FCC Grants TiVo Waiver from Analog Tuner Mandate

DVR Maker Will Have to Inform Consumers of Limitations at Point of Purchase
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The FCC said Monday it will allow TiVo to sell more digital-only devices.

The commission granted the company a waiver, which was unopposed, of the FCC's analog tuner requirement.

TiVo had argued that having to include an analog tuner in its set-tops increased power consumption and price to little net consumer effect. The FCC agreed, saying that it would help TiVo provide consumers a more competitive retail alternative to cable-leased devices--the commission has for years been trying to increase retail competition to cable set-tops.

In addition, there is already a TV set analog tuner mandate still in place, which means any set a TiVo is connected to can display analog broadcast or cable channels, the FCC pointed out in granting the waiver.

The waiver is conditioned on TiVo clearly informing consumers of the limitations of the box--that it cannot receive analog broadcast or cable channels, or in some cases broadcast channels period.

The FCC back in 2011 granted TiVo a waiver of the all-channel tuner mandate for its Premiere Elite product line of digital-only tuners on the same grounds and with the same consumer info requirement. In February 2014, TiVo asked for the waiver for other DVRs as well. It pointed out that cable set-tops are not required to have analog tuners, that all full-power broadcasters only broadcast in analog, and that the broadcasters still broadcasting in analog--some low power and translator/booster stations--would have to discontinue those by Sept. 1, 2015 at any rate.

TiVo also argued the waiver would help further the FCC's policy of promoting device compatibility since its DVRs are compatible with digital cable service.

"We find good cause to grant TiVo's request for waiver subject to TiVo's continued commitment to consumer education about the capabilities and limitations of TiVo's devices," said the Media Bureau in granting the waiver. "Waiving the analog tuner requirements will have a de minimis effect on consumers because the television sets to which TiVo's products connect are required under Commission rules to have analog tuners that TiVo customers can use to receive any analog broadcast or cable channels that they wish to receive."

The FCC granted the waivers ahead of the anticipated launch of a new generation of TiVo hardware later this year. Multiple models with the code name "Roamio" have appeared in documents that TiVo filed earlier this year at the FCC. The Zatz Not Funny blog has been tracking these developments since June, and has identified models equipped with four tuners and six tuners, and up to 3 terabytes of storage.

-- Jeff Baumgartner contributed to this report