TELEVISION TECHNOLOGY: Five Ways to Improve Tivo’s Service

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Believe it or not, I don’t think I’ve ever complained about my crummy Verizon Fios service. I absolutely love their blazing fast Internets but their television service basically sucks, specifically their HD.  I’m a subscriber to their “Extreme HD” package that includes all their HD Channels. Only problem is there HD-DVR is so crummy that I only received about 5 of the 20 or 30 HD Channels that I paid for.  After six months of going round and round with their tech people and have people come out to the house, as well as replacing their crappy DVR – which only records 20 hours of HD programming, barely recorded HD at all, I finally gave up and purchased my own equipment. I upgraded my old Tivo Box – that I never used to get the Tivo HD Series 3. It’s a neat little box because I can increase the storage capacity on it, I went to Best Buy and purchased a 500 Gig MyDVR Expander for about $65. The new Tivo Series 3 is all about connectivity, it features Netflix Instant Watch, Amazon OnDemand, Podcast Viewing, YouTube, and a host of other nifty things.  But here’s the thing, the Tivo Service itself is terrible. I really HATE it, but at least the box works. I don’t understand how it beat out the much easier to use and customizable ReplayTV service.  Here are Five things Tivo can do to improve.

1.  Enable 30 Second Commercial Skip

It’s ridiculous that you have to hack Tivo remotes in order  Every other DVR I’ve ever used has this feature when you first turn it on. It’s used to be part of Tivo’s marketing pitch that you can skip commercials – but it’s a LIE, you have to hack it to enable 30-second skip.

2.  Clean-up the Amazingly Confusing Menu

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The Tivo Central Menu is amazingly confusing.  In the name of “simplicity,” they bury a lot of standard things like – the DVR To Do List, to get there you have to go to Find Programs and scroll all the way to the end. To get to the Connect to Tivo Service Menu, I have to go into settings, scroll down, then network.  To get to my Netflix Instant Q and I have to go through several layers – and the Netflix interface is hideously plain and clunky. Everything is a minimum of 3 clicks away. When you click the Now Playing button it’s cluttered as heck. Why is it users can’t customize their Menu Experience?  Tivo hasn’t changed it’s menu system in 8 years and it shows.

3. Add Picture in Picture to the Tivo Central Guide

Every other DVR I’ve ever used puts the program you are watching in a small picture in picture window while you are searching for other programs. Not Tivo. The minute you go into the Tivo Central area that’s it, you aren’t watching or listening to your program anymore. A lot of times I like to check the DVR Recording Schedule during a commercial or a particularly boring news segment. Or I’ll just want to double check that Burn Notice is still scheduled to be recorded. It takes at least 3 minutes to set up a recording.

4. Change the TV Guide

The TV Guide (not the company) interface simply sucks. Again navigating it is a chore, when you click the guide, instead of minimizing it, or giving you the option of choosing how it displays, it shows this hideous “transparent” guide superimposed over my entire picture. I want to be able to set the guide so it displays at the top or bottom of my screen not across my entire 46 inch television.

5.  Allow Users to Control their Experience

When I delete something, I want the program permanently gone, I don’t want it to be sitting off in some other folder in case I deleted by “accident.” I don’t want to have to delete a program, then navigate to some deletion folder and then do three more clicks to permanently delete something – it’s stupid!  Let me control my menus! If I click Tivo Central, I want my Netflix, Amazon, Podcasts, Now Playing, Search, etc to be there. I don’t want to have to hunt and peck through 3 layers to get to it.  Just because I’m in Tivo Central, doesn’t mean I don’t want to watch or listen to whatever program that I’m watching at the time. What all of the above comments lead to is; I’m paying a “fortune” for this crappy service, allow me to control my own experience.

17 thoughts on “TELEVISION TECHNOLOGY: Five Ways to Improve Tivo’s Service”

  1. Did you know that you can get to the to-do list by pressing the Tivo button, then the number 2 on the keypad?

    Did you also know that you can get a grid guide or the "normal" Tivo guide? Press info while the guide is displayed, and a menu comes up allowing you to choose between the 2 styles (they still use the whole screen).

    Finally, my Netflix queue shows as a folder in my Now Playing list. Not sure why yours doesn't. Do you have your now playing list configured to display groups? I suspect that this will fix the Netflix queue thing. (I can't recall how to enable this, but I think there is small text at the bottom of the now playing list that says to press a button to view as groups, or to view as list…

  2. I knew about the grid guide thing, but both ways take up the entire screen and your other points. Yes, my Netflix Queue shows up as Folders, but I prefer the shuffle that X-Box Live does. Thanks for the tips!

