Comparison of TiVo and Sky+
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TiVo and Sky+ are both Personal Video Recorders which seem similar but are actually quite different. This chart aims to show the differences and similarities between the two products.

If there are any errors or omissions please email me at: .

A history of changes can be found at the bottom of the page.

Background Information
Who are the two manufacturers?

TiVo Inc., the creator and leader of television services for digital video recording technology, was founded on one driving vision: to create and continually enhance a new, easy - and much better - way to watch television. The idea that every consumer, no matter how busy or hectic their lives may be, should still be able to enjoy the television entertainment of their choice on their time established the cornerstone of the TiVo philosophy: watch what you want, when you want.

TiVo is a US company. Their standalone box was launched in the US in 1999, and in the UK during October 2000 (the hardware being manufactured by Thomson as part of their Scenium range).

Newer products in the US include a dual-tuner satellite combo box, and Series 2 expanding the multimedia capabilities (neither of these are currently available in the UK).

The Sky+ project started at around the time of the launch of Sky Digital (3 years ago); a joint effort between Pace (Hardware), OpenTV (middleware) and NDS (with their PVR technology XTV). In addition Sky worked heavily with NEC, whose chipset provides the PVR functionality.†

Sky+ was released September 2001.

Channels Available / Compatibility
Support for Sky Digital channels Yes - controls an external Sky box. Yes via built in tuner.
Support for Freeview channels Yes - controls an external Freeview box. See here for supported hardware. No - the hardware does not support this.
Support for Digital Cable Yes - Pace 1000 and 2000 owners, and Telewest Pace 4000 users need to purchase a seperate IR adaptor from customer services for £30 (NTL Pace 4000 owners do not). See here for supported hardware. No - the hardware does not support this.
Support for Analogue Cable Yes. No - the hardware does not support this.
Support for Analogue Terrestrial

Yes via built in tuner. Some early models (Pre Feb 2001) had NICAM reception problems. A small hardware modification is available free of charge.

The internal analogue tuner may be used in addition to controlling an external box.

No - the hardware does not support this.
Support for external sources (eg Camcorder, DVD Player) Yes. Although the software currently contains no specific support for this, it is easy to connect any RGB or composite device via the SCART connection and record from it. TiVo will also strip off any macrovision encoding (such as on DVD's), however it will reapply it when outputting to TV. No - the hardware does not support this.
Can I record two channels at the same time?

No - unless you purchase two TiVo's. You may only record one programme at a time, and you may not pause Live TV on a different channel whilst recording.

Option available:

  • Record one channel and watch something else you have previously recorded (or watch what is being recorded).
  • When not recording - watch Live TV with the ability to pause.
  • Record one channel from the built in analogue terrestrial tuner, and watch a live programme on the AUX (or VCR) input using bypass mode (can not pause).

Yes Sky+ contains two tuners so you can record two programmes at the same time.

Options available:

  • Record one or two channels and watch something else you have previously recorded (or watch what is being recorded).
  • Record one programme and watch Live TV (a different channel) with the ability to pause.

Limitations when recording two channels at one:

  • Guide data is available for the next 48-hours only.
  • Programmes in the future do not contain a synopsis.
  • Interactive services can not be used.
Can I use more than one source for recordings? Yes, you may have Terrestrial aerial channels plus any set top box; or Sky Digital via SCART and either Freeview or Cable via RF. No only the Sky platform is supported.
What programme guide data is available?

TiVo provides up to 21 days of listings for each of the supported platforms (see above).

Terrestrial channels (1-5) usually have between seven and fourteen days worth of data. Cable/Satellite data usually goe further ahead.

Sky+ provides one weeks worth of listings of all of the Sky Digital channels.

Whilst two programmes are being recorded simultaneously, only the next 48-hours of listings are available.

Sky are not planning to increase the amount of guide data that they provide.†

How is the programme guide data updated? TiVo makes a free telephone call each day. Via satellite.
How often is the programme guide data updated? Once per day. More frequent updates can be forced. Changes occur in real time as they happen.
Can I record radio channels? Yes - guide data is provided for all major BBC services.

Yes via a manual recording only (there is no programme guide data for radio channels). Radio recordings take up a minimal amount of disc space due to the low bitrate.

Picture and sound quality
What is the picture quality like?

