The New Tivo Bolt Ushers In A New Era For Cord Cutters

A cord-cutters dream, the 2019 Tivo Bolt OTA 1TB, brings in many new features but still misses many important deliverables

It’s no shocker that cable TV is on the decline and cord cutting is now a popular sport for both the young and old. People got fed up with mediocre cable TV content and the associated high costs a very long time ago. Renting the cable TV box was the final straw for some, but others just realized that the $200+ bill every month was a complete waste of money for programming that is sub-par at best, when they can do it all for far less money and still get better services to boot. So when the time finally comes to cut the cable TV cord, TV fans realize early on that they will need a good media center to help them wrangle all the new media choices out there. Smart TV’s have some useful features, Roku is definitely a player, but the best choice is a dedicated media center, and Tivo has a compelling product. The DVR technology can change every few months as new features and services are constantly added, making older tech quickly obsolete and this article may be out of date by the time you read it. But one true thing remains: cable TV is for the birds and the new media devices and sources are taking over the world of television.

Cable TV box on fire

Cable TV cord cutters have realized that the perfect setup of services for TV viewing is to have the free and basic (over the air) broadcast TV channels (which covers football, baseball, TV shows and local news), a smattering of the big streaming services (for movies, rerun TV shows and original content) and some extra streaming services to bring in those odd cable channels that you just cannot do without. To get this complete solution, a TV antenna will bring in the five local TV channels like NBC and CBS. An internet connection will bring in the could based streaming services like Netflix, HBO, Amazon and Hulu. Lastly, Sling TV delivers those odd-addiction cable channels that you just cannot do without, like HGTV, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and ESPN. To tie this all together you will need a good media center and the 2019 Tivo BOLT may be just the perfect solution, at least for now.

Over the air (or over the antenna) solutions can come and go, but Tivo has remained a staple in this OTA market for over ten years now. A Tivo media center offers up live over the air TV (OTA), is able to record OTA shows and has enhanced streaming abilities that gets all the staples like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Netflix all in one space. The 2019 Tivo Bolt OTA delivers for cord cutters, but its not all plain sailing.

At this very moment in time (Feb 2019), cord-cutters may be able to unite under Tivo’s latest version of its boomerang shaped Tivo Bolt. The new box is a 1TB OTA model number 4281 and it delivers on many levels. The new OTA unit seeks to streamline the confusing range of Tivo boxes to just one choice, but this may indicate that Tivo may be giving up on this genre of media centers, with one last final push. It looks like Tivo has now completely ditched the old Roamio models and are now switching everything over to the faster, sexier Bolt model. There is now only one flavor of the Bolt OTA box for purchase (which is just 1TB, enough for 500 hours of HD TV recordings) and it may indicate that Tivo may sadly be getting out of the OTA Tivo business if this push fails. Tivo is now pushing more cable TV varieties of its popular box, which could be a big long-term mistake as people are clearly ditching cable TV as fast as they can, making it a shrinking market.

TiVo, who has been known for its devices that can record and stream television for over ten years, was acquired by the Rovi Corporation in 2016 in a $1.1 billion deal. This box may signify a change in direction by the new organization, but its not clear what direction that actually is.

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Improvements In The New 2019 Tivo Bolt

The new Tivo Bolt box has many new features that users can celebrate.

Hardware Improvements

The new Tivo Bolt has a better hard drive and processor than previous version (but still only 1TB of hard drive) but still has its super-fast gigabit Ethernet port that ensures fast show throughput.

Improved Remote Tivo Streaming

Remote users everywhere can now rejoice in the fact that the Tivo Streaming hardware is now actually included inside of the Bolt, with no other external devices required to enable your Tivo device to stream over the internet and be seen from remote locations. Long gone is the unreliable Tivo Streaming box (TiVo TCDA94000 Stream), may it rest in peace, at least on eBay because nobody likes a landfill.

QuickMode Speeds Up Viewing Time

Most seasoned sports fans can get through a game about 50% faster, than watching it in real time. Tivo has introduced QuickMode which plays recordings 30% faster while pitch correcting the audio to keep it from sounding like a squirrel, so you can comfortably speed through content and still understand what everyone is saying. With QuickMode, you can watch a 60-minute show in approximately 40 minutes and its even faster if you’re skipping the commercial breaks.

It’s a Great Day For 4K

The Tivo Bolt now supports 4K quality programming, if only someone would start transmitting in it. The 4K aspects of the BOLT are impressive, but meaningless if no one actually transmits in this format. OTA programming remains less than 4K and unfortunately Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO all have plans to move to to 4K at some point – just not yet. The 4K graphics board on the Bolt is ready to go for when this technology is embraced, but it remains to be seen if anyone starts transmitting or streaming in this format in the lifetime of this box, which is anticipated to be 3 years, right about the same time my 4K TV will self destruct.

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Things That Are NOT Fixed In The New Tivo Bolt

Tivo development is not all plain sailing. The new box has a bunch of drawbacks and missed opportunities.

