Why TiVo Owners Pirate More TV Content Than Any Demographic

Alright, that’s not entirely true. It seems to be becoming more and more true however, as I find myself attempting to use my TiVo services over time. That’s right folks – TiVo. Remember them?

TiVo is (mostly) alive. In 2012 TiVo had approximately 2.3 million US subscribers, down from 4.36 million at their peak in January 2006. That was over 10 years ago of course, it’s quite likely they have less subscribers in the US at this time. Especially if one of their customers spent any length of time with their software; the consistent faults in which are beginning to take their toll on my patience and mind.

If you’ve ever had a TiVo you probably know their customer support is a bit shit, to say the least. I would rather call Comcast than call TiVo. I’m unsure of the company to whom TiVo, Inc has outsourced calls, however there are people working the register at McDonalds who are more competent. Since Rovi finalized the acquisition of TiVo and their IP, it seems support has become worse, actually.

My frustrations with corporate mergers and overpaid under-challenged TiVo call center trainers aside, TiVo has always had a few good spots, such as the UI on the TiVo, big graphical buttons, and a comfortable “peanut” remote. They’ve also had a few bad spots as well. For me:

  1. customer service & technical support
  2. online streaming via online.tivo.com
  3. nonsensical requirements for connecting your TiVo directly to the router

A room of cats riding a Roomba, wearing a shark costume and headsets would provide better, more comprehensive, and professional support to their customers than what they have now.

Look through any TiVo support document and you’ll notice they require you to connect your TiVo directly to your router. 

THIS IS 2017!

Are you fraking kidding me TiVo?

TiVo is one of many internet connected devices that “phone home”. Whether it’s to allow you remote access to the TiVo to set a recording, or to update it’s TV guide programming. These devices are generally plug and play, not requiring you to configure your router for their needs. There’s a few technologies that make this happen, the first of which is NAT. NAT is short for Network Address Translation and is what allows devices on your home network, such as a laptop, desktop, and IoT devices to share a single internet connection behind your router. Without NAT, you would need an individual internet service subscription for each device on your network, something that would get costly, quick. Another important technology working behind the scenes to ensure various devices on your home network can communicate to the outside world (and to each other) is UPnP – or Universal Plug and Play. In short, UPnP is a set of protocols which permit devices on a network to seamlessly detect other devices and configure themselves to communicate information.

The deployment of UPnP with TiVo is quite evident as its zero configuration system is what enabled the TiVo in your living room to autonomously discover the TiVo in your master bedroom, allowing you to watch something recorded a TiVo in one room, in another, over your home network.

TiVo’s requirement to be connected to a router is bullshit and I won’t stand for it.

Click for larger/full size.

If you, like me, have connected your TiVo to your internet connection to give it’s built in functions like Amazon Video, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube life and aren’t using WiFi, you’ve probably connected it to a ethernet switch like this one. There are hundreds of versions of this switch, they all do one thing – connect to your router (or another switch) so you can add more hardwired devices. It is possible, though rare, to find a household with switches that are incompatible with TiVo. Most switches sold feature perfect forwarding, multicast, etc, and the TiVo is happy.

Not mine, it would seem. TiVo Online, available at https://online.tivo.com allows you to stream programs from your TiVo in a web browser (as long as you are in your home). Since I work in my garage, this is great. I can have background noise on, or watch an important news cast without having to go into the living room. The TiVo online feature also allows you to stream your TiVo Channels & Recording on your mobile phone/tablet anywhere, presumably. Sounds great right?

Well, don’t let the lure of gold fool you! The service is about as reliable as the Titanic. To begin with, it runs on Adobe Flash. It’s a well established fact that Adobe makes software that is full of more security holes than a smart home installation. Thanks to a push from Apple (re: them not supporting Adobe on iOS), Flash is all but dead. Unfortunately, TiVo hasn’t got the memo.

Though Chrome is my primary browser and it maintains Flash updates for me, there is a separate installer for Flash. The installation of which seems to be required for programs to quasi-reliably stream in browser. Now, I know you’re already thinking it. You use Firefox. Well my friend, good for you! I’d throw a party but I don’t care. Chrome works for my needs, and there’s a large number of apps I use that are not available on Firefox.

I personally have experienced issues with the site since day 1 of activating my TiVo. These issues include, but are not limited to:

The edit button to delete programs not appearing, or not working. Demonstrated to the right, on the left side of the image you can see the same program, but the edit icon is not available. On the right side, it has reappeared after a Control + F5 (force the browser to reload from no cache), a close of Chrome several times, logging out and back in, and restarting my computer. Short of making a pentacle of desire in my driveway, lighting a small fire and dancing nude, the process to watch or administer any content on your TiVo via their online interface is cumbersome. And of course if I call and report it, this behavior is surely caused by my TiVo not being directly connected to the router. Right!  /s

For the record, my Flash version 24.0.0.221. This is the latest version according to the utility on my computer, and Flash is enabled in the chrome://plugins area. You’d think streaming playback via my browser would work.

However, more often than not when I attempt to playback a recording, it will begin, then video will freeze while audio continues for a bit. Using the quick forward or rewind button, or even manually scrub the video doesn’t help. To resolve this, which doesn’t always work mind you, I have to close out of the video, refresh my browser window, and try again. The interesting thing is, the program doesn’t play with this issue when viewed on a TV, leading me to think something is fishy with the streaming protocols between my web browser and the TiVo. You can see a 15 second clip of my TiVo exhibiting this behavior below:

 

 

 

This happens quite frequently and has become frustrating enough for me to download the same show or watch it elsewhere on another service, perhaps on a later date.

Even with my ad blocker fully disabled on this page, other functions like “Delete” will not work. In the video below you can see me trying to delete a folder of videos to no end.

 

 

 

Finally, the last quirk TiVo Online has is – if your TiVo loses network connectivity for any reason, be it power outage or you swapped the cable for a better one, you’ll have to reboot your TiVo before you can stream anything via their TiVo Online website. With just a brief interruption, the TiVo believes the service is still out, though it can see up link connectivity I’m sure.

Issues like this are easily resolved. Surely I am not the only individual affected. Nevertheless, TiVo repairs bugs at a glacial pace. To resolve my frustrations, my TiVo has become nothing more than a reminder for programs I follow. Because of it’s frequent technical difficulties I am unable to enjoy the device to the full extent (as advertised) and resort to alternative means to watch recorded programming. Unfortunate, isn’t it?

To TiVo:

  • Replace your customer service and technical support staff with people who are solid players in tech troubleshooting and IT.
  • Remove this “requirement” regarding direct connection of the TiVo to the router.
  • Fix your online site. Stop using Flash! Get with the program and start using HTML5. Flash is insecure, it is CPU and RAM intensive, and on slower systems can have a huge performance impact.
  • Audit the code on TiVo Online to resolve incompatibility problems in Chrome like the ones demonstrated above.

In summary, I am stuck with this product for now. But streaming tv services like PlayStation Vue, SlingTV, at&t DirecTV NOW, and YouTube TV are becoming more & more pervasive. We have a Roku in every room of the house, and I’m confident I can get any of the aforementioned services on that device. Sure, it doesn’t affect TiVo much, it’s not like they are the cable company, but this Roamio Pro was around $600.00 and I can’t enjoy it because of the numerous faults TiVo seems to ignore and refuse to resolve. Calling their technical support to report these issues is pointless, even connecting my TiVo directly to my router doesn’t resolve them, and TiVo just doesn’t listen.

I leave you with this… replace the fax machine with the TiVo.