Dale Dietrich
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Using TiVo Series 3 in Canada

Categories: New Tech

I am one of the first, if not the first, TiVo Series 3 PVR owners/users in Canada. Despite its current limitations as a viable product in Canada, I set out my reasons for purchasing the S3 in this thread at Digital Home Canada forum and in this thread on the TiVoCommunity forum. Below are my initial thoughts and conclusions.

While not ready for Canadian prime time, I can certainly recommend it for bleeding-edge, tech-savvy, gadget lovers looking for the best HD PVR available – assuming you have lots of extra cash in your pockets, live reasonably close (within 40 miles) of the local HD transmission towers and don’t mind using it in manual mode until programming guide information becomes available for over-the-air (“OTA”) digital programming in Canada!

For hundreds of posts on others’ experiences with the Series 3 in the U.S., please visit the TiVo Series 3 forum on the TiVo Community Forum website. I recommend checking out Megazone’s S3 FAQ, his S3 review, and his S3 photos. The S3′s user guide can be viewed (in .pdf format) here.

April 24, 2008 UPDATE: Global is now broadcasting in HD and can be recorded on TiVo S3s and TiVo HD’s in Hamilton, Metro Toronto and surrounding areas. Click here for details.

March 2008 UPDATE: As mentioned in my May 2007 update below, I stopped using my TiVo S3 in manual mode and started using guide data from Niagra Falls. Recently I re-did Guided Setup and my TiVo S3 now thinks I’m located in Youngstown New York with zip code (14305). As a result my TiVo S3 provides the proper guide data for all the U.S. broadcast stations I receive in Toronto and, now with the Youngstown zip code, Toronto’s City TV, and CFTO. I still record the other Canadian HD stations in manual mode – though rarely because their content is almost always just a duplicate U.S. content. I expect more Canadian stations will be added to the Youngstown line-up over time. The guide data for CBC exists too, but due to a problem with Tribune’s guide data, I still cannot use it to record from CBC other than in manual mode. See this TiVoCommunity post for details. If/when Tribune/TiVo starts providing native Toronto digital broadcast guide data I will update this post.

December 2007 UPDATE: TiVo S2 Now Available at Retail in Canada. As of December 2007, the Series 2 (non-HD) TiVos are available for sale at retail in Canada – only 9.5 years after their U.S. launch! :)

September 2007 UPDATE: With the recent updates, the Series 3 TiVo’s now have all the advanced functionality that the Series 2 models have, including multi-room viewing, TiVo to Go, TiVo to Comeback (ie: transferring content to and from a PC over the home network and copying to portable devices like an iPod or a Zune).

May 2007 UPDATE: For some inexplicable reason Tibune and TiVo still do not provide OTA-digital guide data for Canada. Despite dozens of emails, phone calls, forum requests etc. I have not received an answer from anyone at TiVo or Tribune or Zap2It in answer to my question when will OTA-digital guide data be available in Canada. I gave up and decided to set my TiVo with a Niagra Falls New York Zip code. I purchased a dual-tuner S2 to record my analogue and digital cable channels. This combination works well. Ht Niagra Falls guide data gives me everything I need to record U.S.-based network OTA-digital channels in Toronto. It does not have Canadian networks, but since everything I want to record on my S3 originates from the U.S. networks, this is no loss. So, I no longer use the ‘temporary’ manual recording approach that I describe below. I have a fully functional S3 in Canada without the ability to record from analogue cable any more – that’s what the new dual-tuner S2 does.

Nov 3, 2006 UPDATE: On Sunday October 22, My TiVo Series 3 died completely – wouldn’t even turn on. Working with Weaknees my replacement unit arrived on Thursday November 2. The new unit is working perfectly. Please see the warranty replacement details in the new section 14 below.

1. Background:

For people new to the TiVo Series 3, a little background is required.

  • Cablecard-based Digital TV Recording: The TiVo Series 3 is primarily designed to support the FCC-mandated cable-card technology for decoding and natively recording digital cable TV channels (including HDTV) from most U.S. cable systems. Unfortunately there is no similar mandate in Canada. No Canadian cable company, that I am aware of, supports the cablecard standard. As such the Series 3 cannot record from digital cable sources in Canada. And, because the Series 3 includes neither an “IR blaster” needed to change channels on digital set-top boxes nor the S-video inputs needed to input analogue NTSC programming output from cable-company supplied digital set-top boxes, the Series 3 cannot be used to record programming originating from digital cable set-top boxes in Canada the way TiVo Series 2 units can. See here for the recent CRTC Notice concerning recent public digital TV related hearings – discussed here. Sadly, I do not hold out much hope that such hearings will result in a similar Canadian mandate.
  • Over-the-Air (OTA) Digital Recording: On a happier note, most Canadian-based broadcasters (with the notable exception of Global) now broadcast digital programming, including HD, over-the-air. Most Canadians don’t know this! The TiVo Series 3 really shines with its ability to receive and record such digital programming. Importantly, all Buffalo, and Rochester NY-based U.S. broadcasters are also broadcasting digital television over-the-air with sufficient power to reach the Greater Toronto area. Prime-time programming from these sources are almost all High Definition (16×9, 1080i or 720p) HDTV broadcasts. The Series 3 fully supports the reception and recording from all of these OTA digital stations and can record two shows from two such stations at once. Unlike analogue (bunny ear) OTA broadcasts from the past, digital OTA broadcasts are always pristine perfect in quality – if you receive the channel that is. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. See below for my fantastic S3 OTA digital recording results/experiences.
  • Analogue Cable & OTA Recordings: The TiVo Series 3 can, of course, also record up to two channels at once from any analogue station you receive through your cable lineup or over the air through bunny ears – though recording analogue OTA programming from bunny ears is redundant for the average cable subscriber since those stations are almost always carried as part of a basic cable line up.

2. OTA Digital/HDTV Recording Results:

  • Impressive OTA Digital Recording: The most impressive thing I’ve experienced with the S3 is its ability to tune and record digital programming, especially HDTV, from OTA sources. There is no prime-time major network broadcast that my S3 cannot receive and record from where I live in downtown Toronto. RemoteCentral.com provides this terrific summary of OTA digital broadcast channels available in the Toronto area. RemoteCentral.com’s lineups for Ottawa and Montreal are here.
  • OTA Digital Channels I Receive: Given the abysmal experience I had during my initial UHF antenna testing with the ATSC tuner built into my Dell TV (see antenna discussion below), I was very surprised by the S3′s top-notch digital OTA reception. The digital ATSC tuner in my Dell 4200 could not receive more than 8 digital channels at a time under the best of circumstances. The S3, on the other hand, is able to tune some 20 OTA digital stations in Toronto (plus two weather channels), including HDTV programming from 12 digital broadcast stations. With the Terk Silver Sensor antenna (see antenna discussion below) my S3 is able to receive and record from the following digital OTA broadcast stations:
# Station
2-2 WGRZ radar-weather
4-2 WIVB radar-weather
4-3 The CW SD (WNLO)
7-2 RTN SD (retro tv network)
23-1 The CW HD (WNLO)
23-2 WIVB radar-weather
23-3 The CW SD (WNLO)
25-1 CRC (CBC French)
29-1 FOX HD (WUTV)
29-2 FOX SD (WUTV)
43-2 PBS SD (WNED)
43-3 PBS SD (Think Bright)
44-1 Omni 2 HD (CJMT)
64-1 Omni 1 HD (CFMT)
66-1 SUN TV HD

[October 20, 2006 Update:] Since my first post and testing, OMNI 1 has now started broadcasting on channel 47.1.

