1080P Netflix Coming to TiVo

October 25, 2011

As previously reported, Netflix is allowing its consumer electronics partners access its native 1080P video. Netflix distributed the new SDK to its partners this past summer so we’ve been investigating when it will come to additional devices. The current universe of 1080P Netflix boxes include the Playstation 3, Roku 2 XS and XD and the newly refreshed WD TV Live.

One of the first boxes to implement Netflix streaming was the TiVo (2008). While TiVo was on the leading edge at the time, its Netflix client has not received any significant updates since. Unable to browse the Netflix catalog, the lack of an upgraded Netflix client is one of the biggest gripes of the TiVo faithful (as often stated in the TiVo Community Forum).

Well, relief is coming! TiVo has acknowledged they are working on implementing a new Netflix client incorporating the new SDK and it will support 1080P video (if you have the bandwidth). Yes, it will be a refreshed Netflix client. As for the details, TiVo is not sharing much more.

Everything from this point on is not confirmed by TiVo. TiVo has not confirmed a release date, other features or what platforms it will be released on. We can safely assume the update is for the Premiere first. Given it’s 2011, it’s also safe to assume this version will allow you to browse the Netflix catalog.

Will it support surround sound? Netflix uses Dolby Digital Plus for surround sound. We do know for a fact that the TiVo Premiere does support Dolby Digital but not Dolby Digital Plus. By definition, Dolby Digital Plus is not backwards compatible. So, the facts would suggest that the Premiere will not support Netflix surround sound. However, somehow Apple TV supports surround sound from Netflix and I’ve only seen it output Dolby Digital (and the specs do not mention Plus). Netflix may be serving out encodes with Dolby Digitial as well (or the Apple TV can downmix Plus to Dolby Digital). If the TiVo implementation does come with surround sound support, it will confirm that suspicion.

Closed Caption support? Given the lawsuits and FCC rules, I bet it’s in there.

From what I gathered, the interface will be Flash based instead of HTML5. The TiVo’s HD user interface is built in Flash and we don’t see any reason why the new Netflix client wouldn’t be as well. That would also lead us to believe the update is not coming for the Series3 but I hope I’m wrong about that.

When? Based on what we’ve heard from other parts of the industry, it will be released before year-end. I know what you’re thinking. Even if TiVo gave me a release date, you wouldn’t believe it. Well, Christmas is coming and it would be a great way to drive sales. I know that you’re still waiting for version 14.9a which enables TiVo to TiVo streaming.

We also know from this thread on the TiVo Community Forum that TiVo is working on a new major release of the TiVo software, version 16. Apparently, this version will enable multi-core support as well as speeding up the HD TiVo interface.

Stay tuned, we have lots more to share on what other devices will have 1080P Netflix support shortly.

Update: Dual-core support is supposed to be enabled in 14.9a but not for the UI (thanks Dave Z).

Netflix logo

Current TiVo Netflix interface
The current TiVo Netflix interface

Related Posts:
TiVo Premiere Set Up and Migration from the Series 3
TiVo Premiere Elite Announced and Other Tidbits

Tags: closed captions, Dolby, HDTV, Netflix, Premiere, streaming, TiVo

3 Responses to 1080P Netflix Coming to TiVo

  1. Ir5757 on November 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    woohoo I cant wait to select my movie from theNetflix catalog instead of going to my computer.

  2. mwsealey on December 15, 2011 at 10:43 am

    It should be noted that most DD+ bitstreams are encoded with a legacy DD (AC3) bitstream embedded in them, so in the case of outputting DD+ from your TiVo it will probably just be demuxing the legacy stream to your receiver or TV rather than outputting DD+ directly. There's usually not any downmixing required although Dolby do provide software to downmix E-AC3 to AC3 rather quickly indeed to provide a legacy stream if none is provided (but, the vast majority do)

  3. The Hub on December 16, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Very true. However, while converting from DD+ to regular DD is technically trivial, if the box doesn't understand DD+ in the first place, it can't do it. The TiVo could just hand off the bits to the receiver over HDMI but that would leave the folks who rely on the digital optical output out of luck. Somehow Apple TV does it and my guess is that Netflix also supplies a regular DD encoded stream. I guess we'll find out when it comes out!

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