Sling complement candidate #3: Roamio OTA

Screen shot from TiVo Roamio OTABack now to my reports from the International CES about over-the-air TV receivers that might be worthy complements to Dish’s announced Sling TV service. The next box to consider is TiVo’s Roamio OTA, which might be better than its competitors in every way but one.

TiVo pioneered the DVR and has the patents to prove it. Its iconic “peanut” remote control remains the gold standard for ease of use despite being stuffed with so very many little buttons. TiVo’s idea of “suggestions” – filling the DVR hard drive by recording shows you didn’t ask for but might like – remains unique among DVRs, suggesting to me that it’s one of TiVo’s patents.

Now TiVo has improved that wonderful, friendly user interface with the integration of streaming services. As you can see in the accompanying photo, if you’re not getting enough Two and a Half Men episodes from your local CW affiliate, the Roamio OTA indicates that more episodes are available from Amazon Instant Video and Vudu. It’s the perfect way to fill in episode gaps for binge watching.

The Roamio OTA can even stream like a Simple.TV or Tablo with the addition of the little TiVo Stream device. The list price for the Roamio OTA is a ridiculously low $49.99. There’s just one drawback, its fatal flaw: the excessive service fees required to operate it.

Let’s compare service fees per month, and over a three-year period.

  • DVR+: $0/month, $0/3 years
  • Simple.TV: $50/year, $150/3 years (lifetime)
  • Tablo: $5/month, $150/3 years (lifetime)
  • Roamio OTA: $14.99/month, $539.65/3 years

The Roamio OTA is ineligible for any TiVo lifetime subscription, so it gets expensive very quickly. Yes, the service is top-of-the-line, but does TiVo really need to charge that much for maybe 50 channels of guide data? Its competitors suggest that it does not. If you’re a cord-cutter with money to burn (if such a person exists), then the Roamio OTA should make you very happy. If you’re cutting back to save money, the Roamio OTA isn’t your best choice.