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First look at the upcoming TiVo Smart TVs

03 Nov 2023 | Rasmus Larsen |

Google TV, Tizen, webOS and FireTV will soon face a new competitor vying for your attention with a content-first user interface and a media-focused voice assistant. Here is a sneak peek at TiVo.

Xperi, the company behind DTS, IMAX Enhanced and TiVo, previously announced plans to partner with TV brands to offer TiVo-powered Smart TVs in Europe and later in North America.

FlatpanelsHD has had the opportunity to take a closer look and speak with individuals involved in this project. Here's what we've learned.

TiVo seeks TV partners

TiVo aims to establish itself as an independent TV platform, serving as a sort of middle-man between TV manufacturers and consumers. - "We don't plan to do a set-top box or dongle in Europe. We don't have an ambition to be a consumer brand as we see TV partners as a fundamental link in the value chain," Tudor Teusan, Senior Product Manager at Xperi, told FlatpanelsHD. To achieve this goal, TiVo must first persuade TV manufacturers to come on board, and it has already named two partners: Sharp and Vestel. Vestel is not a consumer-facing brand, but it is one of the largest contract manufacturers for other TV brands. - "One of our essential value propositions to TV manufacturers is that we help them differentiate and promote their own brand. Our system is brand-forward. For example, in the case of Sharp, the Sharp logo is prominent in the user interface; the TV also has a Sharp-branded settings menu," explained Tudor Teusan. TiVo's business model relies on ad revenue that will be shared with the TV manufacturers. - "We offer scale and the content ecosystem that comes with it, which is difficult to build from scratch for many TV manufacturers. We bring all the content that matters, global, regional, but also super local content. Our business model is mainly based on ad revenue through monetization vectors such as in-stream advertising," he said.

TiVo Smart TV

One of the first TiVo Smart TVs, made by Vestel

First look at TiVo TVs

FlatpanelsHD received a presentation of a TiVo OS-powered Smart TV, comparing it to a Roku TV, a Hisense Vidaa-based Smart TV, and a Google TV. Although we did not have the opportunity to play with the TVs ourselves, what we saw was promising. The TiVo platform appears to offer robust support for streaming services and metadata. This means that when you search for a specific title, you land on title page with a wealth of metadata and various suggested ways to watch that particular title. - "TiVo powered Smart TVs have a simple user interface and straightforward, unbloated user experience. TiVo OS is content-first, built on top of our own user-centric, personalized recommendations system, but we also offer an easy access to apps. Our own voice solution is a central piece of the content discovery experience." Teusan further clarified that the metadata system used to provide information about movies and series is TiVo's own, and not sourced from other companies.

TiVo Smart TV

The content page suggests different ways to watch a movie or series

Second, TiVo's voice system actually surfaced the content that was requested and understood follow-up requests to refine the search. This contrasts with, for example, Google TV, which often provides irrelevant YouTube results and does not support follow-up requests. - "It is our own voice engine that is made for media and entertainment only. It cannot control the smart home or answer other questions. We are planning to have integration with other voice assistants for general purpose requests and other things, but I cannot name any at this time." Third, the user interface looked simple and intuitive, and the content recommendations that the system surface during the brief demonstration seemed relevant.

TiVo Smart TV

The TiVo user interface

Missing apps, metadata

Nevertheless, there were still some missing apps, primarily local ones, but also did not notice major ones such as Apple TV (iTunes) and Apple TV+. Certain existing apps lacked the necessary metadata for the search and indexing system to truly shine. Teusan said that TiVo is actively working to address these gaps. We also had concerns about how the system prioritizes which app is suggested as the first option for a movie that is available on multiple streaming services. - "End-user choice and control is one of our core principles. Unlike some other Smart TV platforms, we do not tilt the experience towards any specific source or type of content. We are independent and we partner with everybody," emphasized Teusan. He did acknowledge, though, that some choices in the user interface are influenced by contractual terms. However, he explained that this primarily pertains to 'originals.' For example, the interface will prioritize Disney+ as the first option for a Disney movie like Toy Story, even if the movie is also available for rent or purchase on another service. He added that users have control over which streaming services appear as options on content pages, as users can disable apps from a list in settings. If an app offering the requested movie is deselected, it will be hidden under a "+1 more" option on the content page. As for tracking from ads and the collection of user data? - "We don't require a user account. We do not offer user profiles either at this time. We strive to understand the end-user and offer a personalized content experience, but instead of accounts or profiles, this is based on how and when the device is used, what is watched or added to the watchlist, how content is rated, etc."

OLED or 8K TVs?

The first Vestel-produced Smart TVs based on the TiVo platform are expected to hit the consumer market in Europe this quarter. The first Sharp TVs are set to launch in the second quarter of 2024, possibly by the end of March 2024. - "At launch, we focus on entry-level and mid-level TVs. Our brands do not have plans for 8K or OLED. We can support that but not right now," concluded Tudor Teusan.

TiVo Smart TV

The TiVo sidebar menu

It was confirmed to FlatpanelsHD that TiVo is partnering with Amlogic and MediaTek for chipsets, helping to reduce costs and compete with options like Roku and Amazon Fire TV. A typical configuration includes 1.5GB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage. The default remote control is Bluetooth-based, but the cheapest models may have an Infrared-based remote. Regarding regions, the release will begin in Western European markets, with plans to expand to more regions in 2024, including the United States. As TiVo expands to more countries, it also plans to add local streaming apps and support local languages. In August 2023, Xperi CEO Jon Kirchner stated that the company anticipates having 7 million TiVo-powered TVs in the market within the next three years.

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