Remote-control iPad apps have become all the rage among pay TV providers, with Comcast, (s CMCSA) Time Warner Cable, (s TWC) Verizon (s VZ) and Dish Network (s DISH) all recently announcing free apps that let their subscribers navigate their program guides, schedule DVR recordings and switch channels all from the touch-screen interface of the tablet. Now TiVo (s TIVO) is getting in on the fun, announcing a new “companion app” for its DVRs with much of the same functionality.
The TiVo app will be available for free in the Apple (s AAPL) App Store in the coming weeks, and will enable TiVo Premiere DVR owners that also have iPads to use the tablet as a remote control and DVR programming device. Like other remote control apps coming or already on the market, the TiVo app enables viewers to scroll through their program guide and schedule one-time or “season pass” DVR recordings without interrupting what’s happening on the screen. The interface also lets users control their viewing of live TV and TiVo recordings, enabling them to use gesture controls such as swiping back and forth to rewind or move forward through a program on their TV.
But TiVo has built some features into its app that take advantage of the DVR maker’s enhanced metadata and integration of linear, on-demand and online video content into its search and discovery mechanism. While most other pay TV apps only let users scroll through or search for channel or program names, the TiVo app enables them to browse through enhanced data about all their favorite TV shows, movies, actors and directors.
The search and capabilities of TiVo DVRs also lets users of the iPad app to do more than search the linear channel guide; they will also able to find online video content available through Netflix, (s NFLX) Amazon Video on Demand (s AMZN) and other streaming services available on the TiVo Premiere DVR. The app will also let users choose to play video from any available live, on-demand or online programming.
The release of TiVo’s iPad app comes as the consumer electronics manufacturer, which was once synonymous with the DVR, is struggling to remain relevant in a world where pay TV providers are leasing their own time-shifting set-top boxes directly to their customers. Over the past year TiVo has seen about a quarter of its subscribers flee, and as a result it has drastically reduced the price of purchasing one of its new Premiere DVRs, in an attempt to keep even more from leaving.
It’s good to see TiVo continuing to innovate and add new features and functionality for users, but we’re not sure how effective building an iPhone app will actually be. After all, many TiVo users are still stuck on older boxes that won’t work with the iPad app, and it’s not clear how many of those customers with the new TiVo Premiere box also have the Apple tablet. What’s more, pay TV operators like Comcast and Dish Network have already beaten TiVo to the punch, rolling out iPad apps of their own. While TiVo has some features they don’t, it might not be enough to keep customers from choosing to lease a DVR from their existing pay TV provider.
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