  3. I knew about the grid guide thing, but both ways take up the entire screen and your other points. Yes, my Netflix Queue shows up as Folders, but I prefer the shuffle that X-Box Live does. I didn't know about the to do list thing though. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Why do you even go into the Deleted folders folder? It's like the trash bin on a Windows or MAC PC. It's there as a safe guard but in no way limits the amount of recording space available to you. Unlike the PC trash can that must be manually deleted from time to time, The TiVo trash can needs no user intervention. There is no down side to it at all.

    The interface does need a face lift and TiVo is working on one.

    I too have wanted picture in picture when navigating the menus. Almost every day I mutter to myself that its not there.

    But otherwise I couldn't disagree with you more. TiVo is so simple a senior citizen can use it. I otta know, my parents are in their 70s and can use it. It's one of the most intuitive interfaces out there. I love it. You are used to the way other services work. I imagine that in a month or so after you get used to it, you'll never want to live without it.

    …Dale

  5. While agree with you on the 30 second skip, it is so easy to make it happen I would not consider it a hack. There are other, much more in depth hacks involving programming and a computer and opening the box (voiding your warranty) that are real hacks.

    I like the menu, my 5 yr old can navigate it no problem. Of course she never gets out of the KidZone feature. And you can change the menu set up rather easily.

    Picture in picture would be a nice Option, I would not want it. As a TiVo user, I time shift nearly 99% of my programming and if it's actually worth watching I pause my show and come back to it. I do understand why you would want one, but I would be really disappointed if I could not turn it off. And I have a 52" TV.

    Yeah, the TV guide can take a little getting use to, but no ads cluttering up the screen and a faster and better UI. And if the program you are watching is boring enough that you are looking at the guide for other shows… well I would be looking for something else too, but I would probably pause or simply stop watching the show. Of course there is always the chance it could get better…. 🙂

    And I agree with the post about the deleted files. No reason to mess with it. How often do you delete files from your trash can on the computer? The TiVo will delete items from the trash as space is needed, you do not have to worry about it.

    Enjoy your TiVo, in my humble opinion, it is the top end DVR experience out there.

  6. Michelle, I don't know how long you've used your TiVo, but some of these comments seem to indicate a lack of familiarity. While I agree that the interface could use a contemporary touch, it works wonders and is light-years ahead of our cable DVR.

    You complain about having to delete shows twice. You don't. ONE press of the Clear key deletes the show — no need to go into the Deleted folder, unless you want to _permanently_ erase the show (e.g. a questionable movie). Otherwise, TiVo will reclaim deleted shows when it needs the room. In the meantime, they're available for _un_deletion, an essential feature. (Remember typewriters? They had no Undo function. Wasn't that fun? My cable DVR has no undelete, and this permanence gives me the willies every time I delete a show.)

    You complain about how deep essential functions are buried in the menus. TiVo thoughtfully gave power-users 11 shortcuts: press the TiVo key, followed by TiVo or a digit. TiVo + TiVo = Now Playing; TiVo + 2 = "Two"-Do List; TiVo + 4 = Search "Four" Programs by Title. These are documented all over the Net. Your complaint about keystrokes needed to "Connect To The TiVo Service" is specious; it's only used during setup, or when debugging your network. TiVo connects automatically on a daily basis; you normally *never* have to use it.

    You call the Now Playing screen "cluttered as heck". Can you elaborate on that? Each show is listed with one colored icon, title, and date — it's an exercise in minimalism. If it's the organization of the list which irks you, have you noticed the nice prompt at the bottom of the screen? It leads you to — gasp — a customization screen, allowing you to sort the list and group each series' episodes into a folder.

    Finally, you gripe about having to unlock the 30-second skip, and claim that "Every other DVR I’ve ever used has this feature when you first turn it on." Cable DVRs are mostly Scientific Altanta (which has NO 30-second skip) or Motorola (which requires programming the sequence into your remote, like TiVo). DirecTV and U-Verse have no 30-second skip. (They have a 30-second fast-forward instead.) It seems "Every other DVR" you've used excludes the majority of installed units.

    Again, I agree with some of your comments, but many of them are wrong or ill-researched.

  7. Michelle, I don't know how long you've used your TiVo, but some of these comments seem to indicate a lack of familiarity. While I agree that the interface could use a contemporary touch, it works wonders and is light-years ahead of our cable DVR.

    You complain about having to delete shows twice. You don't. ONE press of the Clear key deletes the show — no need to go into the Deleted folder, unless you want to _permanently_ erase the show (e.g. a questionable movie). Otherwise, TiVo will reclaim deleted shows when it needs the room. In the meantime, they're available for _un_deletion, an essential feature. (Remember typewriters? They had no Undo function. Wasn't that fun? My cable DVR has no undelete, and this permanence gives me the willies every time I delete a show.)

