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TiVo ups the DVR ante with Bolt

TiVo Bolt

TiVo’s new Bolt takes the integration of OTT and traditional TV to the next level. Sure, ad skip, 4K support and a cool design are great features, but simplifying a user’s entertainment life is the real win.

Tivo SKip ModeThe list of new features available in Bolt is impressive. Perhaps the most sort-after feature is the new SkipMode. Jim Denney, Director of Marketing at TiVo, told me that Bolt users can skip all of the ads in any ad break automatically when watching shows from 20 of the most popular TV channels. Dish provides a similar feature in its Hopper DVR, and I can tell you it is awesome functionality. And for those in a hurry, they can watch news and sports at 1.3x normal speed without the voices sounding like Mickey Mouse.

Bolt is also the first DVR to support 4K Ultra HD. Though there are no broadcast channels in UHD yet, Bolt users will be able to watch 4K video from Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, if their broadband connection is fast enough to deliver it!

I talked about the new feature in Chromecast called Fast Play yesterday. TiVo has a similar feature which allows apps like Netflix to resume instantly from where they left off.  Mr. Denney says apps will also launch much faster on Bolt than on the previous generation Roamio DVRs.

Pricing of Bolt is a little different to Roamio. The 500GB version costs $299.99 and the 1TB version is $399.99. One year of service (normally $14.99 a month) is included

If you are an iOS user, there are some nice updates coming to the TiVo app. Users will be able to create personalized “what to watch” categories based on hobbies and interests. OnePass recordings will be easier to set up and a user can share favorite shows with friends on social media sites. When friends click on a link in the post they can find out where they can watch the show.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Bolt is the way it is pulling all the pieces of our fractured television lives into a single, manageable user interface. In most households there is a wall between online services like Netflix and traditional television. That wall is not just confined to switching television inputs. From figuring out where a particular show or movie is available to understanding in what locations the content can be watched, our television lives have become immeasurably more complex over the last few years. TiVo Bolt helps reduce some of that complexity.

The integration of Digitalsmiths Seamless Discovery* solution means recommendations span all the services available through Bolt. And Comcast Xfinity and Cox pay TV subscribers will see on-demand content fully integrated into the interface. Making sure Bolt works with TiVo mini gives users a cheap way (just $130 for the mini and no recurring fee) to bring all of the content and functionality to any TV in the house. Bolt comes with the ability to stream content to any connected device in the home (Mr. Denney told me out-of-home streaming will be added next year.) Previously, streaming functionality required the purchase of TiVo Stream, a separate box.

There are a few things I would have liked to see that aren’t there. Bolt consumes about the same amount of power as Roamio, and standby mode only reduces that consumption by a small amount. A true low-power standby mode would be a great addition. There is no voice search option, a feature commonly available in streaming media players. Hulu won’t be available in the initial release, though that will come later. And with there being more Android users than iOS I’m disappointed the app updates are available to Apple users only.

That said, Bolt looks like the DVR to beat. I’ll post again on my experiences with the device once I get my hands on one.

Why it matters

Consumers are facing a big increase in complexity in managing all their different video services.

By bringing them all together on one device, TiVo Bolt helps tame some of that complexity.

Pay TV operators need to pay attention. They should be following TiVos lead to help simplify their customer’s entertainment lives.

*TiVo purchased Digitalsmiths last year.

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