DirecTV and TiVo Users: What to do?

Posted on November 5th, 2008, by Michael

DirecTV and TiVo: The Update

At WeaKnees, we constantly have DirecTV and TiVo users calling to ask what to do, given the existing hardware, current channel lineups, and future products. The landscape has changed a few times over the last year, so we’re writing to update readers on hardware plans, channel lineups, and our recommendations for what to do in various situations.

To start, a history (skip down further for our current recommendations): DirecTV and TiVo partnered together almost ten years ago to make some of the first DVRs. Along with hardware companies, they produced many models, most branded by those third-party hardware companies.

In April of 2004, DirecTV released the first HD TiVo – the HR10-250. This was DirecTV branded, and only worked with DirecTV and OTA (over the air antenna) programming. This was a landmark unit, being the first mainstream HD DVR. That unit is the only model of HD TiVo for DirecTV produced to date. The HR10-250 could read all of the standard definition and HD signals that DirecTV then broadcast, from every satellite that DirecTV used for transmissions.

DirecTV and TiVo stopped working together to produce new hardware after the final unit – the DirecTV branded, standard definition R10. At this point, when there was no new DirecTV and TiVo hardware on the horizon, we recommended that TiVo lovers who valued TiVo more than DirecTV, switch to cable and get an HD TiVo for cable. This is still a great option – especially because these units use CableCARDs which make the experience seamless.

But, to be clear, DirecTV and TiVo had agreed to continue to support the software on the existing hardware. So, even without producing new hardware, all of the millions of TiVo/DirecTV DVRs in use would continue (and do continue) to get software updates with new features, bug fixes, and other changes (like those needed to properly support daylight saving time).

After DirecTV and TiVo parted ways on the hardware front, DirecTV went on to produce their own DVRs. These units were the R15, R16, and R22 for standard definition, and the HR20, HR21, HR21 Pro, and HR22 for high definition. The numbering system confuses many customers since they assumed they could “upgrade” from an R10 to an R15 or from an HR10 to an HR20 and gain features, only to find they received a completely different unit with a completely different interface.

On the standard definition front, the new non-TiVo units really didn’t add features or capabilities beyond a bit of interactivity. (For more details on these units, see the WeaKnees R10 – R15 DirecTV DVR comparison.)

The new HD DVRs from DirecTV, however, added an important feature: the ability to decode and record MPEG4 signals. DirecTV had begun a transition to MPEG4 from MPEG2 for HD broadcasts, and the HR10-250 – the HD TiVo – is not able to see these signals at all. So that left the HR10-250 stuck with its current lineup of HD channels. At the time, DirecTV hadn’t yet started broadcasting HD in MPEG4. But after DirecTV launched new satellites, they started rolling out local HD channels for more and more cities in MPEG4 format, leaving HR10-250 users without the ability to view and record those channels. The HR10-250 can, however, record OTA HD channels, so in many cases, HR10-250 owners weren’t missing any HD broadcasting.

Over time, though, DirecTV began to release new HD channels in MPEG4 format. These were national HD feeds of channels like CNN, A&E, FX, and STARZ. At this point, customers with HR10-250s started having to choose between keeping their equipment, and getting access to the newer channels.

The next step in the transition to MPEG4 has been to decommission the MPEG2 stations that older hardware relied on for HD. DirecTV started this process earlier in 2008, beginning with the West Coast HD feeds of local stations. At this point, once HR10-250 users began to actually lose access to programming they had already been receiving, the push to move forward was on. So this left customers with a big decision: leave DirecTV and get TiVoHD units for cable, or stick with DirecTV, and use their generic DVRs instead of TiVo. The choice was largely a decision of whether the DVR interface was more important, or the specific programming channels offered by DirecTV or a customer’s local cable company.

But a few months ago, TiVo and DirecTV amazed us all, and announced that after years of hiatus, they would, in fact, produce new hardware together, specifically, a new HD DVR that would support MPEG4 signals. So this really changes the possibilities again. And we hope, but we don’t know for sure, that the new hardware will support services that the non-DirecTV HD TiVos now support like Amazon Unbox, streaming Netflix, and all of the other networking features that make current HD TiVos for cable much more than just DVRs.

