided to no longer charge a monthly fee for the Minis? How did that go?
     
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  10. rczrider

    rczrider Active Member

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    For good or bad, though, that's who TiVo should be paying attention to.

    TiVo as a company with consumer recognition is dying. As I mentioned before, I have none of their products primarily because I was too young (high school and college, with less disposable income) when they were a big name. I was surprised to learn that TiVo was still around. It wasn't until I learned about their bread and butter being what they sell or license to other companies that it made sense.

    If the younger crowd thinks the TS4K isn't that great, then they're "right" because TiVo needs their buy-in to continue developing their money making software and algorithms. You can only keep selling your customers the newest version of whatever it is they make so many times. They need to grow their customer base if they want to keep harvesting data from them (which, let's be honest, is all the TS4K exists for).

    I forgot that it became available on Amazon. I refuse to risk buying directly from TiVo again, but if they push an update that actually does something of real value, I'll buy from Amazon so I can return it if it still sucks.

    I had pretty much decided I wouldn't bother, but with the Mi TV Stick 4K apparently not yet a thing - and no one knowing when Google's Sabrina will show up (and its expected $80 price tag) - the TS4K is unfortunately the only game in town. How or why TiVo isn't leveraging that, I don't know.
     
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  11. Pokemon_Dad

    Pokemon_Dad Ruler of Unown UI

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    Well, there's still the AirTV Mini for what it's worth (and that worth has been $80 since long before the TS4K, though it's from the same OEM and is basically the same hardware platform). They also offer the AirTV 2 to integrate OTA into Sling and/or other Android apps. Overall reviews have not been stellar, but I've seen at least one happy user post about it here on TCF.
     
  12. rczrider

    rczrider Active Member

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    I think the AirTV Mini is overpriced for what it is, which is why I was waiting for (what I thought would be) multiple releases of this platform (TS4K, Mi Stick 4K, Sabrina/Ultra 2/whatever). It's the reason I've stuck with my Mi Box (original, not S) and Fire Stick 4K for so long.

    If I'm going to pay $80, it'll be for the Google product, as it will almost certainly be the most stable and feature-rich, and have the greatest chance of long-term support. The TS4K is compelling for the sole reason that it's $50, but you trade functionality and stability for that $30. The trade-off is unnecessary; I really can't fathom what TiVo was thinking taking away functionality and imposing unnecessary limitations on the device that have almost certainly led to its lack of stability.

    I realize that makes it sound like it's a flaming pile of garbage. It's not. It's just not very good, either. It's what I'd expect from a generic Chinese unit under some temporary, fly-by-night brand.
     
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  13. Pokemon_Dad

    Pokemon_Dad Ruler of Unown UI

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    Agreed, not very good, and also not very innovative. This is not your father's TiVo, so-to-speak. Entirely different ownership and management twice removed. That makes me sad, as I always loved the brand.
     
  14. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    What functionality that's typical of an Android TV device with these hardware specs did TiVo take away? Seems to me that they only added stuff with the TiVo Stream app and a remote control with additional buttons that cater to traditional linear TV. Granted, there are stability issues/bugs, some of which TiVo has addressed and some which they say they're still working on.

    I agree, though, that for this level of hardware running Android TV, I'd rather pay a little more and get it directly from Google, for the reasons you mentioned. And also because Google's own "Sabrina" dongle appears to run a whole new, and probably better, UI design. Remains to be seen whether or how soon that new UI might come to other Android TV devices.

    The specs that leaked for Sabrina shows that it has nearly the exact same hardware as the TS4K. While TiVo's dongle has the Amlogic S905Y2 system-on-a-chip, Sabrina has the Amlogic S905X2. The only real difference is that the latter supports ethernet while the former does not.

