TiVo Edge misses the mark, TiVo+ on the right track

Hold the press. TiVo has actually launched a new product. Patent litigation cases have become TiVo’s bread and butter in recent years since morphing with Rovi and adopting the TiVo brand, leading us to mourn the loss of innovation at a vendor which once took the TV landscape by storm.

The drought is over, however, with TiVo coming out with a home entertainment device called the Edge – supposedly its “most advanced ever” – in tandem with the more miscellaneous unveiling of TiVo+, a new video streaming network built to enter the battleground against the likes of Roku.

TiVo has done us the favor of outlining how TiVo Edge for cable TV faces up against the two biggest cable TV competitors in the US – Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Charter’s Spectrum. As detailed in the two tables below, TiVo Edge embarrasses Xfinity and Spectrum for streaming features as well as trumping the two rival services for DVR features. TiVo Edge comes over as an impressive and comprehensive set top, yet still first impressions are that TiVo has over-cooked the broth.

First of all, the strapline “8 gazillion channels” is paraded in flashy fashion across the TiVo Edge website. Seriously, has TiVo had its head in the sand? Gazillions of channels is the polar opposite of what consumers and operators alike are leaning towards today. The days of laboriously flicking through endless cable channels are long gone, which is why we see the launch of TiVo+ as a step in the right direction for the vendor – only then to be counteracted by rolling out hardware built on the premise of cable TV’s glory days.

That said, Edge comes in two flavors – one for cable and another for antenna. The latter is targeted at cord cutters, much like the TiVo antenna for accessing OTA channels before it or something like the OTA adapter offered by Dish Network to cord cutters. TiVo Edge for antenna includes a 2 TB hard drive for storing up to 300 hours of HD content, as well as access to major streaming services. At a premium of $349.99 upfront with a service plan of $6.99 a month.

Edge for cable, at $50 more upfront and costing $14.99 a month, comes with the mod-cons you’d expect from a cable TV service – skip mode, voice search, DVR and streaming apps. Nothing that really blows our mind, yet the table below comparing DVR features against the two big boys is telling.

TiVo+ is also bucking a trend, delivering live streaming channels and on-demand content in an app-free environment, which the company suggests eases the content discovery process. Going app-free is ideal for those accustomed to the cable TV ecosystem and reluctant to move outside it, but again the trend is leaning towards TV app environments with Android TV being a prime example.

In any case, TiVo+ has partnered with publishers including Xumo and Jukin Media to knock up a number of live streaming channels served on a carefully curated platter. This sounds to us like all Xumo’s doing. Functioning as an ad-supported OTT video specialist, Xumo has carved itself a niche in the smart TV sector and has since been embraced by the cable sector with Comcast and now TiVo recruiting the start-up. Xumo is essentially an MVPD with technology described as laying the “virtual plumbing” for broadcasters to deliver content via internet-connected smart TVs and set tops – providing a platform for switching from FTA to IP.

The California-based firm has also built its own recommendation engine, claiming to have over 300 million users every month, providing a non-profile based system taking into account metrics such as time of day, at a cost-per-completion model. Alternatively, customers can choose to plug in a rival recommendations system into Xumo’s platform.

While smart TVs remain the core focus market for Xumo, it recently rolled out iOS and Android apps, as well as providing channels on Roku devices and more recently has infiltrated the cable TV ecosystem.

With TiVo using the launch of its new Edge set tops to leave Comcast red-faced, it was almost inevitable that a patent ruling in the infamous on-going litigation case between the two adversaries swung in TiVo’s favor in the same week. The Southern District of New York refused to dismiss a claim that Comcast’s X1 had infringed on a TiVo patent relating to a “method and system for incremental search with reduced text entry where the relevance of results is a dynamically computed function of user input search string character count.”

So, a double dose of wounds dealt to Comcast by TiVo in the space of a week in a case that matters to very few.