TiVo’s New Cable-Free Over-The-Air DVR Tries To Fill Streaming Vacancy Left By Aereo Demise

Aereo might have been shut down by the Supreme Court, but the reason they were open in the first place is because consumers want a way to record and stream broadcast TV without subscribing to cable. There are some homebrew workarounds, but none of them are seamless. Now TiVo, one of the first companies to make the whole home-DVR idea actually work, is trying to fill the vacancy.

TiVo’s entering the broadcast-recording fray with their new TiVo Roamio OTA, which basically works like a standard TiVo Roamio with a couple of differences: one, it plugs into an HD antenna instead of a cableCARD and two, the set-top box costs less. And there’s one other big catch: The Roamio OTA is, at least at launch, only available at Best Buy.

So what’s the price of not getting put out of business by the Supreme Court? It seems to be $50 for equipment and $15 per month in subscription fees. (The standard TiVo Roamio runs $200 plus the monthly fee.)

TiVo should be legally clear where Aereo wasn’t because there’s not really new tech involved. The Roamio OTA is basically just a really fancy digital VCR. It can show you a channel guide, connect to your home network, record up to four programs simultaneously, and all that jazz. But they don’t provide any antenna: the consumer does. You have to buy your own and plug it into the Roamio box, just as you would have to plug your own cable connection into a standard TiVo box.

The advantage for legality, then, goes to TiVo. The late Aereo’s advantages to consumers, on the other hand, were twofold. First, it was cheap. And second, the remote rent-an-antenna setup let consumers whose home reception was terrible still receive and record over-the-air broadcasts. TiVo’s bring-your-own-antenna solution will still only work for subscribers who can get a nice clear signal to their homes.

TiVo Roamio OTA [TiVo via Engadget]

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  1. ReverendTed57 says:

    I’m a bit confused, since our current Tivo Premier is only being used for OTA (and Netflix). I guess we could have gotten away with a lower initial cost if this had been available.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      If you’re sure you’ll never want to use it with cable. I’m guessing this is pretty much the Roamio without the CableCard slot. I’ve seen them drop the price really low in order to get people to start paying the monthly subscription, that’s probably the idea here. Most people who cut the cord still occasionally want to watch local news or sporting events.

  2. StevenPierce says:

    Roamio still doesn’t have support for Android.

    There are other alternatives including Channel Master which has no monthly fee. Cost is about $250 plus the cost of a USB hard drive to record on. Add a Roku for internet streaming.

    There is also Tablo but it doesn’t connect directly to your TV but stream via Airplay or Chromecast to your TV.

    There is Simple.tv. The first version was much loved and worked, the Gen2 version was pretty much awful.

    Interestingly your homebrew article lists these exact options.

  3. oomingmak says:

    $15 a month seems REALLY expensive for just the ability to record shows on the 5-6 OTA channels I get. How much service is TiVO really providing here? I could understand the higher monthly fee when they’re dealing with 200+ cable channels.

    Really, what I want is just a digital VCR. I don’t watch a ton of OTA TV but I’d pay $100 to $200 for a device that just allowed me to program the times for my own recordings and didn’t saddle me with excessive monthly fees.

    • C0Y0TY says:

      It’s not just the ability to record shows over the air. You’re getting an online TV listings database from which you can schedule recordings, information about the shows, a neural network that predicts what shows you might like, gateways to online program distributors like Netflix and Hulu and Amazon, music streaming services like Pandora and Live365, home media access to your computer’s content, some games, podcasts, etc.

      • oomingmak says:

        Yep, and these are all capabilities and services I either have no interest in or already have (and in the case of gateways for Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, home media access, etc. — without paying a monthly fee to use).

        That leaves a mighty expensive TV listings database for 5 channels. I can do that myself.

  4. Terryc says:

    Or you can pay 75 install a comercially avalible tuner to your computer, hook the whole thing up to your TV yourself and record things via media player. We have done this at home and can record up to 6 shows at the same time. Network the whole mess at home and you can watch all on any tv in the house. Much better and no monthly fee.