TiVo offers four recording quality levels to allow the user to select an appropriate quality to disc space ratio.

Best Quality = 7.65Mb/s
High Quality = 4.77Mb/s
Medium Quality = 3.62Mb/s
Basic Quality = 2.24Mb/s

Additionally Variable Bit-Rate (VBR) recordings may be made. This works best with a good quality source signal.

TiVo has to MPEG encode the signal in real time which means the quality will not be as good as Sky+ which records the bitstream direct - however quality is still extremely good. TiVo will record RGB thus PAL colour artifacts are not a problem.

The Sky+ box records the digital stream directly meaning that what you see on a normal Sky box is what is recorded by Sky+. Since no MPEG encoding is done the picture quality recorded by Sky+ is exactly the same as the original.

It is not possible to reduce the disc space used by a recording at the expense of quality.

What is the sound quality like?

32Khz stereo at all recording qualities (see above). Dolby ProLogic encodings remain intact.

Dolby digital encoding will not be possible with the current hardware.

Most programmes are received in stereo, however Sky+ offers a Dolby Digital optical output. A few programmes on channels 301 to 303, and disney channels 611 and 612 are broadcast in Dolby 5.1 surround sound (indicated in the guide as such).
Is widescreen switching supported? Yes via the RGB scart, and via line 23 on the TV signal (for both Scart and RF users). No SVideo connection is available. Yes via the RGB scart but not via the SVideo socket.
Finding Programmes to Record
Find Programmes: By Title

You can find programmes via their title by entering the name or scanning the A-Z list. All programmes in the guide data (up to a month) are shown.

Optionally you can specify a genre (eg documentary, sport etc) to filter on whilst using this option.

You can set a Wishlist which will automatically record programmes based on their title or description by entering keywords.

You can find programmes via their title in an AZ list but this only contains programmes showing on the current day.

Optionally you can specify a genre (eg entertainment, scifi etc) to filter on whilst using this option.

In a future software release Sky are looking at extending the AZ to more than 24hrs but there are issues with available memory for this function; so no date when it might become available.†

Find Programmes: By Channel You may view all programmes on a particular channel. The date and time can be specified (defaults to current date and time). Sky's standard EPG and personal planner are available.
Find Programmes: By Time

You can find all programmes being shown at a specified time across either all channels, or your favourite channels.

Optionally you can specify a genre (eg documentary, sport etc) to filter on whilst using this option.

Sky's standard EPG and personal planner are available.
Find Programmes: By Genre

You can find all programmes being shown which are of a particular genre.

You can set a Wishlist which will allow programmes that match your genre to be automatically recorded (with optional keywords that must be in the title / description).

You can specify a genre in the A-Z search (only searches programmes on in the next 24 hours).
Find Programmes: By actor or director

A Wishlist can be set which will find programmes that contain specified actors / directors, and can optionally automatically recorde them. A genre may also be specified with this option to make searches more precise.

Not available, and not likely to ever be available.†
Manual Recording (like a VCR)

Yes: One time (choose any date), Every M-F, Everyday, Every Sun/Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu/Fri/Sat.

Yes: One time (up to seven days in advance), Repeating (as One time but repeats each week).
Onscreen EPG overlay (allowing uninterrupted TV viewing)

An onscreen (transparent) Live TV guide is available similar to Sky's standard EPG.

Programmes can be filtered based on genre, or only your favourite channels to be shown.

A seperate overlay is also available showing details of the programme currently being played.

Sky's now & next banner can be displayed during playback or recording.
Suggesting programmes to watch. Yes - TiVo allows you to give thumbs up or down ratings to programmes you watch. Programmes you record are automatically thumbed up. TiVo will build a profile of what kind of programmes, actors, and genres you like and suggest programmes you might like to watch. Optionally you can have it automatically record these suggestions, however it will always remove these to free up disc space for your explicit recordings. No.
Can I see for a given programme what other times it aires. Yes - TiVo has a "View upcoming episodes" facility. No.
Programme Highlights. Yes - TiVo has "Inside TiVo" and "Channel Highlights" which details the best programmes of the week (similar to "Pick of the week" style entries in TV guides). No.
What Personal Video Recorder (PVR) functions are available?
Record the programme you are currently watching? Yes. Yes.
Record a programme you are currently watching including what you have already watched? (This means if you are watching something and wished you had recorded it for someone else to see you can!) Yes. TiVo will add to the recording the part you have already watched - up to thirty minutes or to the start of the programme. Yes. When the live TV buffer is enabled from the setup screen, you can save the contents of the buffer (up to sixty minutes).
Pause Live TV? Yes for up to 30 minutes. Yes until you run out of available disc space.
Live TV Buffer?