    You complain about how deeply essential functions are buried in the menus. TiVo thoughtfully gave power-users shortcuts: press the TiVo key, followed by TiVo or a digit. TiVo + TiVo = Now Playing; TiVo + 2 = "Two"-Do List; TiVo + 4 = Search "Four" Programs by Title. These are documented all over the Net. Your complaint about keystrokes needed to "Connect To The TiVo Service" is specious; it's only used during setup, or when debugging your network. TiVo connects automatically on a daily basis; you normally *never* have to use it.

    You call the Now Playing screen "cluttered as heck". Can you elaborate on that? Each show is listed with one colored icon, title, and date — it's an exercise in minimalism. If it's the organization of the list which irks you, have you noticed the nice prompt at the bottom of the screen? It leads you to — gasp — a customization screen, allowing you to sort the list and group each series' episodes into a folder.

    Finally, you gripe about having to unlock the 30-second skip, and claim that "Every other DVR I’ve ever used has this feature when you first turn it on." Cable DVRs are typically Scientific Altanta (which has NO 30-second skip) or Motorola (which requires programming the sequence into your remote, like TiVo). DirecTV and U-Verse have no 30-second skip. (They have a 30-second fast-forward instead.) It seems "Every other DVR" you've used excludes the majority of installed units.

    Again, I agree with some of your comments, but many of them are wrong or ill-researched.

  8. Thanks for the tips! But that goes to my point how am I as a user supposed to know that? I shouldn't have to search around the net for these "power features."

  9. I actually delete files out of my Trashcan on my Mac and PC every time I delete something because it reclaims the hard drive space. Just because something is deleted doesn't mean it's not eating up valuable hard drive space. So no, I don't trust Tivo to automatically reclaim my space to make room for something new, so I like to have full control over that.

  10. Trust TiVo to delete, it will. And just so you know, when it needs space – First it deletes items from the trash folder, secondly it will start to delete the oldest stored show. Keep until you delete is a good function, but if the TiVo sees recordings in the future (up to 2 weeks out) it will reserve space for those shows – to make sure you have space available. I would not suggest using 'keep until I delete' unless you just have to save the program on your TiVo. Your best bet for programs you want to keep is to transport them on your network to you computer or other storage device – something no cable DVR will allow you to do.

  11. "So no, I don't trust Tivo to automatically reclaim my space to make room for something new."

    But it does. That's how it was designed. That's how it works.

    Michelle, you complained about something which is untrue. You were corrected by no less than 3 experienced TiVo users in less than a day. Yet you persist in your position. This is highly disappointing.

  12. Try tivocommunity.com, you can find your helpful hints all in one place. Being a TiVo user for less than 1 year, this has been a very helpful site.

  13. No, I never said Tivo doesn't delete things, but I want control over how it does it and I want things to be permanently deleted when I delete them. We'll just agree to disagree on this point.

  14. To your points…

    1. Enable 30 Second Commercial Skip
    By default this feature is turned off and available as a "hidden feature", you just need to turn it on. Using the FF/RW buttons work much better anyway, in my opinion.

    2. Clean-up the Amazingly Confusing Menu
    What confuses you about the menu? It's an amazingly simple text-list. Are you saying you prefer the XBOX 360 UI over a TiVo? Two completely different modes of use. The Xbox is all about browsing eye candy to get/trick you into purchasing content from their marketplace. It's like a Vegas casino, you're not supposed to be able to find your way around or out of it. The TiVo UI is more about quickly navigating to the content you want and getting on your way.

    3. Add Picture in Picture to the Tivo Central Guide
    I think the rationale behind not having a live TV window is that users should focus at the task at hand. Plus, it takes up a lot of space in the UI.

    4. Change the TV Guide
    You're doing it wrong. TiVo isn't about surfing or browsing live TV. The idea is to find a show you like, set it, and forget it. After you've had your TiVo for a few months you'll have so many recordings on your box you'll never channel surf again.

    5. Allow Users to Control their Experience
    #FAIL. Settings and customizations are for power PC users. People don't want to do ANY work when it comes to using their television.

    I felt compelled to respond because this is one of the most poorly written articles I've ever read. From the typo in the title (it's spelled "Television" not "Telvision") to the inaccurate fact checking and erroneous usability "tips". Please, have a little bit of pride in your craft…

  15. A person posted here that SOME of your comments show your TiVo immaturity…I will say ALL your comments here show your lack of TiVo knowledge.

    Call your provider and order their DVR again. Sell me your TiVo. You obviously have no idea what you are doing.

  16. Just curious: why do you want shows to be permanently deleted when you delete them? Is it to hide them from prying eyes peeking into the Deleted folder, or is it for another reason (e.g. to ensure the shows no longer take up any room)?

  17. I have easily found shortcuts for most of the rants in this article and I discovered many of them by playing around with the remote. Some I looked for on the internet. Easy to do a google search for TiVo remote shortcuts.

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