[November 1, 2006 Update:] As of today, The CW started broadcasting on 23-1 in HD – replacing its sister station CBS/WIVB that had been duplicated there hitherto. I have updated the table above.

[November 3, 2006 Update:] While using Guided Setup with my second (warranty replacement) TiVo S3, I noticed that Omni 1 and Omni 2 have moved from 47-1 and 1-1 to 64-1 and 44-1 respectively. I have updated the chart above to reflect the changes (see Warranty Replacement details in the new section 14 below).

  • Recording Quality: The recording quality is second-to-none. I compared HD versions of “Shark”, “ER” and “Lost” episodes recorded on both the 8300HD PVR supplied by Rogers (connected to my TV through the HDMI input) and the S3 (connected via component input). I played the identical content back to back and paused at identical spots and switched inputs on my Dell Plasma back and forth to compare the results. Without a doubt the TiVo HD recordings were crisper, richer, with much finer details and better colour depth. The TiVo recordings were also brighter. TiVo’s sound quality has always been top notch. My ears cannot distinguish whatever improvements the THX certified hardware is providing. It sounds as good as it always has. The 8300HD PVR may not be fully to blame for the lower HD picture quality. Rogers could be futzing around with HD signal (ie: compressing it some) as it passes through its system. I simply do not know. But I do know the TiVo’s HD picture quality is perceptibly better than the 8300HD PVR – though I will say, the HD picture quality of shows recorded on the 8300 HD PVR have always been very good. Once I return the 8300 to Rogers, I will connect my S3 to my Dell TV with the HDMI input.
  • Reliability compared to the Scientific Atlanta 8300 HD (SARA 1.87) PVR: So far the S3 has recorded everything I’ve asked without a glitch. The readers of the various forums I frequent will have already read my stinging reviews of the wholly unreliable, glitch prone and almost unusable 8300 HD PVR. In my opinion, even with its current guide data limitations, using the S3 is a far superior experience in almost every way over using the ‘fully functional’ 8300 HD PVR. No more inexplicable failures to record shows. No more “jumping to live” in the middle of watching a show while it is recording. No more jumping to the middle of a show (and having to rewind) when I start watching a partially recorded show. No more mysteriously vanishing recordings. No more shows recorded in slices (ie: a one hour show being recorded in 7 or 8 bits – can you say “House”?). Bookmarks for each show remember where I left off the last time I watched a show. Jump to tics, fast forwarding and rewinding are actually “fast”. A 30 second commercial skip button. I returned my 8300 to Rogers with glee on November 27. I’m happy to be rid of it and now I save $20 off my monthly Rogers bill to boot! While I really hated the 8300 PVR, it did have two desired features that the TiVo does not. First, it has a free-space-indicator, something I have wanted from TiVo from day one, and which has a renewed importance/utility in the world of gargantuan HDTV recording file sizes. Secondly, you can program it and navigate its menus while watching programming picture-in-picture. Otherwise, in my opinion, it’s a complete bust as a product!
  • Manual Mode Only – No Guide Data – Yet: TiVo receives its programming guide data from Tribune (which also supplies programming data to zap2it.com). Among other things (including all of TiVo’s advanced and new features), this data is used to search for and select shows you wish to record, and it appears on the “Now Playing” screen – the TiVo screen that displays what previously recorded shows are available to watch. While Tribune currently provides such information to TiVo from all other Canadian sources: ((i) analogue NTSC (bunny ear) OTA broadcasts, (ii) cable programming (whether analogue or digital); and (iii) satellite TV shows) it does not yet provide TiVo with guide data for Canadian OTA ATSC/digital programming. As a result, until such time as the digital OTA guide data becomes available in Canada, Canadian TiVo users cannot use TiVo’s full functionality for the digital OTA versions of the above listed channels. So, for instance, I can’t currently: (i) search the program guide for future HDTV broadcasts to record, (ii) set up Wishlists or Seasons Passes for programing on those OTA stations; (iii) instantly record shows on those stations that are now airing; etc.). But I can set the S3 up to manually record shows from those channels. For example, I can record ER in HD each Thursday night, by setting up the S3 to manually record for one hour each Thursday starting at 10:00 pm on channel 2-1 (NBC HD (WGRZ)). Note, I only have to do this once for each manual recording. TiVo’s manual recordings can be set to repeat (daily, weekly, etc.). So long as the show is broadcast at that time, it is recorded. I e-mailed Tribune/Zap2it.com and asked when they project guide data for OTA digital stations will be available in Canada. So far I have not received a response.[Nov. 3, 2006 Update: I have not yet received a response from either Tribune or Zap2it. I sent out a few more requests to Tribune/Zap2it yesterday with no responses so far. If anyone has insight into this, please let me know.][Nov. 30, 2006 Update: Thanks to btwyz at the TiVoCommunity, I discovered that I can Report Line-up issues with TiVo’s customer support group using this online form. I just made a submission referring them to this blog post. We’ll see what happens.]
  • Effect of No Guide Data in “Now Playing”: Manually recorded digital OTA shows appear on TiVo’s “Now Playing” screen (the TiVo screen that shows you what has been recorded and ready for viewing) with just the basic information it has (channel recorded, time and date). For example, the ER example mentioned above, shows up in the Now Playing screen as follows: “Rec: 2-1 10:00 pm ……………………. Thu 10/12″Had the programming guide data been available, instead of “Rec: 2-1 10:00 pm” it would have reported the show name “ER”, the channel and time info, the day and date it was recorded and the network bug/logo showing on the right. Until guide data becomes available for digital OTA broadcasts I have figured-out a bit of work-around to make it easier to know what all those manual recordings on the “Now Playing” screen are. When I set-up the S3 to record from a digital OTA source, I also set it up to simultaneously record the first five minutes of same show from an analogue cable channel (in lowest quality to save hard drive space). In this way the cryptic manual recording information shows up immediately above or below the detailed analogue recording information on the Now Playing screen. As a result, I can instantly determine the title of the manual OTA show, I can click on the analogue version to get episode information (episode description, actors etc.), then click page up/down to access the OTA digital/HD version, click “play” and away I go. Not a perfect solution, but good enough until Tribune starts providing TiVo with Canadian digital OTA guide data.
  • PSIP Info: The S3 does see embedded PSIP info, when available, for at least the name/call letters of broadcast station. As I navigate either of the traditional “TiVo Live Guide” or the “TV Guide Grid” the station call letters display for about 1/3 of the OTA digital stations. The same information appears on the “Now Playing” screen and all the usual places this info is displayed. My Dell OTA digital tuner receives and displays 24 hours of programming information from several stations. Unfortunately TiVo does NOT use the specific program-by-program PSIP info when available for display on the “Now Playing” screen. That’s too bad. Until guide data for OTA digital content is available in Canada, this would have been helpful.

3. Recording from Rogers Analogue Cable Tier: Recording from the analogue tier is, as expected, flawless. The full range of TiVo functionality works with all programming recorded from these 70ish stations. The quality of the picture is limited only to the quality of the analogue source. Since Rogers does a very good job at providing pure analogue picture quality, the recording and output quality is generally very good.

