Is TiVo done with streaming dongles? Not so fast

Last year, one of the most interesting new streaming devices came not from Roku, Amazon, or Apple, but from TiVo.

The TiVo Stream 4K was an ambitious attempt to make streaming simpler, combining sources like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ into a single TV guide. For cord cutters, it was a welcome alternative to wading through a sea of app icons, and it also marked a new chapter for TiVo, which has been eager to break free of its legacy DVR business.

So I was bummed to read last weekend that TiVo might be abandoning the endeavor. Citing comments by the CEO of TiVo parent company Xperi, several sites suggested that the Stream 4K could be TiVo’s last streaming dongle as it focused more on embedding its software in smart TVs.

But according to a TiVo spokesperson, its foray into streaming hardware isn’t dead yet. The company says to expect new Android TV dongles from TiVo, and that it will continue to improve the Stream 4K “based on consumer needs and feedback.” More broadly, TiVo is “currently making hardware and will continue to do so.”

You might take this with a grain of salt, given that TiVo has reportedly been bleeding talent on the product side of its business, but I hope the company isn’t lying. While the TiVo Stream 4K wasn’t perfect, it still had a lot of potential.

Never say die

Jon Kirchner, the CEO of TiVo parent company Xperi, did suggest last week that the market for TiVo’s streaming dongles is narrower than it used to be.

In an earnings call, Kirchner noted that Google now offers its own universal streaming guide on Android TV devices—starting on the Chromecast with Google TV—which somewhat eclipses TiVo’s ability to offer an alternative. As such, Xperi was moving more aggressively to embed its software directly into smart TVs.

But even if the launch of Google TV was a gut punch, Kirchner never said that TiVo would stop making Android TV dongles. He even noted earlier in the call that TiVo Stream 4K device sales grew quarter-over-quarter, increasing the platform’s footprint. Given that TiVo monetizes its streaming devices through ads, it has plenty of incentive to keep producing and distributing them.

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