TiVo indicates it may sunset Android TV dongle

The retail packaging for the TiVo Stream 4K Android TV device. (Photo by Matthew Keys, Graphic by The Desk)

TiVo’s first meaningful push away from its traditional digital video recorders (DVRs) with an eye toward streaming devices appears to be one of its last, too.

On what should have been a celebratory anniversary of its first-ever Android TV device, the company best known for its line of antenna and cable DVRs said it would soon switch its focus toward licensing its operating system and streaming features to smart TV makers.

The inferences came during a conference call with investors of TiVo’s parent company Xperi last week.

“That work is ongoing and continues very well, continue to have partner discussions that I think are quite engaged around it,” Jon Kirchner, the chief executive of Xperi, said on the call. “We think we have a pretty unique solution that drives higher engagement, and therefore greater monetization for everybody involved in the ecosystem.”

Xperi’s streaming strategy for TiVo initially involved three steps: Develop an Android TV dongle that included TiVo’s content discovery software, get partner apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to integrate with the discovery software, then approach smart TV makers with an opportunity to license TiVo’s version of Android TV.

Xperi fulfilled those first two steps last year when it brought the TiVo Stream 4K to market, promoting it as a $70 Android TV device with TiVo’s killer content recommendation software. The company offered potential customers a limited promotional window where they could grab a TiVo Stream 4K for $50 before the price went up a few months later.

The price increase never came. Instead, Xperi decided to keep the $50 price in place after Google announced it would soon offer its own content discovery software under the Google TV brand name, which would ship with a revamped version of its popular Chromecast device before eventually making its way to other Android TV devices.

The cost of the new Chromecast with Google TV? $50. Period. No promotion. No price increase.

Xperi took notice of Google’s new hardware and content software offerings, and suddenly the first step of their streaming plan seemed unnecessary.

“Last fall, Google came out and said that they intend to go beyond their core OS level offering and really get into the UX business, and in so doing it eclipses one’s ability to I think reasonably be an alternative that might otherwise live on their lower level platform,” Kirchner said.

Now, Xperi plans to shift its focus away from streaming hardware toward developing a TiVo Stream environment that can live on top of Android TV, and one that can be licensed to other smart TV manufacturers. The company seems to believe that customers might be persuaded to buy a smart TV powered by Android if TiVo’s content discovery software is also promoted as a feature.

That doesn’t mean the TiVo Stream 4K is going away anytime soon — it can still be purchased at most major retailers, including Amazon where it currently sells for $40. And it also doesn’t mean that Xperi will stop supporting the existing TiVo Stream 4Ks already on the market, especially since some smaller cable providers have purchased them to lease to customers.

But customers who were hoping for a better TiVo Stream device down the line shouldn’t hold their breath.

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