TiVo’s back. No, really. The company that turned an unproven value proposition—prerecording TV shows—into a brand behemoth announced its first major release in 3+ years. TiVo, (un)originally named Teleworld, shipped its first DVR box in March 1999. It used the power of brand to sell its product as a distinct experience, differentiating itself through an engaging interface and range of services.
Indeed, the TiVo name is one of our faves, successfully humanizing technology, complete with a friendly, colorful logo and visual identity. Supposedly, TiVo’s marketing folks were considering “Bongo” and “Lasso” before they (luckily) decided on TiVo. TiVo is a coined name, combining “TV” and an acronym that engineers love, “I/O”, which stands for “input/output.” The combination of a ubiquitous consumer product and engineering excellence turned out to the perfect tonality for this consumer-facing product. And neither “Bongo” nor “Lasso” has the catchiness nor the ownability that led to “TiVo” being used as a verb.
But after its initial thunder, TiVo slipped, adapting clumsily as the industry shifted to HDTV and web programming. Fast-forward to 2013, and TiVo is fighting for relevance with its trio of Roamio products. The three models of the DVR (Roamio, Roamio Plus, Roamio Pro) range from $200 to $600, plus a monthly subscription service fee. It’s definitely pricey and aimed at a specific target audience: those willing to pay for digital cable and subscribe to streaming digital content.
The Roamio line can replace almost all popular TV peripheral devices—Roku, Apple TV, Slingbox, Boxee, Xbox 360, etc. Keeping the well-loved interface, TiVo added the ability to stream and download shows to iOS devices, and offers one-box access to a multitude of online streaming services. It’s the closest you’ll get to an all-in-one TV solution these days, but due warning, you’ll pay through the eyes for it. TiVo claims it will save customers money over time, but only after, ahem…34 months, an eternity in today’s techy times.
At first, the name “Roamio”* may throw you off. It seems better suited for a GPS app or device (what exactly is mobile about a box that sits next to your TV?). But upon examination, it makes more sense, given that you can stream digital content and download it for viewing on any iOS device (sorry, Android-users, you gotta wait). We love the play on “Romeo,” and its fun, whimsical tonality, along with the “-o” ending that works so well with the TiVo masterbrand (SO much better than the tired “Premiere” name of its last line of DVRs). The name’s coined nature signals that this is a true departure for TiVo, as most of its other products have descriptive names (i.e., TiVo Mini, TiVo Stream).
That said, we think “Roamio” is slightly misleading. The product’s mobility hasn’t been fully realized yet, since it can’t support streaming and downloading from outside the home. For a name that emphasizes the mobility message, the product’s capabilities in that area should be stronger and deeper. Perhaps the name could have focused more on the product’s prime differentiator: being the all-in-one DVR that unifies the best features of several devices.
Overall grade: B
* Full disclosure: Catchword’s affiliate, Just The Word, owns the domain roamio.com.