TiVo’s first Android TV dongle also appears to be the last


Last May, TiVo attempted to tap into Roku and Amazon with its own HDMI streaming dongle – the $ 70 TiVo Stream 4K, which traded in the company’s traditional live TV + DVR functionality for Sling TV, Netflix, HBO and YouTube, among others. It now appears that the attempt was so unsuccessful that the company planned to abandon its Android TV dongle efforts altogether.

Xperi Holdings CEO Jon Kirchner explained in an earnings call (through Zatz not funny) that it no longer feels like it can compete with Android TV – the company likes to think that the differentiator is a content guide that pops up that lets you search for shows and movies across different apps, but now that Google already has something like that Baked into its new “Google TV” tier on top of Android TV and retailing for just $ 50, TiVo doesn’t see much of a future there.

Here’s Kirchner, as transcribed by Alpha search:

Of course, so originally as we approached the combination, we made a lot of plans around some sort of three-phase approach, starting with the Stream 4K product, which is a dongle that can be attached to TVs, and moving on to an embedded application, where we Let’s just say the UI is preferred over a wider platform, but originally around the idea that it would live on top of Android TV.

And then third, all the way to a much deeper embedded solution, embedded OS, where we’re a larger provider, where we’re really the only primary interface for broader content search and discovery and engagement. What has changed is last fall, Google came out and said they plan to move beyond their core OS-level offering and really get into the UX business, thus overshadowing anyone’s ability to reasonably be a alternative that could otherwise live on their lower platform.

Instead, says Kirchner, he wants to integrate TiVo smarts directly into TVs – a strategy that worked pretty well for Roku, and where Amazon has also been competing with Fire TV Edition sets for a few years now.

Here’s the problem: While the Stream 4K was rated well, it was not the user interface which reviewers liked. Some of the most rave reviews mentioned it messy or confusing compared to the competition, and most concluded it was fine compared to slicker offerings from Roku and Amazon at or below that price. TiVo lowered the Stream 4K’s starting price to $ 50 at launch and lowered it to $ 39 in December after Google’s $ 50 Chromecast arrived.