How TiVo Works

What Else Can TiVo Do?
Paused live television
Paused live television
© 2007 TiVo Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TiVo says that it can "pause live television." But that phrase is a bit misleading. TiVo is actually constantly recording to a live TV buffer, which it allocates to a certain portion of its hard drive.  When you hit the pause button on your remote, it freeze-frames the current image, giving the appearance of a paused videotape. When you hit play (un-pause), the recorded program begins playing.  TiVos can pause for up to half an hour. After half an hour, the program will un-pause and play 30 minutes behind the live broadcast.

Many TiVo owners use this function to skip commercials -- they set the TiVo to pause just as their program comes on and wait 15 to 20 minutes before un-pausing the show. When the program breaks for a commercial, the user can fast forward to the next part of the program. You can fast forward through a recorded program at three, 18 or 60 times the normal playing speed. By giving the program a 20-minute head start, the owner knows he won't catch up to the live programming and will be able to skip over all commercial breaks. Cable companies, television stations and advertisers are understandably concerned about viewers skipping over revenue-generating advertisements.


TiVo's search engine is called the WishList. You can enter a title, an actor, a genre or even just a keyword and the search engine will bring back results. You can tell TiVo to record every Yankees game or to search for movies directed by Michael Bay. TiVo customers often point to WishList as an example of how TiVo provides the best service in the DVR game.

TiVo's WishList search tool
© 2007 TiVo Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Season Pass

Another nice function is the Season Pass. Users can tell TiVo to record every episode of any program they want. Want to grab every episode of "South Park?" Just tell your TiVo and it will use its search engine to find every episode scheduled for broadcast and record it. It can even tell the difference between new broadcasts and repeats, so you don't have to worry about filling up your TiVo with duplicates.

TiVo's Season Pass feature
© 2007 TiVo Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Amazon Unbox

Recently, TiVo and Amazon entered into a strategic relationship so that TiVo users can take advantage of Amazon Unbox. With this service, TiVo subscribers are able to buy or rent films and television programs at and download them to the TiVo set. Amazon Unbox is not exclusive to TiVo customers; you can download the viewing software to a computer and rent or purchase films directly to your PC or laptop.

© 2007 TiVo Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Amazon Unbox function on TiVo

Remotely Programming Your TiVo

The Amazon Unbox function on TiV
Image courtesy © 2007 TiVo Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If the TiVo set you use has network capability, you can install software on your computer that will allow you to manage your TiVo remotely. The software emulates TiVo's operating system. You can even program your TiVo to record a show using a Verizon Wireless phone program called TiVo Mobile.

Viewing Photos and Listening to Music

The Series2 TiVo models can access digital photos and music on your computer once you connect the TiVo to your home network. TiVo doesn't copy the files onto the set - they are still hosted on your computer, so you don't lose any hard drive space on your TiVo. Users have to install a software application from TiVo called the TiVo Desktop in order to access music and photos using the TiVo set.

You can view photos on your TiVo
Image courtesy © 2007 TiVo Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TivoToGo is another new service for networked TiVo systems. Users can transfer recorded programs from their TiVo system to their computers. TiVo has formed a partnership with Sonic Solutions, which offers software that can burn TiVo-recorded programs onto DVDs so that you can view them using any DVD player.

Sharing Programming

If you have two Series2 TiVo systems, you can network them together using an Ethernet USB adapter. Suppose you have one system in your living room and another in your bedroom. By networking the two together, you can watch programs recorded on the living room set while in your bedroom, or vice versa. Both systems have to be registered on the same TiVo account in order to take advantage of this option.

TiVo Suggestions

TiVo can analyze your recording habits and look for other programs similar to ones you like. For example, if you record lots of "CSI" episodes, your TiVo may search for other crime scene shows and record an episode of "Bones" on its own. When a TiVo's capacity is full, suggested programs are the first ones it will erase to make room for new programming.

For lots more information on TiVo and related topics, check out the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Sutherland, Ed. "Is TiVo History?"
  • TiVo
  • Topix