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]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.