4. In-the-Clear QAM Digital Recording off Rogers Digital Tier:

  • Some Unencrypted QAM SD Stations Available: In this thread (and this one) I explored the possibility of recording unencrypted digital TV from Rogers digital tier. As it turns out, the list I uncovered during my testing is probably exactly the same set of digital stations that the S3 can tune and record. I say “probably” because I didn’t do a station-by-station comparison. I spent about 5 minutes comparing the two and the unencrypted line-ups looked identical from that limited testing I did. I have no reason to suspect they would be different. The available unencrypted digital QAM stations are mostly multiple (time shifted) versions of the same major Canadian networks. Given that no guide data is available for these digital stations and given that I can record these same stations with full guide data from the available analogue line-up, I won’t, personally use my TiVo to record from these stations. Below is the list of the the available in-the-clear digital QAM stations:
# Station
14 OMNI 2
33 CNN
93 OMNI 2
105 ATV (a CTV network channel)
108 CKCO (Kitchener’s (my hometown’s) CTV network affiliate
109 CKY (another CTV station)
110 CFCN (another CTV station)
111 CIVT (another CTV station)
113 ASN (Atlantic Satellite Network)
114 GLB-M (a Global network Maritime affiliate)
117 GLB-W (a Winnipeg Global network affiliate)
118 GLB-C (a Calgary Global network affiliate)
119 GLB-BC (probably a BC Global network affiliate)
123 CH-Vic (a Victoria BC CH Network affiliate)
124 CBNT (CBC)
125 CBHT (CBC)
129 CHEX (CBC – Peterborough)
130 CBWT (CBC)
131 CBRT (CBC)
132 CBUT (CBC)
135 CITYV – City TV
139 CITYW – City TV (western time zone)
140 CITYC – City TV (Calgary)
141 CJON – NTV Newfoundland
221 TREE
  • Audio-Only Channels: The S3 is also able to tune and manually record the 40 or so audio-only channels provided with the Rogers digital tier.
  • No Unencrypted QAM HD Stations: Importantly, unlike the experiences of some S3 users in the U.S., none of the HD cable-stations on my Rogers digital tier (not even the free OTA channels) are unencrypted and, sadly, my S3 cannot see or record content from those stations.
  • Possible Future Manual QAM Channel Mapping: Many on the TiVo forums have requested that TiVo add the ability for users to manually map unencrypted guide-data-less QAM channels with guide data from channels that TiVo has the data for (see, for example, this thread). Tribune already provides TiVo with all the guide data for all Canadian cable digital stations. However, since, the underlying frequencies used to carry the QAM programming on the coax cable are not the same as the published TV station numbers, absent cablecards, TiVo has no way of automatically mapping those stations to known guide data. When users stipulate, during TiVo’s setup process, that they do not have cablecards, that (otherwise available) guide data is not made available to the S3. According to Megazone, “TiVo is looking into the possibility to provide mapping in the future” (see his S3 FAQ for more details). If this becomes a reality in the future, the expectation is that the user would be able to use the S3 to selectively tune into each in-the-clear digital channel, determine what it is (usually from the channel bug in the lower right corner) and then pick from a list of known digital channels provided by Tribune for the local cable provider. In this way the user would be able to “manually map” guide data from known channels to in-the-clear QAM channels provided by their cable operator. The problem with this approach is that the cable company can change the QAM channels at will. Some cable companies are known to do this frequently, others rarely change them. As such, there is no way of knowing how stable such manual mapping will be. For this reason, if TiVo does provide a way to manually map channels in the future, this will likely be an “unsupported” feature – much like how the popular 30 second commercial skip functionality of the TiVo is unsupported. And, of course, the cable companies could always choose to defeat this process by encrypting hitherto unencrypted channels.
  • RemoteCentral.com’s “Rogers Unencrypted QAM Channel List” I just noticed today [November 30, 2006] that RemoteCentral.com has this list of Rogers Unencrypted QAM Channels (as of September 2nd 2006). I have not gone through it to verify its accuracy, but I thought I’d include it as an extra source of information on this topic.

5. No Folders for Manual Recordings:

When the S3 records multiple episodes of a particular show, say 4 episodes of The Simpsons, rather than being scattered chronologically throughout the “Now Playing” listings, the user can opt to have all episodes of the same show put in common folders so they are all in one place. Since all of my HDTV recording will be repeating manual recordings until Tribune provides the digital OTA guide data, I was hoping that TiVo would group all repeating manual recordings of the same channel at the same time in the same folder. So, for example, all my manually recorded HD ER recordings would all be put in the same folder. This was not the case. Arghh!!!

6. Purchase, Price and Shipping:

I ordered my S3 from Weaknees.com on Wednesday September 28 and it arrived 12 days later on Tuesday October 10. The price was $799 U.S. plus $31.55 U.S. for U.S. Parcel Post shipping. This translated to $950.51 Canadian. When it arrived Canada post charged me $54.02 GST, $72.03 PST and a $5.00 handling fee. For a grand total of $1,081.56 Cdn. Note: If you choose UPS shipping, instead of the $5.00 handling fee Canada Post charges, you’ll be dinged for another $53.70 customs brokerage charge [See the UPS rape customs clearance charges table here.] Jeff Anderson of PVR Canada indicated to me that he may start stocking Series 3 TiVos if there is enough demand.

The wholesale price to e-tailers is rumoured to be between $450 and $500 U.S.. As such, there is some room for the prices to decline. Indeed, some sites are reporting online prices as low as $699 U.S., including shipping, as of the the time I’m typing this [Oct 17, 2006]. But, of course, whether an e-tailer will ship to Canada or not is always something that needs to be further explored.

7. Guided Setup/Configuration:

  • Generally: Setting up the TiVo and using Guided Setup was much easier and faster than my prior experience with S1 units. The process took me about 25 minutes from start to finish (compared to several hours for my first series 1 back in 1999).
  • Internet Connection: I connected my TiVo to my home network (hard-wired for now with a Cat 5 Ethernet cable) and it connected to the TiVo mother ship through the Internet without incident.
  • Two Crashes: During guided setup the unit crashed/hung twice. A simple reboot solved the problem – it has not crashed or had any glitches since. [Nov 3, 2006 UPDATE: In retrospect this was an ominous sign as the first S3 ultimately died. See the warranty replacement details below for details. I had no such problems with my warranty replacement unit.]
  • Defaults to 480i: I was extremely disappointed with the picture quality for the first hour or so until I realized that the unit defaults to 480i output even when connected to an HDTV through component outputs. I was relieved to discover this when I finally got around to checking out the video configuration options. Once I set it to native output (ie: output the content at whatever its native source was (1080i, 720p, 480p or 480i) the picture quality was stellar.

8. Transferring Lifetime/Grandfathered Subscription:

As you may know, until December 31, 2006 those with a lifetime subscription for another TiVo unit can transfer their lifetime subscription to the S3 for $200 U.S. This is especially valuable to current lifetime subscribers since TiVo eliminated the lifetime service option last spring. Initially, TiVo had limited this to TiVo’s purchased from its own TiVo Store. The TiVo Store does not ship to Canada. Happily that policy was changed and now anyone can transfer their lifetime subscription to any S3 purchased anywhere – until December 31, 2006 that is.

