Will ‘Roamio’ Rekindle TiVo’s Mojo at Retail?

NEW LINEUP TO ADD OUT-OF-HOME STREAMING
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TiVo aims to spark growth in its declining retail base with last week’s launch of “Roamio,” a new lineup of souped-up, broadband-connected digital video recorders that will soon borrow a page from Slingbox’s playbook and enable out-of-home streaming.

Targeting both power TV users and a small pool of potential cord-cutters, TiVo unleashed three models: the entry-level Roamio ($199, four over-the- air digital Advanced Television Systems Committee tuners, and 500 Gigabytes of storage); the Roamio Plus ($399.99, six tuners, 1 Terabyte of storage, and on-board video transcoding); and Roamio Pro ($599.99, six tuners, transcoding and a 3 TB hard drive). The product refresh comes more than three years after TiVo debuted its Premiere platform.

STREAMING OPTIONS

Only the Roamio Plus and Roamio Pro will inherently support out-of-home streaming of live TV and recorded content when the feature is introduced this fall, James Denney, TiVo’s vice president of product management, said. The entry-level Roamio DVR will gain that ability when paired with the TiVo Stream, a video-transcoding that will also receive the new out-of-home software update. From the start, TiVo’s transcoders, powered by Zenverge chips, will enable in-home streaming and sideloading — a feature that lets users transfer recorded content to smartphones, tablets or PCs.

TiVo’s Roamio line will eventually be offered to MSO partners, but it is initially available at retail, where the company needs the most help. TiVo has about 1 million retail “owned” subscribers, a figure that has been eroding.

Will TiVo’s three-product strategy pay off ? Colin Dixon, chief analyst and founder of nScreenMedia, believes Roamio’s product diversity will generate some retail heat.

“Power users and cord-cutters are the two groups that will be most predisposed to look at these new boxes,” he said. “I do think this could do a good job of reigniting a little bit of growth in [TiVo’s] individual subscriber base. But I don’t think it will turn TiVo into a 20 million subscriber powerhouse, at least not in the short term.”

Although the entry-level Roamio might appeal the most to cord-cutters, it’s not a “pure play” cord-cutting device. It does support over-the-air TV, but it, like the other Roamio models, does contain a CableCard slot, making it compatible with traditional digital cable subscription TV services.

TiVo has not announced when it will offer versions of Roamio that can be leased by MSO partners. Cable operators will have access to all of Roamio’s new bells and whistles, including the out-of-home streaming component, but only if they want it and provided that their carriage deals allow it.

RCN IN TESTS

Denney stressed that the more-powerful Series 5 architecture TiVo has packed into the Roamio line is close to a mirror image to the one in use by Pace, which has ported the TiVo platform to the set-top maker’s XG1 gateway. Alaska’s GCI is the first North American cable operator to introduce the Pace/TiVo combo.

TiVo partner RCN is testing both the TiVo/Pace combo and next-generation TiVo Roamio devices in the lab, vice president of engineering Jason Nealis told Multichannel News via email.

The new class of device will present a more expensive starting point, Nealis said. Packaging and pricing are among the items RCN is weighing as it evaluates its next move, he added.

TAKEAWAY

TiVo looks to reverse its flagging retail fortunes with “Roamio,” a device lineup that enables out-of-home streaming of live and recorded content.

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