TiVo has a 30 minute buffer that is always recording the currently selected channel. This means that if you press pause you already have up to thirty minutes of programme behind you. You can stay paused for thirty minutes after which play resumes. When the next programme starts the buffer carries on recording that so you may watch the next programme delayed as well.

You can return to the menus whilst watching delayed TV (for example to set a recording) and return to Live TV where you left it.

If you press record whilst watching Live TV, TiVo will start to record, and stitch the contents of its buffer (the whole 30 mins or up to the start of the programme) to the start of the recording.

Sky+'s buffer either starts when you press pause, or you can configure a buffer similar to TiVo's so that it starts buffering immediately (buffer lengths are 0, 5, 15, 30, or 60 minutes).

You can not enter the menu systems when watching delayed Live TV without losing the contents of the buffer (though you can use the search and scan banner to record programmes on now or next).

You can record the contents of the buffer.

Fast forward and rewind.

TiVo has three different speeds of fast forward and rewind (3x, 20x, 60x). At the two higher speeds you will zoom past where you actually want to stop so TiVo jumps back a little bit for you.

The speeds and amount of jump back can be altered via backdoor options (not via the normal menus).

Sky+ has four different speeds of fast forward and rewind (2x, 6x, 12x, 30x). No auto jump back at fast speeds. The box has the option to disable fast forwarding through adverts, but this has not currently been used by Sky.
Season passes? (This means programmes that are a series are linked, allowing you to say record every episode of Coronation Street on ITV).

Yes - all series programmes are linked together where appropriate on all terrestrial, cable, and Sky channels.

TiVo can destinguish between a new and old season. An example of this is Stargate SG1 on Sky1 which often runs both the old series and new one on different days. You can ask TiVo to only record the new series.

TiVo detects programmes you have already recorded in the last 28 days and will not record these again as part of a Season Pass.

Yes - however the number of channels using this is very limited, and they are often wrong.

Update: At the moment, the problems people see with series links are that either channels mess up the ID information or the Series Links aren’t as robust as they could be. Both issues are being worked on. The goal is to make the series links sufficiently robust so that changes in EPG IDs will not cause the links to fail. Over 3000 Series Links are now running on 60 of the channels.

Can I jump to the end of the programme? Yes Yes
Can I jump to a specific part of a programme?

You can jump forward or back in 15 minute steps.

Backdoor codes (unsupported) allow a thirty second skip to quickly jump over adverts.

Sky+ has the facility to bookmark places in a recording for later retrieval. You can also start playback at any point by entering the time offset from start in minutes.

After pausing Live TV can I advance to the current time so I am watching Live again (not delayed). Yes via a dedicated one button press on the remote (or fast forwarding). Yes - either press Stop, or hold fast forward down.
Can I see an instant replay of what just happened? Yes - press the instant replay button to jump back eight seconds (or rewind) No, however if you are watching either paused TV or a recording you can rewind. You can not rewind Live TV unless you paused at some point (or have a buffer enabled).
Can I play in slow motion speed? Yes Yes
Can I have favourite channels? Yes you may select your favourite channels (unlimited number) and opt to only view these channels when looking for a programme to record (see above). Yes you can add up to 20 channels into your favourites list, and then cycle through them using the now/next banner using the blue button on the remote.
Can I play a recording whilst recording? Yes Yes
Can I play the programme I am currently recording before it has finished recording? Yes Yes
Can I archive my programmes to a VCR?

Yes one at a time.

TiVo outputs a title screen for you to record at the start showing the programme title and description.

Yes, you may queue a number of programmes for archive all at once in a user specified order.
Are subtitles supported? Yes, Teletext 888 style subtitles are recorded along with the programme. Supports digital subtitles and teletext style.
What if two programmes clash?

TiVo will warn you of the clash and allow you to continue and remove the clashing programme, or cancel the recording you are trying to set.

TiVo has a Season Pass Manager. This is an ordered list of all your Season Passes, Wishlists, and repeat manual recordings. Items higher up the list are recorded in preference to those lower down.