As someone who purchased my TiVo lifetime subscription before January 22, 2000, I was able to use my one-time grandfathered right to transfer my S1 lifetime subsctiption to my S3 at no cost. As expected the service rep did not know about the grandfather right when I first mentioned it. But as soon as I told him to reference KDB code 09-07-04, he looked it up and the transfer went through without a hitch.

9. The S3s Future in Canada:

  • OTA Digital Program Guide Data: Since Tribune provides all guide data from all other TV sources in Canada, and since it already provides OTA digital programming information for all U.S. jurisdictions, I would expect that it won’t be long before digital OTA guide data is made available to TiVo for its Canadian subscribers as well. When it does, the S3 will become ready for prime-time in Canada and I’ll report that fact on this blog and the usual TiVo forums I frequent.
  • Cable-card Support in Canada: It is doubtful that the current Cablecard 1.0 specification will ever be voluntarily supported by cable companies in Canada since there is no legal mandate for them to do so. They have the same bottom-dollar business incentive to fight it tooth-and-nail in Canada as their U.S. counterparts did (and are continuing to do) for years. However, because the bidirectional CableCard 2.0 standard does dovetail somewhat with the Canadian cable companies’ self interest, there is a possibility that it will be supported by some Canadian cable companies at some point after ratification (expected at some point in 2007). The TiVo Series 3 will support the unidirectional sub-feature set of the CableCard 2.0 specification. So, if/when Canadian cable operators choose to support cablecard 2.0, the TiVo Series 3 should be fully functional in Canada with cable plants that support the standard.
  • More Digital OTA Stations: OMNI 2 started broadcasting digitally in Toronto a month or so ago on low power. It is the weakest signal I receive. [October 20, 2006 Update: OMNI 1 began digital broadcasts in Toronto within days of my first posting this blog entry]. Global, the only major Canadian network not yet broadcasting digital programming over-the-air in Toronto, has been given an extension by the CRTC and must start broadcasting by June 9, 2008. Despite there being no legal mandate to do so in Canada, other Canadian broadcast networks (including the public broadcaster TV Ontario) do have varying plans to begin digital broadcasts at some point in the future (check with your local broadcaster for more info). Many U.S. stations are currently broadcasting at minimal and low power. As the U.S. reaches its mandatory digital TV transition deadline of February 17, 2009, power levels will increase and the signal strength of U.S. stations will increase – resulting in even more U.S. digital stations becoming available in nearby Canadian border cities.
  • Possible QAM Channel Mapping: As discussed above, and as you can read in this TiVoCommunity thread, TiVo is exploring the possibility of allowing users to manually map in-the-clear QAM stations to their analogue equivalents. So guide data for these stations may possibly be mappable/available for them in the future.
  • Advanced Features: The S3 has rudimentary support for audio podcasts now and, after an expected software update to match S2 functionality in the coming months, it will allow you to access a limited, but growing, selection of video podcasts (including Rocketboom) in the near future. Given the numerous codecs supported by the S3 (MPEG-2, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, and VC-1/WMV9), I expect the S3 to more fully support the burgeoning world of video podcasts. TiVo has also launched its TiVoCast service. The details of this service are still sketchy at this point but I expect, over time, that this service will allow users to download TV shows, movies and other content off the Internet (see this recent post on the topic).
  • [Nov 14, 2006 TiVoCast Update: Today TiVo made a slew of TiVoCast announcements. By the end of the year the S3 will be updated to include the ability to stream index, search and stream all QuickTime, Windows Media Video and MPEG-4 videos on your home network to your TV. You will also be able to share your home movies with other TiVo users via the Internet. TiVo will also support video podcast subscriptions and playback. Yeah! More details are available: Engadget Demo | CNN| Zatz Not Funny | CNet | PVR Blog | AOL Money | TiVo Press Release | Hollywood Reporter | TiVo Community Forum]
  • Superbowl Commercials: I can’t forget to mention that, for the first time, I’ll be able to watch U.S.-based Superbowl commercials in Canada. I’m not much of a football fan. When I lived in the U.S. the highlight of the Superbowl each year was its amusing high-$ commercials. In Canada, the Canadian networks place Canadian commercials over the U.S. commercials. Now that I’ll be able to record the Superbowl in pristine HD quality from a Buffalo source, I’ll be able to watch the U.S. Superbowl commercials unimpeded! Hoo ha!

10. OTA UHF Antenna Testing Details:

Assuming you have a device with an ATSC tuner built in (eg: a TiVo Series 3 or an HDTV with an ATSC tuner), in order to tune digital television stations all you need is a standard plain-vanilla UHF antenna and proximity to the broadcast tower(s). The bow-tie antenna or the circular UHF antennas that come with any old-fashioned TV will work just fine for local digital broadcast stations. You can get fancier antennas to tune in more distant stations – but most will not need to spend more than $30 for an antenna under most circumstances.

Unfortunately for me, the only way I had to test OTA digital reception prior to my S3 purchase was with the ATSC/digital tuner built into my Dell 4200 Plasma TV. What I didn’t know at the time was that the tuner in that TV is in no way representative of the digital ATSC tuner inside the TiVo S3. As I mentioned above, the Dell tuner, at its best, received only 8 OTA digital stations when the expensive DB2 Antenna was positioned “just so” beside the window. With the TiVo S3, I can place any decent antenna anywhere in my home and receive 22 digital ATSC stations without glitches of any kind.

For those interested, I have chronicled my UHF antenna testing on the TiVoCommunity forum here, on the Digital Home Canada forum from this initial post through to this final post.

I tested 6 different antennas including this high end DB2 Antenna ($64 from Tiger Direct). As it turned out, all I needed was the $15 Terk Silver Sensor that I purchased from Toronto’s Active Surplus – sorry I bought the last one they had in stock. There are many versions of the Silver Sensor. They have cosmetic differences, but they all perform the same. Anyone in Canada can purchase the Phillips variant of the Silver Sensor from Dell.ca for $29.00 Cdn. here). I also purchased a 25′ quad shielded R6 coax cable for $14.00 from Active Surplus to run from my S3 to the antenna (this cable is probably overkill). Don’t bother with any other antenna (especially the powered ones). Purchase any one of the many Silver Sensor variants and be done with it! If you have a short run like I do, you won’t need any pre-amps. In subsequent testing, I now know that the expensive quad shielded R6 coax cable was not needed in my circumstance. The cheapest and flimsiest 25′ coax cable in my closet works just fine and, indeed, is not really necessary since I could place the antenna in my living room if I wanted to.

I am located the 26th floor facing North West with the CN Tower visible off to my extreme left as I look out the window. I live about 3/4 of a mile from the CN Tower (where most of the Toronto-area digital broadcast transmitters are – there may be a few on the First Canadian Place (just a few blocks away from me) as well) and roughly 49 miles from Buffalo’s Grand Island Tower and 80 miles from the Buffalo South tower (ABC/WNED) (See distance tables here and available digital station details here).