Current Options

For HR10-250 or just TiVo-loving DirecTV customers in general, we currently recommend one of these three paths:

  1. Wait it out. If you don’t have HD yet, wait it out until late 2009 when the new DirecTV TiVo should be out. You’ll get DirecTV, HD, and hopefully more options via networking (see above). If you have an HR10-250 already, just wait and potentially lose access to some HD in the interim time before the new unit ships.
  2. Get an HR22 temporarily. If you want HD, or more HD, and you don’t want to wait, you can get an HR22 for as little as $199. $200 might seem like a lot to pay for an HD DVR for a year, but after the new HD TiVo comes out, you could move this unit to a bedroom or other TV and use it there.
  3. Go to cable. While this option made the most sense at one point for big TiVo fans, there’s now some light at the end of the tunnel with DirecTV. So switching to cable is now just an option to consider. To find out if this is right for you, consider if either provider (cable or DirecTV) broadcasts the channels you watch. Check the full, monthly pricing you’ll pay either way (don’t forget that with TiVos for cable, you’ll need to pay TiVo for the subscriptions, but you also won’t need to rent a DVR from your cable company – just the CableCARDs). For purposes of comparison, we expect DVR service from DirecTV to cover these new units at no additional charge, and our guess is that this new hardware will cost roughly the same as current TiVo HD hardware.
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  1. DB Says:

    Agreed. Sticking with Direct for the time being. My patience will be tested I expect.
    The never ending pitch to sell me on the substitute unit is falling on deaf ears.
    What?

  2. Marcus in South Florida Says:

    I was wondering if anyone has heard of an update when the new DirecTV HD TiVo’s will be out this year?…as we are already in August. Thanks

  3. Roger Says:

    DirecTV really made me mad when they not only abandoned Tivo but started to reduce the HD channels I received. I bailed on them, bought Tivo boxes and switched to Comcast.

    Problem is, Comcast are liars cheats and thieves. My dissatisfaction started when there were several channels shown on their website as part of the package I subscribed to that I was not receiving – channels I had watched regularly when I had DTV. I called them and they basically said “sorry that list is wrong but you can pay $17 more per month to get them”. Six months later the list is the same and I still don’t get those channels. Starting to regret buying two TivoHD boxes and lifetime service…not because of any problem with Tivo but because I can’t use those boxes with DTV. This needs to be a more OPEN system!

    I don’t really understand all the technical reasons for Tivo boxes not being able to work with DTV directly – isn’t it more that because satellite is not regulated in the same way as cable that they are not required to provide the equivalent of a Cablecard, ie allowed to keep the interface completely proprietary? Are there other reasons (like MPEG4 decoding being sufficiently compute intensive as to require separate hardware to decode fast enough)?

  4. Chuck Says:

    Any news when (if ever) DTV will release the long anticipated TiVo box? Last I heard was “2010/2011”. Thanks.

  5. Chuck Says:

    I am not a TiVo engineer, nor do I play one on TV. I have to believe that the only reasonable reasons for the delays:

    1) TiVo wants to incorporate the 3D stuff on the new unit
    2) TiVo wants to add other “stuff” to make this a premium box with options and features still in the “skunkworks” shop

    The MPEG4 stuff isn’t a big deal as they already deal with that with the cable crowd. Today’s processors are fast enough, and cheap, to handle the computes needed for HD. 3D – I have no clue. Personally, I could careless about 3D but companies need to kepe pushing the technology edge to have some new to market.

    IMHO, I’d like to see a new HD DirecTiVo that handles what DTV has today, and worry about a new and improved unit down the road. I suspect that DTV feels if they release a new HD DirecTiVo box today without the new stuff that no one will upgrade to the new stuff when released. They’d rather wait and deliver a uber-DirecTiVo unit and make people wait it out.

    The other thing: Why doesn’t DTV just BUY TiVo (the company and keep it fully intact) and corner the premium DVR market. Imagine how the cable crowd would feel.

    So, I too wait and toe tap toe tap toe tap…

  6. Bob Johnson Says:

    “Wait it out. If you don’t have HD yet, wait it out until late 2009 when the new DirecTV TiVo should be out.”

    Duh, now September 2010. Any further update??????????