If TiVo can't record a programme when it is first aired due to a clash with a higher priority season pass it will try and record a repeat showing.

A Recording History is available to show you why programmes have not been recorded, and why programmes in the future won't be recorded (eg clashes with a higher priority recording).

Sky+ does detect clashes and gives you the option of canceling if you wish, the item that you're clashing with.

If the programme times change after you've scheduled recordings, resulting in a clash, by default Sky+ will record all of the first programme and miss the start of the subsequent programme. This behavior can be overridden by marking the subsequent programme as "Keep", in which case the first programme will be truncated to allow the whole of the second programme to be recorded.

Is it possible to pad programmes?

Both start and end padding times can be set on a per programme, Season Pass, or Wishlist basis (1min, 2min, 5min etc). End padding can be extended by as much as three hours.

Two minutes are added to the beginning and end of a recording (where this would not affect another recording), but in addition to that there is the potential for triggers to be sent by the broadcaster (only the BBC and Sky can currently do this), which are to provide a more extensive real-time control.†

When two consecutive programmes are recorded Sky+ will use a different tuner for each programme, allowing each to have both start and end padding.

The two minute Pre Recording And Post Recording padding times can be preset to Automatic,0,1,2,5,10 Mins (Global Setting Except Manual Recordings).

What parental controls are available?

Programmes and channels can be blocked based on BBFC classification and content type. A pin number is required for access.

Both recordings and Live TV is blocked. You can say restrict all programmes with a rating more than 15; restrict all programmes with sexual content; restrict the adult channels completely.

The parental locks can be disabled for a few hours. TiVo will automatically reenable the locks after a few hours should you forget to.

The Sky+ uses the parental controls as per built into a standard Digibox - including spending controls (Like only £3 per month on Box Office movies, etc).
Can the software in the box be upgraded?

Yes via a free phone call. Software releases are included as part of the subscription.

The next software release is V2.5.5 and is due Spring 2002.

Yes via satellite. Software releases are included as part of the subscription.

Storage of programmes
How many hours of programmes can be stored?

This depends on the quality setting used:

Best Quality = 11 hours 55 mins
High Quality = 19 hours 5mins
Medium Quality = 25 hours 10 mins
Basic Quality = 40 hours 34mins

Using the Save Disc Space option which uses variable bit-rate encoding may give you more space than quoted above.

It is not possible to say as it depends on the bit rate the broadcaster is using for any particular channel. Typically around 20 hours of programmes may be stored on a standard box. The box will give you an estimate of the size required to record a programme.

A "Sky+ 160" model has been announced which will have a capacity of around 80 hours.

Can more storage space be added?

Not officially, but unofficially a whole hacking community exists helping users to upgrade. This is a relatively straight forward process for those used to working with computers. TiVo can be upgraded to 250GB which gives over 250 hours of storage space. Two IDE channels can be utilized allowing two large hard discs.

Other hacks for TiVo include adding a network card to connect the box to the Internet allowing web based control of the box, and increasing the amount of RAM to slightly increase the speed.

For a list of some of the many hacks available see here.

Not officially. Some users have now successfully upgraded their machines and the process is easy to perform. Only one IDE channel can currently be utilitised allowing one large hard disc.

Upgrading causes the free space indicator not to work properly. This is not likely to be fixed in a future software update.†

Some users with upgraded hard drives have experienced difficulties after software updates, such as previously recorded programmes being unwatchable.

How long can I save a Sky Box Office programme for? As long as you want, but you have to pay for the movie to be able to record it in the first place. TiVo will record Macrovision encoded programmes without a problem, but it will still output a Macrovision encoded picture so you can't save these to VCR (This also means you can record DVD's onto TiVo).

You can record a Box Office programme without paying for it. This may be saved for up to seven days. Once you start viewing you have to pay and from the time of first viewing you can watch as much as you want for 24hrs.

Sky+ prevents the recording of some Pay Per View events such as PPV Premiership Football.

Can I specify how many episodes of a series to keep?

Yes, you can tell TiVo to save between one and five episodes, or all of them.

You can set an ITV NEWS season pass for example and set "Keep at most" to one, so you always have the latest ITN NEWS on demand. Use the option on programmes that are on too often to watch but you always want a selection of available for viewing.

