ESP8266 Controls TiVo Over The Network

Remember the TiVo? The set-top DVR that was once so popular of a hacking target that Hackaday had a dedicated subdomain for it has today largely faded into obscurity as time-shifted viewing has given way to Internet streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. But make no mistake, while the TiVo may no longer be the centerpiece of the average home entertainment center, there’s a diehard group of antennaed aficionados that are still rocking (and hacking) them.

One such TiVotee is [Thomas McQueen], who recently discovered his TiVo-powered Virgin Media V6 DVR was listening for commands on the network. After finding some official documentation for the protocol and firing off a couple of test commands from his computer’s telnet client, he realized he had an opportunity to flex his microcontroller muscle and create a library that would allow controlling the set-top box with the ESP8266 or other network-capable MCU.

[Thomas] built his project on-top of the basic Arduino WiFi library, making every effort to make it as generalized as possible so it could work on a multitude of platforms and with various targets. He even made sure to give all his functions friendly names that won’t leave users scratching their head when they read through example code down the road. We’ve seen far too many software projects that were poorly documented or obtusely programmed, so it’s always good to see somebody putting some forethought into their code.

The library makes it easy to add TiVo control to your project, but [Thomas] went one step further and came up with an example application that provides a web interface on the ESP8266 or ESP32. Any device with a web browser, such as a smartphone, can connect to the UI and fire off commands to the TiVo. His next step is to combine his library with some code to talk to Amazon’s Alexa so he’ll be able to control playback with his voice.

We’ll hand it to these TiVo users, they’re a tenacious lot. Earlier in the year, we covered how one dedicated TiVo fan managed to brute-force the child lock on his DVR using the Arduino and an IR LED.

13 thoughts on “ESP8266 Controls TiVo Over The Network

  1. Today’s modern TiVo has the streaming services built into it and can record multiple channels simultaneously. When connected to a network your programs can be viewed remotely anywhere in the world, and with their sub boxes plugged in throughout the house work for every TV. And I might mention they skip the commercials automatically. No hack needed.

    1. Not “automatically”; the show has to be popular enough for the service to provide ‘skip’ markers, and you have to press the green ‘D’ button on the remote to skip to the start of the next show segment.

      1. Yes & no. It isn’t auto skip by default, but for most of those shows that you can skip commercials on, just go to settings and tell it to skip automatically. Some you still have to press D on, but not all.

  2. I miss my TiVo dearly – my household hasn’t succumbed to streaming FTA tv shows( why do we need to pay $100 / month to watch what is available free of charge) and rely on time shifting tv shows and TiVo was king. Since the demise of TiVo in Australia we’ve had to shift over to fetch Tv and it is a very poor substitute.

  3. my cable company just switched to tivo boxes a couple years ago when our older less sophisticated box went tits up. i for one hate them, mostly because there is so little on tv worth watching these days. most of my shows are on streaming services, like the pirate bay.

  4. My service uses a dedicated box from their favorite box vendor with just enough capabilities to record stuff. And of course change channels. When TiVo offered a critter who could handle cord cutting I kept telling them that I needed better device management, and when the previous box crashed and left itself DOA, I ended up with this thing. IMHO TWC should have told Charter to go do something rude and typically American. (Because I’ve gotten is excellent service when I call in with a problem.) I also was tempted to track down a MythTV capable thing and do it that way, but they told me I needed it to make the service work for TV watching, and would be able to use that for secondary work.

  5. Tivo’s fading away? People have been claiming that for 2 decades. One of the best things they did was release OTA recorders with 4 tuners. And as already stated, streaming services on them. The worst thing about a Tivo is the price for services.

    If dvr’s aren’t as popular anymore, why are there so many knockoffs?

  6. My Tivo has 6 tuners, a ton of storage, and all I have to rent from the cable company is a Cablecard for a couple bucks a month. It skips commercials with one button. It let’s me watch a dozen streaming services through the box and even integrates the shows into my guide. I can control it with Alexa, and can record and watch my shows on my phone (or other device) when away from home!

    Best if all, there’s no monthly fees, and the searching and Season Pass recording capabilities are awesome. I love the ‘fast play with audio’ feature to watch shows about 30% faster! Oh, and I have two Tivo Minis in my bedrooms that also do all that connecting to the main DVR through MOCA or Ethernet.

    Long live Tivo!!!

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