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TiVo’s been making a lot of noise in the press lately as it prepares to roll out new products. These include a new DVR called the TiVo Edge, arriving imminently; a $50 Android TV streaming stick, coming next year; and an in-development streaming service called TiVo+.

Sadly, TiVo also knocked down whatever anticipation it had been building up by confirming last week that it will stuff pre-roll video ads into users’ recordings. The ads will roll out to all TiVo Roamio and Bolt DVRs running the latest TiVo Experience 4 software within the next 90 days, and will presumably be part of TiVo’s forthcoming Edge DVR as well. While these ads will be skippable by pressing the “Skip” button on a TiVo remote, users are still rightfully recognizing them as an unwelcome new intrusion, flooding TiVo’s message boards and Twitter feed with angry comments for days.

Instead of just piling on, though, I’d like to provide some options and alternatives for users and dig a little deeper into TiVo’s possible motivations for degrading its core DVR experience.

How TiVo’s pre-roll ads work

TiVo says that all recordings from most standard channels will be eligible for pre-roll ads, but they won’t appear for recordings from premium channels such as HBO. Ted Malone, the head of TiVo’s consumer business, also noted in the TiVo forums that resuming a previously-watched recording won’t bring up an ad, and in some cases, TiVo won’t show an ad if it doesn’t have a buyer for that particular ad slot.

As for being able to skip through the ads, there’s good news and bad news: Just like any other commercial, you can hit the remote’s Skip, D, or Channel Up buttons to bypass the pre-roll ads. TiVo, however, says you won’t be able to bypass them automatically using the auto-skip recipe from IFTTT.

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Possible workarounds

As for what customers can do about it, TiVo says there’s no direct way to opt out of pre-roll ads. Malone wrote on the TiVo forums, however, that you might be able to turn them off with a call to customer service. It sounds like longtime customers, or those who are paying for lifetime service might have the most success with this strategy.

“I believe there are a number of criteria that go into determining whether a customer is eligible for this (tenure, service plan, etc.),” Malone wrote. “I don’t think it’s as easy as just calling us up and asking to be opted out.”

If all else fails, rolling back the TiVo software on a Roamio or Bolt DVR to the previous version, called TiVo Experience 3, should keep the ads away. TiVo has no plans to bring pre-roll ads to this older software, and no plans to prohibit downgrades from TiVo Experience 4 in the future. The main downsides are that you’ll lose all your existing recordings by rolling back, and you’ll miss out on newer features such as personalized recommendations and voice control.

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