Cost and installation
How much does the box cost? £300 RRP when the box was being manufactured. There is high demand for new or second hand boxes so expect to pay a similar price. £99 RRP (since the price of the box or subscription sometimes changes check with Sky).
How much does the subscription cost? £10 per month or £199 for the lifetime of the box (if it breaks TiVo will usually transfer your lifetime subscription). £10 per month (and you must subscribe to a Sky package - minimum £12.50 per month). The £10 per month fee is waived if you subscribe to one of more premium channels. No lifetime subscription is available.
How much does the installation cost and what is involved? Nothing - installation is performed yourself. This takes around an hour but most of the time is spent waiting for the box to index the guide data (so you just wait). The procedure is easy to follow and comes with easy instructions. Optionally you may have an engineer come out and set up the box for you for £50. £50 for existing Sky Digital subscribers, and £100 for new subscribers. A new LNB is required and a second wire from this to the Sky+ box. Installation can not be performed by yourself - you need to arrange a date for a Sky engineer to visit.
What happens if I stop paying my subscription? You can only pause Live TV and use trick play, or record the current half hour slot. No timer based recordings are possible with V1.5.x, but manual timer recordings are possible as of V2.5.5. The box behaves like a normal Sky Digibox.
Where can I buy one?

Thomson have now discontinued their Scenium product. Most TiVo's can only now be found on eBay.co.uk. For further information on this please see here.

TiVo as a company provide the TiVo subscription service and plan to continue this in the UK. They are currently looking for a new manufacturer to provide TiVo hardware, though no announcement as to the make, type, or release date has been made yet.

Dixons, Currys, Comet. Direct from Sky.
More Information
Where can I find out more? http://www.tivo.co.uk
Where can I find an unofficial FAQ? http://www.tivofaq.co.uk There isn't one yet! Someone email me if you make one.
Where can I discuss the product?

http://www.tivocommunity.com (recommended)

Digital Spy Forums

Digital Spy Forums (recommended)


If there are any errors or omissions please email me at: .

Text marked with this symbol indicates that the information originally comes from Alan Jay at Digital Spy who interviewed Sky about their Sky+ system on the 4th Feb 2002. The full article can be read here. Thanks go to Alan for allowing me to reprint this.

Comments about future software versions are subject to change as they obviously haven't been released / finalised yet.

History of Changes

10-Nov-2004: Minor corrections.
21-Mar-2004: Minor updates.
7-Dec-2003: A few minor updates.
6-Dec-2003: Updated for latest Sky+ software updated (dual record).
25-Feb-2003: A couple of minor corrections and updates.
1-Jan-2003: A few minor updates.
5-Aug-2002: Few minor corrections and updates regarding Sky+ software update changes (more info on Manual Record for both TiVo and Sky+ to better explain differences, update of channels with Season Links on Sky+, and mention of Dolby Digital indication in guide data for Sky+).
4-Aug-2002: Sky+ software update changes added: Manual recording and Radio recording.
4-Jun-2002: TiVo now supports digital cable, and provides BBC radio guide data.
21-Feb-2002: TiVo V2.5.5 software has now been released. Updated to incorporate this new functionality.
9-Feb-2002: A couple of Sky+ corrections.
5-Feb-2002: Major updates throughout. New information about Sky+ added to sourced from Alan Jay's article in Digital Spy (see link above). Information about next TiVo software (V2.5.5) updated according to latest information known about this.
13-Dec-2001: Updated Sky+ Dolby Digital info.
12-Dec-2001: Updated Sky+ fast forward speeds, jump to end, and jump to position.
21-Nov-2001: Removed comments about lack of ITV on Sky. Added section on recording external sources.
30-Oct-2001: Expanded Sky+ comment under advancing to the current live broadcast.
28-Oct-2001: Updated upgrade information, best price for TiVo, and Sky Season Link update.
4-Oct-2001: Changed RRP for TiVo to new price.
4-Sep-2001: Updated retailers. More info on Sky+ programme clashes. Few minor wording changes to make things clearer.
3-Sep-2001: Made changes according to comments received. In particular added: Sky+ and TiVo FF/REW speeds, Sky+ favourite channels, Sky+ programme clashes, Sky+ parental controls, Bookmarks / jumping to a place in a programme, software updates.
3-Sep-2001 : Created.

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