    The hardware in the TS4K is the same thing that Google put in their ADT-3 dongle, released back in Jan. for Android TV developers. And the hardware in Sabrina is the exact same thing in the Verizon Stream TV box. All of these devices have the same CPU and GPU and the same 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. Verizon sells their Stream TV box for $70, and will never sell it in the numbers that Google will sell the Sabrina, so Google should be able to easily hit the same $70 retail price point if they want. If they really want to be a major player in the living room, they should trim their margins and sell it for $60, with holiday sale prices of $50 or less.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2020
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  15. jaselzer

    jaselzer Active Member

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    I was curious about Verizon Stream because I have Fios cable tv. I became less than curious when I realized that the Verizon Stream has no integration with Fios cable tv. It is literally a rebranded Android box. Or am I missing something?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  16. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Pretty sure the Verizon Stream TV is simply a retail Android TV box with whatever apps that Verizon has chosen to pre-install. The home screen is pretty much the standard Google-designed UI.

    No, it cannot work with FiOS TV, which is QAM-based (and therefore works with CableCARD TiVos). Verizon extensively beta tested a next-gen managed IPTV service (based on the OnCue tech they acquired from Intel) a few years ago. It was going to be the update/successor to FiOS TV but in the end they abandoned the whole thing. I think they realized that everything was going OTT and traditional cable TV service was dying anyhow.

    So instead of having a next-gen cable TV service of their own to sell their new fixed wireless 5G Home customers, they just offer to sell them YouTube TV, with a one-month free trial. When 5G Home launched, they offered new customers a choice between a free Apple TV 4K and Chromecast Ultra. But then they came out with the Verizon Stream TV and give those away instead. If anyone wants an extra one, it costs $70.

    I think broadband operators like the idea of having a 4K streaming device that they can offer their broadband-only subs. Perhaps Verizon gets a kickback from Google when someone subscribes to a streaming service via Google Play on the Verizon Stream TV box. Comcast has their own Flex box, which of course runs their own X1 OS. In terms of cable TV boxes, as well as streaming boxes offered by broadband operators, it seems like everything is moving to either X1 or Android TV. Charter is rumored to be looking at basing their next-gen cable TV and streaming boxes on Android TV.
     
  17. rczrider

    rczrider Active Member

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    There are quite a few A/V options that come with stock Android (which are present on Mi Box, for example) that they removed some reason that is undoubtedly stupid. The short of it is that they took something functional and broke it. I'm guessing it's sheer incompetence, but it also wouldn't surprise me to find out that they're doing a lot of data collection under the covers, and that the modifications to Android TV for this purpose is a large part of what's causing issues. Given the (relatively) high amount of data that's being sent from these dongles (way more than with my Mi Box or Fire Stick 4K), it's plausible.

    They still haven't fixed the black flashing from Plex and Kodi. Again, probably related to some A/V settings they messed with.

    As for the remote, it seems that the only people who find it to be a positive addition are those who use previous TiVo products. The reason other streaming devices have simplified remotes is because the extra buttons are pointless. And TiVo forgot useful buttons like FF and RW.

    No one has suggested otherwise. All of these dongles are running the same SoC and so there's no hardware advantage. It's all software; again, TiVo borked the software for some reason and I have more faith that other companies have not. I certainly expect Google's to operate smoothly and with features that are actually useful (unlike the Stream app).

    The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced the TS4K exists for the sole purpose of data collection, so they can develop and refine the software / algorithms that are the company's only money maker. I think I'd rather pay $20-30 more for a functional device that isn't collecting as much (because of course the Google product will be data mining)...or at least is collecting it competently.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2020
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  18. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    I doubt the bugs have anything to do with whatever data that the TiVo Stream app collects. I'd chalk it up to this being TiVo's first product like this and they didn't get the firmware right in the rush to get this out the door. Can't see how removing whatever A/V settings you're talking about would be related to data collection. Sounds a bit paranoid.

    Or people who want a remote that works with linear channel services too, such as Sling, TiVo+ and the Channels app (which now offers an option to customize the remote so that it works natively with their app). I would agree, though, that the 0-9 buttons are generally a waste unless they begin using channel numbers in the TiVo Stream's grid guide (although the Channels app does make use of them). As for FF and RW buttons, those aren't typical on Android TV remotes. You just use the left and right directional buttons.

    To the extent that there's any real plan for how the TS4K will meaningfully contribute to the bottom line, I think it lies in a combination of thin margins on the hardware, ad revenue from TiVo+ content, user data collection, and maybe some cut from Google for subscriptions/purchases made on the device. But in the near term, I'd say the TS4K is more about corporate window dressing, to show that TiVo's product division is finally doing *something* about streaming.
     
