OK, not quite today, but soon. Back in January Charter & TiVo announced an agreement under which Charter would offer TiVo hardware to their customers, just as RCN, Suddenlink, and Grande Communications do. And with their quarterly financial announcement last week they stated that they’d already launched their TiVo pilot in Texas. They expanded on it even more during the associated conference call:
We’ve also initiated a key component of our next generation TV strategy with our TiVo pilot underway in Texas. Early pilot participants have responded favorably to the overall service, particularly the improved recommendations, user interface and search capabilities, all of which enhance the customer experience and should increase usage of our on-demand library.
We will complete a full production launch in Texas and conduct pilots in a few additional markets later this year with a full production launch enterprise wide in the first half of 2012. As you can see we are making great strides in improving our video offering and we believe that these enhance our competitive position in video.
And now Charter has their TiVo page up, and it says TiVo is coming soon to Ft. Worth, TX. And coming soon to other markets after that. Since they plan to have it launched ‘enterprise wide’ in the first half of 2012 it seems like it should happen fairly rapidly.
Charter also has a quick demo video up to promote their TiVo service:
They have a good deal of support information up as well, including a Viewer’s Guide, Quick Guide, and Quick Tips. The materials strongly promote Charter’s OnDemand, YouTube, and Pandora. Interestingly they also make a point to promote TiVo Desktop and the ability to transfer shows via TiVoToGo. But, as a Charter customer myself, they copy protect nearly all of their content. Unless they’re planning to change their practices it seems like their customers are in for a disappointment.
It looks like the only video services supported will be Charter OnDemand, YouTube, and web videos. No Netflix, Hulu Plus, Blockbuster OnDemand, Music Choice, or Amazon Instant Video for Charter TiVo customers. That’s interesting since just last week they announced an initiative to integrate Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video content into search results on Charter.net. Perhaps down the road they’ll enable these same services on their TiVo units. It sounds like Charter wants to do so, but their hands are tied by rights issues. From an article last week in FierceCable about the announcement:
Charter spokeswoman Anita Lamont told FierceCable that the MSO would like to allow subscribers to search for Web video content from Hulu, Amazon and Netflix through their cable set-tops, but that rights issues prevent it from offering that fuction. “Right now, that functionality is essentially disabled on leased boxes due to programming rights issues. This is disappointing to us, and our customers, but we believe that it should and will change over time,” Lamont said. “This is all very fluid, and we anticipate that the rights equation will change over time,” she added.
On the music side in addition to Pandora they will have Rhapsody and Live365 support.
Charter customers will have Multi-Room Streaming (MRS), and they will be getting the TiVo Preview as well, if the Viewer’s Guide is anything to go by. From Page 57:
Streaming from another TiVo Box
Movies and programs stored on a TiVo Premiere DVR can be streamed to another TiVo device (either another TiVo Premiere DVR or a TiVo Preview HD-STB) using Multi-Room Streaming (MRS). (Streaming means playing a video as it downloads, without having to wait for the download to finish.)
I’m happy to see TiVo is using the same Multi-Room Streaming “MRS” abbreviation I’ve been using. (I swear, I didn’t know. It just made sense vs. MRV for Multi-Room Viewing.) I take issue with the description though. Streaming is not downloading, there is nothing to wait for, no ‘finish’. And no, it isn’t confused with the MRV copying – that’s the previous entry in the manual. I think this is a case of a confused tech writer who didn’t really understand the subject matter. TiVo, you might want to get that corrected.
Streaming means, well, streaming the content directly from the other unit for display via the local unit, with no local copy being made. That’s as opposed to MRV which is a copying process and allows you to begin viewing the local copy while it is still transferring.
There is one item I found very, very interesting. On Page 75 of the Viewer’s Guide:
This setting is not applicable to your setup.
As I said, I’m a Charter customer. Charter is heavily invested in using Switched Digital Video (SDV), and as such I need to use a Tuning Adapter with my retail TiVo. Could this mean that Charter is using the same IP back channel used for OnDemand for SDV? If so, that’s the one thing that would kind of tempt me to use a Charter TiVo box instead of a retail unit. I’d love to get rid of my TA. It is the weakest link in my setup. Every once in a while it resets or locks up and I lose recordings until I power cycle it. And I sometimes have recordings fail with the reported reason being the video signal was not available, but my cable wasn’t out – sometimes the other tuner recorded a different program at the same time. I suspect the TA failed to tune the SDV channel.
TiVo, Charter, I’m begging you. If you have developed this software for the Charter-distributed units, please find a way to bring it to retail units! Cox and Comcast are planning to support OnDemand on retail units, surely it can be done. For that matter, give us OnDemand – all it can do is increase your business!
When Charter brings this to my service area (Worcester, MA) I may get a unit to try it out. But I’m still more interested in the retail TiVo Elite’s four tuners and broad support for OTT content. Being able to handle SDV without a Tuning Adapter is tempting, given the TA issues I’ve had, but it isn’t enough to convince me. I really don’t understand why MSOs like Charter, RCN, Suddenlink, and Grande Communication don’t allow retail TiVo units to access their OnDemand content, etc. They have the infrastructure in place and the software exists, why keep customers locked out of services they’d be happy to pay for?
Speaking of the TiVo Premiere Elite, I’ve received one of the few review units TiVo is sent out to bloggers & press. It just arrived late this week, I’m planning to get it set up tomorrow.