On Wednesday October 11th from 5:30 to 6:30 pm I tested both the high-end DB2 Antenna (“DB” on the table below), and my Terk Silver Sensor antenna (“SS” on the table below). I first perched each antenna beside the window (“W” on the table below) pointed at the CN Tower and I tested them again, just sitting on a table in the living room (“L” on the table below), again pointed generally towards the CN Tower with several (at least 3) walls between the living room and outside). Below are the signal strengths I received on the S3 during my four tests:

# Station DB-W DB-L SS-W SS-L
1-1 Omni 2 HD (CJMT) 58 44 58 33
2-1 NBC HD (WGRZ) 74 62 83 64
2-2 WGRZ radar-weather 74 62 83 64
4-1 CBS HD (WIVB) 72 61 76 73
4-2 WIVB radar-weather 73 62 76 73
4-3 The CW SD (WNLO) 73 61 76 73
5-1 CBC HD (CBLT) 95 77 90 88
7-1 ABC HD (WKBW) 86 64 89 71
7-2 RTN SD 85 64 88 70
9-1 CTV HD (CFTO) 87 82 86 86
23-1 CBS HD (WIVB) 75 78 80 82
23-2 WIVB radar-weather 74 77 79 82
23-3 The CW SD (WNLO) 75 78 80 82
25-1 CRC (French) 92 71 90 76
29-1 FOX HD (WUTV) 70 N/A 74 62
29-2 FOX SD (WUTV) 70 N/A 73 62
43-1 PBS HD (WNED) 77 66 74 72
43-2 PBS SD (WNED) 77 65 73 72
43-3 PBS SD (Think Bright) 77 65 73 72
57-1 CITY TV HD 82 45 83 54
66-1 SUN TV HD 86 74 84 84

As you can see, there is no appreciable difference between the DB2 Antenna and the Terk Silver Sensor results. Indeed, the much cheaper Silver Sensor results were better than the DB2 Antenna results for the majority of the stations. Accordingly I would not recommend you waste your money on the more expensive DB2 antenna unless you are situated substantially further away from your local broadcast towers than I am.

Signal strength varies as a result of a number of factors including weather conditions, the amount of power used by the broadcaster to transmit the signal (ranging from 4.1 Kilowatts on the low end (Sun TV) to 1000 Kilowatts on the upper end (Fox)), distance from tower, whether there are obstructions (buildings, hills, trees) between you and the tower and whether the broadcaster directs their signals in any way. For example Sun TV uses just 4.1 kW of power but it is close to me with a line-of-site to the tower. Fox (WUTV), on the other hand, uses 1,000 kw of power but directs their broadcast south west from the tower (in the wrong direction from me), the tower is much further away and the signal must pass through my steel and concrete building (more likely it bounces off the downtown Toronto sky scrapers North West of me and back). This results in the very low powered Sun-TV station yielding better signal strength than the much higher-powered Fox station.

Nonetheless, I was enormously surprised with the results I received from the Buffalo towers. Facing north west as I do, the line-of-site between my condo and the Buffalo Towers goes through my concrete and steel building. I did not receive any Rochester-based stations (95 miles south-east of me).

11. Series 3 Reviews/Demos:


Video Demos:

12. Canadian HDTV Reference/Links: Here are some other links that may be helpful to those considering HDTV and HDTV PVR options in Canada:

13. Thanks: Thanks so much to Dan203, Megazone, d0ugmac1, samo, cwoody222 (Chris), rickerk (Keith), John949, Yaamon, 57, stampeder, classicsat, greg_burns, stevereis, btwyx, phox_mulder, texmex, Chester_Lampwick and all the others from the Digital Home Canada, TiVo Community and TiVo Canada Forums that helped me in my ATSC/antenna/S3 research over the last few months!

14. Warranty Replacement: [March 8, 2007 Update] On Sunday October 22, I unplugged the S3 and moved it from where it was during testing (on a chair beside my TV), to its permanent home in my console under the TV. I made room for it, along with my Xbox 360 that had been standing beside the TV for a year, by removing my Rogers 8300 PVR and my original XBox. But, when I plugged it back in, the lights on the front panel turned on but nobody was home – the TiVo S3 was brain-dead. I tried several different things, including everything TiVo’s customer support folks in Albuquerque recommended, but it never came back to life. I do note that its fan turned on, the Toslink digital audio light on the back turned on and, by the unit’s vibrations, the hard drives felt like they were spinning. But, alas, successive attempts to revive it resulted in no lights returning to the front panel at all and absolutely nothing being output from any of the HDMI, component or S-video outs. I guess those two crashes during my initial Guided Setup were indicative of something after all.

Despite not having purchased the unit directly from TiVo, the TiVo customer support folks were all set to ship me a replacement unit, all costs covered, until they discovered I lived in Canada. When they discovered my location, the customer support rep said TiVo doesn’t ship replacement units to Canada and that I’d have to get help from Weaknees. Fortunately, Jeff at Weaknees has been very helpful and responsive. We had a few snafus owing to the how the U.S. and Candian postal systems work, but 10 days after they shipped a replacement unit, I received it.

I paid to ship the defective unit back to Weaknees, Weaknees graciously paid for shipping the replacement unit back to me. Weaknees charged my credit card for the second unit and credited my Visa back with the full amount when the defective unit reached them. I chose the cheapest Canada Post shipping method to ship the dead TiVo back for burial (the cost – $34.64 Cdn).

Canada post charged me PST and GST AGAIN ($133.58 this time) – even though weaknees clearly marked “Warranty Replacement” on the shipping documents. Ultimately the lady at the local Shopper’s Drug Mart post office pointed out that there is a mechanism to request a refund from the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”). Indeed, the request for refund form is printed on the back of the Canadian Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) Postal Import Form that came with it.

I contacted the CBSA at 1.800.461.9999 (dial 0,0 for a person) and the lady there said that the brokerage people should have noticed the “Warranty Replacement” notice and not charged the PST and GST again. For future reference she recommends that Canadians ask U.S. shippers shipping replacement units under warranty with the following in big, bold red letters on the cover documents:

“Warranty Exchange – No Charge”

Weaknees had to include the product value in the documents for insurance purposes. The CBSA agent said this is no contradiction. The people at the border are supposed to understand that, in the case of warranty replacement units, the $799 declared value is for insurance purposes only. She told me that had Weaknees declared the value being $0, as I had suggested, that this would have raised a red flag and my S3 would have been held up longer at the border.

In order to file my refund request I needed to provide all documentation including confirmation that the defective unit crossed the border back to the U.S. Weaknees sent me a scanned .pdf copy of the shipping documents on the box when it arrived in California. I submitted the refund request to the nearest CRA Casual Refund Centre (I didn’t even know these places existed before this) as instructed on November 22, 2006. The Shopper’s Drug Mart/post office lady and the CBSA agent both said it takes 6 weeks or less to obtain the refund. I received my refund cheque ($131.05) on Thursday March 8 – some fifteen weeks after submitting it.

Guided Setup on the new unit went without a hitch. TiVo has been happily recording HD and other digital and analogue cable shows ever since.

I must say, as crappy as this experience was, the worst part of it was having to use the 8300 HD PVR for another two weeks. Last Tuesday, House finally started up again – it was on hiatus during the World Series. As with every other 8300 attempt to record it, it was recorded in slices (eg: 8 minutes record in one file, then 12 minutes in another, and on and on – and sometimes there are missing slices). It has been suggested on the Rogers 8300 PVR Forums at the Digital Home Canada site that this is due to a problem with the WUTV Fox broadcast tower in Buffalo and not with the Rogers PVR. I say bullocks to that! My S3 records every HD OTA program originating from WUTV’s tower without a glitch.

