Tivo’s streaming apps will be limited to lower-quality video at launch

Tivo revealed that its forthcoming apps for Apple TV and Roku — which will give its users access to most of the same content as on their dedicated Tivo DVRs — will be limited in terms of video quality, at least initially, according to an interview with TechHive.

Ordinarily, when watching content on one of the company’s latest generation boxes, like the Bolt OTA, viewers can enjoy 4K at (24 or 60 fps), or 1080p at (24 or 60 fps). However, Tivo’s streaming apps will be limited to just 720p at 30 fps when they start rolling out in the second quarter of 2019. For viewers who want the full quality experience on a second TV at home, the Mini Vox add-on device, which costs $180, is the only option.

Ted Malone, Tivo’s vice president of consumer products and services, said that he wants the apps to run at 720/60fps — an important improvement for sports content — but that “it’s really a battle for resources and just getting it done.”

When the apps launch, users may be disappointed by more than just the limitation on stream quality. Features like native MPEG-2 broadcasts, 5.1 surround sound audio output, and SkipMode are not supported via the apps either, according to AppleInsider. Apparently, much of these limitations stem from the company’s choice of how to allocate hardware resources within the DVRs. Malone has said that these boxes are capable of higher performance for the streaming apps, but that doing so would come at the expense of supporting the company’s Mini Vox devices.

A lack of support for MPEG-2 isn’t that surprising, as most streaming apps run on hardware that can’t natively decode MPEG-2, however, 5.1 surround sound, ad skipping, and higher quality video settings should all be possible. We’ve seen support for these features from devices like Tablo, a direct competitor to TiVo’s Bolt OTA.

Malone also revealed the company is looking at possibly launching an over-the-air live TV service, that TechHive believes might follow SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun Premium TV, a SlingTV alternative.  “We don’t have any plans to announce right now, but … I would like to have something to announce in the area,” he said, though he was quick to point out that any such service would need to be tightly integrated into the company’s existing tuner-based experience.

Updated to clarify that TiVo has not said it will be competing directly with SlingTV. 

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