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Cable Technology Feature Article

August 25, 2014

TiVo Steps in Where Aereo Left Off with New DVR

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

The loss of Aereo was pretty hard-felt for many, particularly for those who lived in areas where it wasn't always easy to get a television signal due to certain geographic constraints. But now, TiVo (News - Alert) is looking to step in where Aereo left off thanks to the recent introduction of its new Roamio OTA, an over-the-air (OTA) mechanism that allows users to take over-the-air television with a mobile device of choice.

The Roamio OTA is said to be largely the same as the Roamio itself, packing in the ability to record up to four shows at the same time, and store a total of 75 hours of HD content all on one place. Extra apps like the major streaming services provide added value from there. But where the Roamio OTA differs is that it doesn't contain the CableCard that's necessary to hook such a system to a cable device, and the price likewise saw a tremendous drop from $200 down to a mere $50, though there's also reportedly a $15 a month fee that goes along with that. Of course, without the CableCard, that means that only content that's available with an antenna can be had here, but for some places that can mean as many as 90 channels' worth of local news, old movies and television, and similar matter on hand.

This new development represents not only new ground for TiVo, but also new ground for much of the industry itself. Currently, the antenna-only TiVo is competing with a couple of startups like Tablo and SimpleTV, and will reportedly only be available at 430 Best Buy (News - Alert) locations in September. However, in October, the field opens up substantially as the device makes its way to Bestbuy.com, which should allow just about anyone to get in. Given that 30 percent of TiVo customers currently, at last report, use the service just with an antenna that should really make for quite a market for TiVo to tap, along with its competitors.

The problem here, of course, is that this is going to need a set of rather defined characteristics in order to be a success. It will need a supply of cable cutters, or those who have given up cable television in favor of online and free OTA sources, but it will also need within that set a set of cable cutters who don't mind paying a monthly fee for the ability to record television. If this sounds like a contradiction in terms, it probably should. Though there will likely be some cable cutters in the mix who are unruffled by the idea of paying to record television that could have been watched for free or at a minimal charge—there's something to be said for the ability to time-shift content as it airs—but that particular subset is likely to be fairly small. Many cable cutters do so to take a monthly bill out of the system, though there are plenty of cable cutters who do replace that one monthly bill with a completely different monthly bill in the form of Netflix, Hulu (News - Alert), or something similar. Possibly, here, one more monthly bill—that's much less than the one left behind—wouldn't be much of a problem.

Only time will tell just how well the TiVo Roamio OTA does, in light of its various competitors. But still, it's an interesting enough idea, and that idea may have sufficient power behind it to make it worthwhile long-term.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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