On Wednesday I made double sure (as one must with EVERY show set to record on the 8300) that it was all set to record another favorite show – Lost. It was listed in the “Scheduled Recordings” list, I navigated through the onscreen guide to be sure it was highlighted in red indicating it was set to record. Yupp, all set to record. But, when I sat down to watch it later that evening – it had not recorded. I checked the Scheduled Recordings list again. There it is/was – on the list – but no recording. This is no real surprise as this has happened to me dozens of times with the 8300 in the past. You simply cannot expect the 8300 to reliably record anything. Thankfully my S1 TiVo was set to record it (and every other show set to record in HD on the 8300) as a needed backup.

I paid for another month’s rental of 8300 to get me over the S3 warranty replacement hump. It is definitely going back to Rogers at or before the end of November. With my new S3 and my old S1, I have a TiVo-solution to record everything I want recorded here in Toronto.

I returned my 8300 to Rogers with glee on November 27. I’m happy to be rid of it and now I save $20 off my monthly Rogers bill to boot! I read in January of 2006 Rogers finally rolled out a software update to the 8300HD making it less agonizing to use than it was during the time I used it.

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  • Chester_Lampwick


    Thanks for writing this. Good work! Being that Canada is in the TiVo vacuum, sites with information relative to Canadians are pretty uncommon. If I were more of a sports enthusiast, I’d surely get one of these units. I’m not sure that I need to watch regular TV fare in HD yet…

    I’ll continue to stay about 2 years behind the bleeding edge, but I’m happy to see that TiVo is still state-of-the-art.

    You have my utmost respect,

  • Mike

    Hi Dale…

    You are obviously the resident Canadian TiVo expert.

    I’d appreciate if you could answer a question for me? I live in Southern Ontario and have just purchased an HR10-250 STB to use with my Directv subscription. The box/access card has been programmed and I am receiving the transmission.

    My question is this: Can I/should I be connecting the phone line so I can register for DVR programming or will that ‘highlight’ that I am a Canadian based subscriber and perhaps end up with DTV cancelling my subscription?

    Thanks for your help?

  • Dale Dietrich

    Sorry Mike, I have never used the DirecTiVo so I am not aware of how it is configured. I believe the DirecTiVo gets its programming data from the satellite so that there is no need for daily calls via the telephone line or Internet for such data. The best place to ask this question is on the DirecTiVo portion of the TiVo Community site here:


    You’ll not find a more knowledgeable group on the subject than on that forum.

    Good luck.


  • Mike

    Thank you Dale…

  • Gary Mark

    Kudos to this excellent review. I live in a sweet spot of the Golden Horseshoe that has excellent OTA reception. I am presently delighted with the free TiVo basic service that I am getting from a Toshiba SD-H400 hooked into a Motorola DCT digital cable box. My new HDTV is getting excellent reception from the ATSC receiver but the SDTV from the upconverted signal from the Toshiba TiVo is no so wonderful.

    I am so used to not paying for TiVo that I was wondering about the functionality of this box without subscribing to the US$9.99/month. If and when the OTA guide data gets fed to the Tribune/Zap2it service, would you recommend the subscription??

  • Dale Dietrich

    Gary, now that Tivo offers service in Canada, the only way I can recommend your use of TiVo in Canada is if you subscribe to, and pay for, the service.

  • Nicole

    Hi Dale,

    I am really intereted in purchasing a TiVo for my husband. I called TiVo, and predictably they said they do not ship to Canada. I found weaknees. I wasn’t too certain about weaknees as a legitimate business. As I learn more, I realize it probably is. I am hoping you could give me tips on navigating the whole TiVo purchasing (e.g. once I order the system from Weaknees, do I call up TiVo for service?). There should be a guide to purchasing TiVo for people living in Canada.

    Any advice would be great,

  • Dale Dietrich

    Hey Nicole. Weaknees is very reputable. They are an authorized TiVo dealer. I have been a contributor to TiVo-related forums since 1999 and I’ve heard nothing but praise on those forums for Weaknees’ service during all that time.

    When you first start up your TiVo (whether it is a Series 2 or Series 3) it asks you where you are (address and postal code). When you finish the installation process the screen displays a 1-800 phone number (available from Canada) that you call to activate the service. The activation process takes only about 10 minutes on the phone. The service will run for 10 days without activation.

    TiVo has changed its pricing recently. You may want to click around on the TiVo.com site to be aware of the pricing options (in U.S. dollars) before calling. The longer you are willing to commit to service, the cheaper the service fee.

    If you become a member of:


    there are posts on every detail about purchasing and using TiVos in Canada. But it is a private forum. You’ll need to request membership from its administrator VexOrg before you can review the posts there. (They only accept membership from Canadian residents).

    Of course, if you goto the TiVoCommunity forum


    you can read endless posts on TiVo and ask questions from others. It’s a terrific resource to learn everything there is to know about TiVo before buying.

    Activating TiVo in Canada is identical to activating it in the U.S. So, all the info on TiVo’s website applies. As you discovered purchasing the hardware IS different from the U.S. experience though (where it can be purchased from any Best Buy, Circuit City etc.).

    Good luck.

  • Claude Barsalo

    Dear Dale.

    I read your blog about Tivo Series 3 unit with great interest. You see, I bought myself a new Sony SXRD 50″ projection HDTV last November and I was looking for a unit to record HD material over-the-air and the only units that I could find on the net were old Sony units from late 2004. They were model nos: DHGHDD250 and DHGHDD500 and both of them have been discontinued by now. Of course, after reading your blog I became very interested by that Tivo unit. The only problem for now is the price. I hope that when they become available in Canada, the price will go down a bit.

    My question is the following. Do we absolutely have to subscribe to Tivo to use the unit. I don’t mind programming it manually to record different shows at different timeson different channels. You see, I have been doing that now with my VHS machine for ages so I don’t see too much problems doing the same with the Tivo unit. I don’t believe in paying anything for over-the-air material if I can avoid it.

    Thank you for your answer and have a great New Year.


  • Dale Dietrich

    Thanks Claude.

    You didn’t say where you live. HD in Canada is spotty. You need to live in a major center or near a U.S. border city for it to be worth your while. In Toronto I get 20+ digital OTA stations wheras in Ottawa there are currently only 2 or 3.

    There are deals on TiVo S3′s all the time. Add the TiVoCommunity Forum Coffee House to your bookmarks here:


    Thought it is against forum rules, people still post deals now and again. The most recent was an S3 for $529 U.S. The gotcha, of course, is that most of the people doing these deals don’t ship to Canada.

    As to your question, prior to October of 2005, there was a way to receive TiVo without paying subscription fees. But since then, TiVo provides the service to Canadians. So, since it is now available here, I will not recommend or assist people to obtain the service without paying the fee. Now, I am on record as saying that the latest pricing changes made by TiVo are horrible! It would be VERY hard for me to recommend TiVo to only but the most certain customers. The best pricing plan requires a 3 year commitment. Most aren’t willing to commit to something new for 3 years. But, if you are, and the pricing works for you, then I obviously highly recommend the unit.

    Remember too that Zap2it/Tribune should start (soon – touch wood) providing full HD guide data in Canada. I’m surprised its gone this long without it. Once they do, no more manual mode will be required.