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  19. rczrider

    rczrider Active Member

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    I didn't say there was a direct relationship between the removal of specific A/V settings and data collection. I never suggested the Stream app was the only thing collecting data, either.

    In fact, I pointed out (as others have) that the TS4K is responsible for a comparatively large upload of data and suggested that changes to the firmware for the purpose of collecting data system-wide could contribute to the device's instability.

    The fact is that TiVo doesn't make money on hardware. They don't require you to use the Stream app (and given its shortcomings, doing so would make the device a complete failure). At $50, they are probably close to breaking even or operating on extremely thin margins.

    So what's the purpose of the device? Given that there is no subscription revenue associated with the TS4K and TiVo as a company survives on software and licensing, it stands to reason that the device's purpose is to collect data for improvement of their software. I'm not quite sure what argument there is against this logic. And so if we accept it as a likely truth and couple that with the abnormally large data uploads and bugs that are the direct result of TiVo messing with things that make no sense for them to mess with (really, tell me what possible value there is them removing A/V options), it is neither an unreasonable nor "paranoid" conclusion that TiVo modified perfectly functional firmware for the purpose of increasing their data collection.

    I'm not here to spout conspiracy theories. It's nothing more nefarious than a company doing what companies do: take a loss or break even on a device or service in trade for information than they can sell. I'm not even suggesting they're collection personally identifiable information. What I'm suggesting is that their attempt to modify functional firmware to fit their business model has produced a buggy and lackluster device.
     
  20. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like you're suggesting that TiVo has done something with the device firmware, in order to collect system-wide data, that would probably constitute a violation of their Android TV licensing agreement with Google.

    The fact is that neither you nor I know the numbers involved. Based on what I know about the hardware, and based on typical sale prices of similarly spec'ed (but much more popular) Fire TV and Roku devices, yes, TiVo is probably not making much on the hardware priced at $50 after accounting for marketing and distribution costs (although, so far, the TS4K is only available directly from TiVo or, more recently, from Amazon, so that reduces those costs).

    But then TiVo's original plan was to up the price to $70. We'll see if they're able to do that. If they do, and they're only breaking even at $50, then at $70, they're making $20, which is a decent margin.

    The reality, though, is that the price TiVo can charge for the TS4K will be constrained by how Google prices their own upcoming dongle (as well as how Xiaomi prices their Mi TV Stick 4K, if they release it here in the US). Frankly, I think the TS4K will just get overshadowed by the Google device when it rolls out. But if the TS4K costs a few bucks less, maybe it can still sell OK. The increased consumer (and developer) attention toward Android TV in the wake of Google's device launch might even help it.

    And no, no one is forced to use the TiVo Stream app. Google's OEM licensing agreement for Android TV precludes TiVo from forcing usage of the app. But TiVo's marketing for the device completely centers on the app. That app and the TiVo remote are what differentiate the device from other Android TV devices. So they certainly expect and hope that buyers will use the app, both in order to gain user data and also to serve up data-enabled targeted ads in the TiVo+ content. (Frankly, I think TiVo+ is kinda pathetic but they're hoping to make something of it.)

    Actually, it's not clear to me that Android TV OEMs, such as Google, do not receive any subscription revenue. As I mentioned before, it's quite possible that Google gives their OEM partners a cut of the revenue from Google-billed subscriptions that originate on the OEM's device. So if you sign up for HBO Max on a TS4K and pay Google $15/mo, Google gets to keep maybe 20% or so of that. Out of that, I would bet that TiVo gets some amount, for at least a limited amount of time.

    I'm curious, what are these specific A/V options that the TS4K lacks but that are present on other Android TV devices?

    From what I've read, Android TV OEMs must themselves code the firmware that binds whatever hardware they pick out to Google's Android TV OS. I don't think TiVo got ready-made working firmware for the TS4K from Amlogic (the SoC manufacturer), SEI Robotics (the device manufacturer) or Google, and then altered it in a way to suck up more user data and, oops, those alterations resulted in some A/V options disappearing. I suspect that TiVo just didn't do a great job in creating their own firmware, hence the initial bugs and instability (and perhaps the reason that it's missing some A/V options).
     

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