    I still want a TIVO, but if it ain’t happening, I’m going to re-up with Direct without a TIVO.

  7. Fern Says:

    I am a long time DirecTV customer who had the Tivo DVRs and loved them, but when HD came out I switched to the DirecTV HD DVRs and I HATE, HATE, HATE the DirecTV interface/OS. I won’t bother going into why I hate DTV’s operating system because I will just be preaching to the choir here, the majority of you know the problems. But what really irritates me is that DirecTV originally said HD Tivo units would available in late 2009, then late 2010 and now early 2011. They are sick of my emails asking for a “new” estimate.

    Since it is now 2011 I keep hoping there will soon be rumors when the Tivo units will be out, but more likely we will hear “late 2011” or worse “early 2012.”

  8. David Thomson Says:

    Having been a DirecTV customer since being selected as a beta tester for the HDVR2 platform and ultimately several subsequent programs. I am now a cable consumer. I became a DirecTV customers having bought 2 HDVR2s, outright and then entering the testing programs. I was thrilled with the new TiVo integration and looked forward to the day of HD-TiVo-DVRs, after waiting over 2 years and the continual broken promises from the reps from Direct about the matter and then ultimately with the last 6 software “pushes” that ultimately rendered my last HDVR2 useless, I called TiVo and bought a Premiere AND a Premiere-XL, then ordered cable with HD service. Granted, it took my cable provider over a month to get the cable cards and make them work on my “small-town” network. But, today I am enjoying the benefits of HD integrated, multi-stream tuner-intergrated, TiVo-powered DVRs, and I am so thrilled that I think I can even put up with the irritations of dealing with a local cable company! Now if WeakKness will tell me how much HDD I can stuff into these dudes I’ll be really happy! Sorry DirectV, I got tired of waiting and putting up with the broken promises while you continue to bash the TiVo folks that you basically stole your DVR tech from (yeah, I know it came from Europe, but where did they get it from anyway?)

  9. Robert Dinell Jr Says:

    I like most of the above am a long time Directv customer and have a Phillips Tivo Series 2 in my Livingroom, Love it and a Directv DVR in the Bedroom, Hate it! So I have been wait as well for the Directv HD Tivo to come out. A couple of years ago my Tivo started to act up nad then stopped working, So I purchased another one on ebay and haven’t had any problems till now. So I called Directv so try and trouble shoot the issue and the rep on the phone did tell me I notice on your history that you are waiting for the HD Tivos, then said well I’m happy to tell you there is a HD Tivo, they are testing it now and when the testing is complete they will release it! I hope this is the next step befor ethey release it and they are not just blowing smoke

  10. Jerry Kiernan Says:

    So held out for 2years with my sat160 tivo receiver. Finally upgrade to hd and buy a new set with 3d. Get a new directv receiver and now six weeks latter the new Tivo hd receiver is finally available. BUT at a cost of 5.00 more a month! This is in addition to 10.00 a month for HD and 7.00 dvr fee a month. I thought that this receiver would be state of the art, thus the long wait! NO, it is not 3d capable and does not get several other services like directv cinema score guide etc. Yes for 99.00 I can get the receiver. But why would I ? Yes I love the software, remote control but what do I do with my 3d tv. Tivo and directv- you blew it and we should pay more for less.

  11. ReturnPrivacyNow Says:

    Any more news on this? It’s now 2013. Did Directv and Tivo finally put out a better dvr that works?

  12. Michael Says:

    Came out about a year and a half ago:

    http://www.weaknees.com/thr22

  13. chester Says:

    Anyone having problems with HR-10 Receiver w/Tivo ? Mine went out today I have a 0val 3LNB dish with satellites at 101, 119 and 110. Live in Central Virginia. None of the Even numbered Transponders work off Satelltie 101 today. Therefore we can’t get service. I am so P.O. with Directv with what they did with Weather Channel and all the paid programming channels I am ready to TERMINATED my service sine 1999 with them and go to TiVO. This account I have with them is standard one non high definition.

  14. Nolan Katz Says:

    Do you have a fix or sales plan for when Comcast switches to MPEG4?

    Thanks,

    Nolan Katz

  15. Nolan Katz Says:

    Can you transfer lifetime programing from a series 3 to a new Tivo Bolt?

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