TiVo ‘Roamio OTA’ Model Targets Cord-Cutters

‘Limited Edition,’ CableCARD-Free Model Sells For $49.99
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Taking aim at a relatively small group of so-called “cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers,” TiVo has introduced a “limited edition” Roamio OTA DVR model that can be connected to a digital over-the-air antenna, and does not contain a CableCARD slot.

TiVo said the new model, tailored for consumers who don’t take a pay-TV service but still want a DVR, is outfitted with 500 Gigabytes of storage (enough for 75 hours of HD video, expandable to 1 Terabyte), four tuners, an Ethernet connection, 802.11n WiFi, and a “universal” search function that spans OTA content and TiVo’s menu of over-the-top options, including Netflix and YouTube.

The Roamio OTA, whose introduction comes about two months after a U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Aereo’s platform violated broacasters’ copyrights, is also compatible with the TiVo Stream, a Slingbox-like device that can stream live and recorded TV to smartphones and tablets in or out of the user’s home, but won't be compatible with the TiVo Mini IP set-top.

TiVo said it will sell the new model for $49.99, plus $14.99 per month for the service (with a one-year commitment), in all major markets and in about half of all U.S. BestBuy stores in select markets starting in mid-September. By comparison, the entry-level, four-tuner TiVo Roamio, which does contain a CableCARD slot and is also compatible with an HD antenna, sells for $199.99 and is currently being touted online as TiVo’s “best seller.”

Although TiVo is selling the OTA model initially on a limited basis to see how it is received and to get a sense of how customers will go about receiving OTA TV signals, the company made a “sizable” production run on the model, an official said via email. But if everything goes smoothly, TiVo said it’s open and ready to expand the availability of the new OTA product.

TiVo estimates that about a third of its new retail customers buy a Roamio for use with an antenna. TiVo ended the first quarter of 2014 with 957,000 TiVo-owned subs alongside 3.58 million that came way of TiVo's partnerships with pay-TV service providers. TiVo is scheduled to release fiscal second quarter results on Tuesday, Aug. 26.

One of the market segments being targeted by TiVo’s new Roamio OTA model – cord cutters – is a relatively small, but growing group. Earlier this month, MoffettNathanson principal and senior media analyst Craig Moffett said cord-cutting had slowed to an annualized rate of about 400,000 homes, a figure that factors in new household formation as well as pay-TV subscriber trends.

Still, TiVo believes the new OTA-focused product can help the company expand its sales horizons while continuing to sell and supply CableCARD models.

“Many top TV shows in America are available with a simple HD antenna,” said TiVo CMO (and former Dish Network marketing exec) Ira Bahr, in a statement. “TiVo is devoted to making the best possible cable TV user experience available through our operator partners and in retail, but we recognize some viewers opt not to receive the benefits a subscription with a cable provider offers. TiVo Roamio OTA makes sure that they too can get a best in class DVR experience through an antenna, including our world renowned interface and industry defining recording capability at our most affordable price point ever.”

TiVo isn’t the only DVR-maker that’s pursuing consumers who don’t take a pay-TV service. Channel Master sells a line of subscription-free “DVR+” products that are designed to work with OTA antennas, including a new two-tuner model that sports a broadband connection, 1 TB of internal storage and runs $399. Last week, Channel Master introduced $10 indoor, 13-inch OTA HD antenna that works with its DVR+ line.