    There are other methods of recording HD in Canada. You can also use a Microsoft Media Center equipped PC with an ATSC tuner card in it. That will NOT require a monthly subscription. There are several other PC-based solutions out there. None of them is as ellegent as TiVo but many people swear by them – especially those that don’t want to pay subscription fees. I suggest doing a google search on “PC-based PVRs” as a starting point. Also the PVRwire blog:


    covers every PVR (including PC-based), so you can get a lot of information there.

    Good luck Claude.

    And Happy New Year!

  • Telek

    Hey everyone!

    I’m looking forward to my HD setup in about a month.

    Just wondering if here has been any updates in the past month?

  • Tony

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Thanks for the great review.

  • Jason Gray

    Hey there,

    Thanks for all the info. Unfortunately, I didn’t find your page until after I bought the TivoS3 and discovered that Rogers is in the stoneage (no cablecards).

    I’m mixed as to what to do, but even the now lower price of $599 (Amazon.com) doesn’t seem justified if I’m recording OAT digital channels. For a few HD channels (I’m in T.O. too), I’d give up the convenience of my TivoS2 for all the other channels and show that are not available in HD.

    I just wish TIVO had planned a little better for international sales with respect to input/output connections/IR transmitters. Seems they could have kept that technology and continued to spread outside of the U.S. I thought with their move into Canada, it could compete… but now that they’ve realeased TWO HD versions and neither of them possess the original flexibility… it seems they’ve given up on their international sales goals.

    Bah Humbug!

    I love TIVO, but they really let me know with these new technologies. I’m going to keep two series2 tivos around the house and maybe add a Rogers HD PVR on top of the setup for HD. But the $599 S3 has got to go back.

    Thanks again for all your help.


    Jason Gray

  • Allan

    As long as Tivo cannot record from Starchoice or Express Vu, there won’t be any point in buying one as far as I’m concerned.

  • Claude Barsalo

    Hello Dale

    I wrote to you last year for some information about Tivo. A few things have changed since then. As you probably know, Tivo has a new Hd unit now that sells for about $299.00. I also read on the net that Tivo doesn’t provide HD info in Canada. I live about 70 miles north of the New York border and with my rooftop antenna I can receive ALL the US Networks in HD including the Montreal CBC French and English HD stations. Is there a way that I could get a TivoHD to work in my area? If I use a New York zip code will I still be able to get the Montreal SD and HD stations to be tuned and recorded by the Tivo.

    Forgive me if my questions seem pretty obvious to you but even after a year, I’m still pretty new to this stuff but I must say that HD is absolutely awesome. I just hope to be able to record some of these programs very soon.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.


  • Dale Dietrich

    Alan, you are right the S3 and TiVo HD can’t record from satellite in Canada, but the TiVo Series 2s sure can!

    Claude, the TiVoHD will work EXACTLY the same as the S3 does in Canada. It has a smaller hard drive, a less attractive look, a less-fancy remote, no THX certification and a few other minor differences. But, from a functional standpoint there is ZERO difference.

    So, yes indeed, if you can receive U.S. OTA digital networks where you live in Canada, the TiVo HD will be able to receive and record them. You will face the same challenges as I have with guide data however.

    If you want to use U.S. guide data as I do, you need to checkout the zipcodes for the nearest U.S. border towns (ie: the upstate NY towns nearest to you) at zap2it.com to see if Tribune carries the needed guide data for the channels you wish to record. If zap2it.com has them for that zipcode, then TiVo will have them if you configure TiVo as if you lived in that town. TiVo’s guide data is EXACTLY the same as the data in zap2it.com. But, you won’t likely have many, or even most of the U.S. OTA networks mapped. But, as I mention in my update above, that is largely irrelevant if you don’t want/need to record any Canadian-based source programming – which is my case.

    Or, alternatively you can use the TiVo HD in manual mode as I did originally (before I gave up in June and switched to the Niagra Falls NY zip code).

    If you proceed, please let me know what your results are. I’ve had several inquiries from people living in the Montreal area yet I know of nobody who has tried it – at least nobody has reported back to me on their results.

    HD is awesome! And when you can reliably record it and watch it whenever you want, it reaches a whole new level of awesome. Right now is probably NOT the best time with the writers strike. There won’t be much new programming out until that is over. But even just watching Network News in HD is a real treat.

    Happy Holidays.

    Good luck!

  • Claude Barsalo


    Thanks for your reply. I read it very carefully but there is one little detail that you sort of omitted. If I can receive ALL the US networks in HD where I live I guess that the reverse is also true. If a French speaking individual that lives in Plattsburg, New York or Burlington, Vermont wants to watch or record a program from CBC French HD network in Montreal and doesn’t have cable or satellite but has a rooftop antenna like me, shouldn’t he or she be able to receive and/or record that program. Won’t the Tivo guide include that station on their list since it is receivable from their location? I also contacted Tivo yesterday to get more info and I was told by the gentleman over there that I should be able to receive everything that my tv receives at the moment. The only difference might be the lack of the actual program guide datas. To correct this, he asked me to contact them once the machine is set up and they will add the guide datas that I’m missing on the Tivo. The problem is that I don’t have the slightest idea of what he’s talking about since I have never seen a working Tivo before.

    In your reply, you also mention the fact that you were using Tivo in manual mode. Does that mean that if I do the same I won’t have to subscribe to their service. I seem to have read somewhere on the net that if you are using OTA and that you don’t mind using the Tivo in manual mode, you don’t have to subscribe to their service. You know, I have been using a BETA and VHS vcr for so long now that I don’t really care to have to manually program my recordings.

    Thanks again for your patience


  • Claude Barsalo


    It’s me again. After re-reading your reply, I went on Zap2it and put in a Plattsburgh, New York zip code and it gave me ALL the listings of the stations that I can receive at the moment including ALL the Montreal HD and SD stations. I guess that if I do that, I should be able to record anything that I am receiving at the moment.

    Please let me know what you think

    Thanks again

  • Nick Kuefler

    Excellent read… Wondering if you have any links or information on picking up U.S OTA digital networks from Vancouver.

  • Dale Dietrich

    Claude, you have it right … A TiVo in Plattsburgh can record Quebec shows that reach their airwaves just like Canadians can record U.S. shows. THE important issue though is whether the Plattsburgh TiVo Guide Data contains the data for the Quebec shows or not. If they do, then the TiVo works with full functionality with regards to recording the Quebec shows. It the TiVo in Plattsburgh does not have guide data for the relevant Quebec station it can only record from that channle manually – ie: by typing in, say, channel 5.1 from x time to y time.

    NO neither the S3, TiVo HD, the S2s nor any TiVo since some ove the early S1s will NOT work in ANY mode without a subscription – PERIOD.

    In my case, while my TiVo can manually record all the digital shows broadcast in Toronto, the U.S. zipcode I have does NOT have the guide data for the Canadian shows. So, if I want to record the digital channel for City TV in Toronto, I must tell my TiVo to record channle 57.1 from time x to time y on the specific day rather than how TiVo normally works which essentially is to say – just record the darn show – and TiVo figures out when its on, when to record, when shows are repeats and not – getting a Seasons Pass to the show etc. etc.


    I’m not up on the Vancouver market. You can try the Vancouver thread on Digital Home Canada’s Digital OTA forum:


    Good luck.


  • Rick

    Thanks for the information!

