Tag Archives: DirecTV

DirecTivo

DirecTV partnered with Tivo to produce DVRs for the digital satellite TV services, alongside the UltimateTV. This would become the standard DVR for DirecTV subscribers from 1999 to 2005, when DirecTV introduced their own custom-developed units based on NDS middleware, similar to Sky+ in the UK. The last remaining Tivo DVR was the THR-22.

Typical Tivo units were manufactured by Humax, Sony and Hughes

Tivo channel banner

The channel information banner that shows what is currently being watched, a description of the current show, and icons on the right allow quick access to Tivo features

Tivo uses the thumbs Up/Down rating system for the user to provide feedback about the programs they prefer watching and the ones they prefer to avoid. This influences the Tivo suggestions that the DVR will record.

An iPreview icon, Pressing select or the thumbs up icon takes you to a Tivo Central message advertisement

The main EPG interface, Showing channels in a grid interface

Most of the Tivo menu are straight vertical lists and are easy to navigate with the remote control. You can customize the guide interface and set any additional filters

A list of recorder programs, when they were recorded and the channel they were recorded from

Tivo gives additional options when playing back a program, you can archive to a VCR instead, and you can prevent the Tivo from deleting the program if it needs more space.

DirecTV Tivo was integrated with DirecTV’s pay-per-view services, and movies/events could be recorded to its hard drive

You can add an additional buffer for recording TV programs to prevent them from being cut off in the event it overruns into the next program, similar to PDC (Program Delivery Control)

List of upcoming programs to be recorded

To Do List shows the programs Tivo is about to record as scheduled

You can filter to a specific genre of program

Choosing a channel and listing all the programs broadcast

Setting up a manual recording

Recording history for a show that was deleted.

Tivo will alert you if a program will not be recorded due to a schedule conflict, due to the limited amount of tuners

Tivos Recording history shows what was recorded, anything that didn’t record and what was deleted

Season passes are akin to series links, where the Tivo will record a series of episodes of the same show automatically. You can modify and remove these at any time

Upcoming episodes to be recorded, as part of a season pass

The time bar, shows how long you are into a recording, this appears when you pause, fast forward or rewind during a show.

The search feature, cab be used to find upcoming shows or movies

Wishlist main menu, you can set a Wishlist for a specific actor, and keywords (like the show title), you can then set a season pass to record any program matching that Wishlist keyword.

The results window when searching for a specific actor, any upcoming shows are listed that feature that actor

Again, very similar to the title keywords

Tivo showcases are like interactive apps containing clips that can be downloaded to your Tivo, they also serve as promotions for subscribers

DirecTV: UltimateTV

Ultimate TV was a partnership between DirecTV and Microsoft, who were looking to expand their WebTV platform. The DISH Player had launched a year prior with DISH network, and has also used the WebTV platform as a basis of its DVR software.

DirecTV also launched a DVR with Tivo, known as the DirecTivo which integrated two DSS satellite tuners into the Tivo system, which allowed for two channels to be recorded at the same time. Something that could not be done on the regular Tivo’s of the time, which required an external set top box to be connected.

Hardware was manufactured by RCA and Sony who had also made standalone WebTV hardware. Receivers typically came with a 40GB hard disk and twin DSS tuners

My Shows

List of all recordings made, and any upcoming shows to be recorded

Another screenshot of the My Shows section, this time with recordings grouped by title name

More recordings of different episodes of the same show

At launch dual channel recording was not possible, and inital functionality c

Interactive

An interactive prompt, WebTV was one of the main interactive platforms

Pay-Per-View

PPV movie and events could be ordered and recorded

Favourite Channels

Separate lists can be made to store favourite channels

Category Search

Searching for a specific program, you can choose from various filters

Searching by actor and a combination of categories

Someone here was clearly a fan of Friends

Searching by Day

You can filter to a specific feature that a program supports, like subtitles

Search by age rating

Filtering by the period of day

Or by decade period

Or by a search term / keyword. This was similar to what Tivo had offered

Additional Search terms

DISH Player

Dish Network also had their own DVR which ran using the WebTV middleware, known as the DISH Player. This was very similar to the UltimateTV but was released one year prior. Two models were released, the 7100 and 7200, both manufactured by Echostar and feature a single tuner. The 7100 has a 8GB Hard Disk, whilst the 7200 has 17.8GB.

A software update was released in December 1999 that enabled full DVR functionality. Prior to that it was only possible to live pause TV for 30 minutes. A $10 subscription fee was required, reducing to $5 if you took out a WebTV subscription also.

Images were originally captured from iwantptv.com before the site went offline

Channel 1 is the PTV (personal TV) channel, which is where the DVR is managed. You can view recorded shows which the DVR can self manage, older watched shows are deleted automatically to make space for upcoming shows.

  • TV Home: The main screen where you can access the guide, personal TV and any other services offered by WebTV and DISH Network.
  • Settings: Change receiver settings
  • TV Listings: The main TV guide and search engine
  • Web Home: Opens the WebTV browser
  • Help: Gives you information on how to use the receiver
  • Purchases: Pay Per View shows will appear when when purchased
  • TV Sites: TV Channel related sites like Fox News, CNN, etc
  • Games: Basic games that have been downloaded to the hard drive
  • Notices: Displays any messages sent to the box like service announcements

Only satellite programs can be recorded, OTA terrestrial ATSC channels can not be recorded, only watched live.

Conclusion

Microsoft didn’t last long in the North American DVR market, and the WebTV based DVR’s would be replaced not long after. DirecTV continued their partnership with Tivo and would eventually introduce their own branded DVR’s running NDS XTV software. DISH would replace the DISH Player with their own DISH DVR models.

Part of the reason was the poor initial reception due to the poor and buggy software during the early years of WebTV DVR’s, with reports of freezing and missed recordings, along with audio and visual glitches. It would be some time before these issues were sorted out, and Microsoft wasn’t very engaging on the software side of things which made it difficult for DirecTV or DISH to push software updates.

This wouldn’t be the last we would see of Microsoft attempting to enter the set top box market, the Mediaroom middleware would launch and power the ATT U-Verse and BT Vision services, and would also demo the Microsoft TV Foundation Edition for the Comcast/Motorola DCT platform.