The TiVo Bolt Vox is one of the company's popular DVR devices. (Credit: Joshua Goldman/CNET)

In a time when your cable company's DVR options were expensive or non-existent, companies like TiVo came in to let you schedule recordings of your favorite shows, using an intuitive interface that replaced the one offered by your TV provider. But these days, streaming is taking over, cable has a tolerable DVR setup, and you may not have an appetite for buying a TiVo device for each TV you own or for paying a monthly fee for its services, on top of the cost of the device.

This year, however, TiVo plans to liberate its customers somewhat by producing an app for the Amazon Fire TV, followed by the Roku and Apple TV. Entertainment tech blog Zatz Not Funny reports that you still need a main TiVo device in your home, but these apps will let you skip the cost of adding TiVo's extender boxes that would hook up to other displays in your home.

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(Ordinarily, you buy one main TiVo device for your home, and the extender boxes connect it to it over a local network connection, which is much cheaper than getting a full-fledged TV for each TV you own.)

Beta versions of a TiVo app have been floating around for some time, but this is the first one that's designed specifically for a retail product, rather than something sold to cable TV companies for integration into their content delivery systems.

Note that this planned app is separate from the mobile app that lets you control a nearby TiVo device (download for iOS or Android). Instead, this new app would get installed on your actual non-TiVo streaming device, via its own app store.

Either way, given that TiVo boxes start at $180, and some of them require a monthly fee on top of that, there's potentially a lot of savings when a Roku or Fire TV device can be had for $50 or less. Especially since company says it will be waiving that monthly fee for users of the app.

Of course, there are drawbacks. One, you still have to rely on the storage in your main TiVo device; even an Apple TV's optional 64 gigabytes pales in comparison to the hundreds of GBs that you can pack into a TiVo, and that extra space is critical to storing digital video recordings. So you can't put a TiVo recording on a Roku stick, for example, and take it with you on a vacation or business trip.

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Two, the app option won't use surround sound or SkipMode, the latter of which is TiVo's branding for a DVR technique that recognizes commercial breaks and skips over them during a recording session.

As a result of these two restrictions, the proposed app won't be a direct replacement for a second or third TiVo box, but people already invested in the TiVo ecosystem could still save a bundle.

According to Zatz Not Funny, the Fire TV app is loosely scheduled for a Q2 or Q3 launch, so the Roku and Apple TV versions may not arrive until 2020.

Takeaways

  • Zatz Not Funny reports that TiVo is working on apps for Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Apple TV devices, to replace the need for extender boxes in homes that have more than one television.
  • The Fire TV app is planned for Q2 or Q3 of this year, followed by Roku, then Apple TV. Like TiVo's extender boxes, you won't be charged a monthly fee for access.
  • However, the app will not support surround sound or commercial skipping.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.