CES 2015: TiVo’s OnePass Brings Streaming and Cable Together in Near-Perfect Harmony

It’s been a while since I genuinely cared much about recording live broadcasts with my DVR, but if there’s one place you can expect to have your established habits shattered, it’s CES. Rather than fight the online video streaming movement, TiVo is embracing it, and its latest feature OnePass may just be the best convergence of the two I’ve seen.

The crux of OnePass is simple: you’re essentially instructing TiVo to gather all episodes of a particular season of a show (or multiple seasons, or the entire show) by whatever means possible. Only a few episodes available on Amazon Prime? No problem. TiVo will list the Amazon episodes, and then offer alternatives for the rest. Vudu, Netflix, and Hulu Plus are all compatible, so they’ll be scanned along with live channel lineups and scheduled reruns of old episodes, as well as debuts of new ones.

To me the best part about OnePass is the gamification of using your DVR. As most TV-watchers know, the latest season of a show isn’t always available via major streaming platforms. As such, it becomes a challenge to track down the missing episodes for your collection, wait for them to re-air so you can record them, or poach them from your cable provider’s on-demand video service. OnePass automates this entire process, including the on-demand part, which is especially fantastic — you’ll never have to dig through the horrible UI of your cable provider’s streaming platform again. Comcast (the worst offender, I might add) is the only provider supported out of the gate, but in theory OnePass should work with others like Verizon FiOS down the road. Unfortunately, this hasn’t yet been officially confirmed.

The “game” can be extended beyond mere availability of episodes, too. This is because with the TiVo Android and iOS apps, you can stream and download any recorded content to your device, seamlessly from your home TiVo unit where it’s stored. The feature is clever in that it offers yet another incentive to record; if your episodes are scattered across streaming services, you’ll be swapping apps and paying various one-off or monthly fees just to view the content you’re after. If you’ve managed to DVR everything, you can stream entire seasons of shows over Wifi, LTE, or simply download them ahead of time if you’re hopping on a plane or starting a lengthy road trip. Few streaming apps allow downloading, and Amazon doesn’t even have a video streaming app for Android — only iOS. In other words? This is a pretty big deal.

The apps themselves look nice, and the Android version in particular caught my eye thanks to its updated UI that abides by the latest design guidelines from Google. This includes a swipable left-side menu for easy access, as well as clearly organized folders and silky-smooth scrolling. For a guy who’d all but left recording in the dust before CES, I was thoroughly impressed.

As with any new product or feature launch there may be minor issues that crop up here and there, but from my CES demo it was difficult to identify anything glaring (aside from the omission of indexing on-demand content from certain cable providers, which I hope is added). OnePass is slated to arrive on existing TiVo devices in February, including the Roamio and the Mini, while the Android app I saw should be ready and bug-free by March. I don’t know about you, but I’m almost glad I have some time to get my recorded content library in order — I wouldn’t want to be caught with great new features come March and have nothing to watch.

Image credits: Jamie McCaffrey and CNET