Tivo VOX Afterthought

Despite having a VOX remote included with every Tivo Bolt box, the user is still required to actually plug in an external dongle into the back of the Tivo Bolt OTA to be able to enable the VOX feature. This technology is actually already built into the cable TV version of the Tivo Bolt, but not in the OTA version, so making it a bit confusing why it is not part of the box itself.

No Remote Live TV Viewing

Although a remote user can record and playback a show from a remote location using the Tivo app, they still cannot actually watch the TV show live. A change like this would completely change the face of television in this country, so its a missed opportunity. A feature like this would mean that Tivo Bolt users could be in one region and watch live TV shows from another region, something the FCC would hate, but users would love. Maybe the user doesn’t even have an antenna in the remote region, but still would be able to watch programming from their home location of the Tivo Bolt box. Its such a small change for Tivo, that could have a fundamental affect on the future of TV in the United States. It remains to be seen if this stays a missed opportunity for Tivo, who have done their very best to survive this turbulent market by constantly innovating, but often missing the mark, sometimes by just a couple of inches.

Still no HBO on Demand Available On Tivo Bolt OTA

Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu are all rage on the Tivo Bolt, but Tivo still cannot agree the terms with HBO and does not offer HBO as a dedicated streaming app on the 2019 Tivo Bolt OTA box. Savvy users realize that you can actually get HBO on demand through the Amazon Prime interface, but the HBO shows are not Tivo searchable and it is far less convenient to use one app as a prophylactic to another, just because the companies cannot agree on the legal terms.

Tivo Bolt Still Uses An ‘old style’ Hard Drive

Tivo does not seem to know that the world has moved onto solid state drives which require far less power and create little heat compared to the noisy, hot, unreliable old style hard drives that still have moving heads and old-world problems of end horizon failure. Because the Tivo Bolt is still using the old style hard drive, the Tivo Bolt box is still forced to include a noisy fan and then it needs to have space around it to cool all the excess heat. The Bolt designers have tried to shrink this Tivo as small as they can and it shows. If a user swaps out the ancient Tivo hard drive for their own better quality solid state drive version (E.G. the Samsung 860 EVO 1TB 2.5 Inch SATA III), then all the Tivo warranties go out of the window and Tivo will no longer support the Bolt box. Tivo does not want you to innovate for them, but it seems they really don’t want to embrace the future either.

Missed Opportunities

Missed Opportunities on The Tivo Bolt

Still No Integration With Smart TV’s

Smart TV’s still do not have Tivo software installed on them, making it very difficult for Tivo content to be played on them, unless a local HDMI cable is attached from the Tivo box to the back of the TV. This means that other local TV’s will still have to use the Tivo Mini product to connect to Tivo and shockingly, remote Smart TV’s have no method of playing remote content from the Tivo Bolt box at all. The only truly remote solution is the IOS or PC applications installed on a computer (or on a mobile device), something that a smart TV is still unable to do, at least now anyways. It is unclear why Tivo cannot seem to get TV manufacturers to play ball on this one and just include their code.

Still No Improvements On Tivo IOS or PC Apps

The primary Tivo mobile apps are still quite poor and are rated at a paltry 2 stars on the apple store – which sounds about right as they are buggy and are often quite unreliable, crashing during use. Its probably time to get these things rewritten.

Lifetime Service Plan Still Not Transferable To A New Tivo Box

One of the biggest gripes from Tivo users is the policy of not allowing lifetime users to transfer their service plan to a new box when they upgrade. Lifetime Tivo service members complain about this ridiculous Tivo policy all day long and it doesn’t seem to make any sense at any level. This means that existing users are forced to sell their old Tivo box with a lifetime service subscription on ebay and then buy a new one (often more expensive) directly from Tivo itself. Tivo insists that the lifetime service license deal is locked into the box and not the person, which is an argument that falls onto many deaf ears and actually gets Tivo a great deal of negative sentiment from the very people who are thought leaders and influencers in cord cutting world. If Tivo wants their help in selling boxes, then they should treat this group with much better respect than they currently do. Some Tivo users theorize that Tivo is actually using this group in a way to increase their own market share, but this policy can backfire when the influencers tire of this kind of abuse at the hands of Tivo. From what the forums are saying, that tipping point may have already been reached.

Margaret Smithson

About The Author: Margaret Smithson is an accomplished business technology professional with various terms of engagement at IBM, Accenture, and Avanade Inc.(a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft). Ms. Smithson is now following her passion as a freelance business writer and has written for various online and printed publications in the areas of technology and science and their use in modern American business. Her recent focus has been on the tremendous impact of new technologies on the business landscape status-quo of businesses older than 25 years. Many traditional businesses have been forced to adopt new technologies against the grain of their natural development life-cycle, but it is the internet-age businesses, where technology has been an intrinsic part of their organic development, that have flourished the most. Ms Smithson has a BS in Economics from UPENN (1994) and an MBA (2001) from Wharton.