  • Matt

    Hey Dale,

    Thanks for shedding light on something I knew nothing about and would have been lost not knowing. I have a quick question if your able to answer it for me. I am entering the whole HD world and in regard to the antenna etc. I live around Islington and the 401. A bit north of the CN Tower. My House already has a tower for an ancient VHF antenna, so mounting an outdoor UHF would be way too easy for me to bother with an indoor or anything else. Do you think with a decent high gain ant I would be able to get most of those channels you had up there??



  • Dale Dietrich

    Matt, you are a bit further North than I am, but if you have a clear southerly view, with a decent antenna, you should be able to pick up most of the same stations I do, if not more. My nephew lives out in Mississauga at Dundas and 403 and gets more OTA digital stations than I do. I don’t know of anyone living as far North as you do that is using a TiVo Series 3.

    As I mentioned above, you can check out the various Toronto area threads in the digital home Canada forum to see what other non-TiVo users are able to receive in various parts of Toronto:


    Anything that any one of these guys that are living in your neighborhood are able to receive would be receivable by a TiVo S3 (assuming you have a decent exposure to the CN Tower and south across the lake to Upstate New York.)


  • Brian E

    Hi Dale

    Just a few questions to help clear some things up for me before I take the plunge.

    I live in Toronto.

    If I get a S3 and input my location/zip as being in the US (let’s say Buffalo for sake of argument) I can get full Tivo Guide date including Season passes etc and it’s only IF I want to record a Canadian station (like CITY or the CBC) that I have to manually input the recording? Basically will I be able to hook up my TiVo, say I’m in the US and recevie the normal Tivo experience for any of the major networks like CBS. ABC etc and just have to worry about the occasional Canadian show on a case by case basis?

    Also about installation: I have Rogers Digital (no PVR) right now (no antenna) how easy is ti to install/what do I need to do exactly?

  • Dale Dietrich


    Your assessment is right … I need to update this blog post at some point. In late January I redid Guided Setup using zipcode 14174 from Youngstown NY. It has all the guide data I got before PLUS guide data for the Canadian stations: CBC (5-1), City TV (57-1) )and CTV (9-1)

    The CBC (5-1) Guide data is still screwed up though – I recently put a service request into Tivo to get that fixed for their New York customers. As of today it still isn’t fixed yet so recording from CBC is still a manual process – but happily not from CityTV or CTV any longer.

    My nephew has just purchased an S3 and has it set up in Mississauga with a clear southern exposure (no trees, buildings etc. blocking his second floor antenna locations). He gets a couple more channels than I do and ALL of his channels come in even stronger than mine. He likes it so much that he’s cancelling his Rogers subscription and is about to purchase a second TiVo S3 or TiVo HD (it looks like TiVo is phasing out the higher end S3 model).

    Installation is easy. The TiVo comes with all needed instructions. You need the Silver Sensor antenna (discussed above) and a coax cable that will span the distance from your TiVo S3 and your best window facing south (or ideally to a roof mounted UHF antenna). If you wish you could also plug in your Rogers cable and record from the analogue stations from Rogers but recording from analogue cable can only be done in manual mode if you choose to use the U.S. zip codes as I and my nephew have. But, frankly, you probably won’t want to bother.

    Good luck and let me know how it goes. And ideally, generally where you are in Metro Toronto (facing which direction) so I can continue to chronicle successes or failures.

  • Brian McKellar

    Does rogers supply the needed cards for the S3? How Do I receive all the stations? I reside on the outskirts of Ottawa is there a tower near me? I have a Zip code for Ogdensburg, NY. Is this location compatible for the US and myself? What are the difficulties that I would be facing?

  • Dale Dietrich

    No … as I’ve written in the post NO Canadian cable provider supports the cablecard. So you cannot use your TiVo S3 or HD directly connected to a digital cable box. You can only record analogue stations off of Rogers (channels 1-90ish). The HD stations are those broadcast over-the-air only. See the first paragraph under section 2 above for Ottawa stations – there’s not many. I have no idea about Ogdensburg NY. If it is close to Ottawa and the ‘broadcast’ TV stations in Ogdensburg are the same as those ‘broadcast’ in Ottawa it should work. You’ll have to do your own legwork. Everything you need to figure this out is discussed above.

  • Tivo OTA Canada

    I’m interested in getting a TIVO here in Toronto, but looking into this guide data issue made me think twice.

    I entered the Roger’s Center Postal code (M5V 1J3) into zaptoit.com today and got back guide data without issue. (Click on rogers digital cable)

    Does this mean that the problem has been resolved and I can now go ahead and buy a TIVO and not worry about any of this?

  • Dale Dietrich

    TiVo OTA Canada:

    As I mentioned above, TiVo has all the guide data for ALL sources in Canada EXCEPT digital over the air. On August 7, 2008, I just checked the “Local Broadcats (Antenna) option for your postal code on Zap2it and it does NOT contain guide data for digital stations. The guide data you got back was for every other type of source. If all you want is to record from Rogers cable (for example) the S3 is not what you want. The TiVo S2 is what you want. The only reason to get an S3 in Canada is for over-the-air digital recordings (which include HD recordings). The S3 does not record digital (including HD) from Rogers set top boxes because Rogers does not support the cablecard standard that TiVo needs to record from digital cable.

    Hope that helps.


  • Ian

    Do you know of any plan for TIVO with HD in Canada? I have a S2 and a shaw PVR. The TIVO is far better but without the guild the shaw PVR would work better.
    Any update would help.


  • George

    I have Tivo in Canada the day it came out in the USA I waited in line for it at circitcity. Big philips box stil in use. As for the HD box I had one mailed to me from a buddy in the US as well the day it was available on the tivo site. Glad you got tivo but I dont think you were first.

  • http://www.daledietrich.com Dale Dietrich

    Ian, TiVo can’t bring out an HD box for the Canadian market because there is no universal cablecard standard like there is in the U.S. Call/write your MP and tell them you want a legally mandated cablecard standard. Until Parliament changes the law, or the cable/satellite companies volunarily agree on a standard (which they won’t do because it is adverse to their interest to have complete control over your TV technology choices) there can be no third party devices that will be able to decode scrambled signals.

    If Tribune/Zap2It ever starts providing OTA guide data for Canadian postal codes TiVo could create an over-the-air-only box for the Canadian market but that is unlikely to ever happen – our market is too small.

    The best we can hope for is for Tribune to start providing digital OTA guide data for all Canadian postal codes. When they do, the U.S. product will work well in Canada without having to do what I do – rely on near-by U.S. zip codes to get my guide data.

    George … Glad to find another early adopter. Since I have no way of verifying your claim nor was there anyone on the Intenet claiming to use an S3 in Canada back then, I’ll stick with my claim to be the first. But, if you were the first – my hat goes off to you. Sure wish you would have written about it online back then – would have saved me a lot of grief! :)

  • Marilyn

    I’ve had a Series 2 TiVo for two years now that I use with a Rogers HD box because I find it gives a better signal than the standard def box even though I can’t record HD. I seldom watcg TV directly but obviously IO need it for that as well. I’m pretty happy overall, except for the occasional times when a program is bumped to a HD channel and doesn’t tape because I can only tape one HD channel at a time.

    Now that there are less expensive TiVos with more space and TiVo is offering Lifetime Service at $299 for current subscribers (or $399 for new members) I’m thinking of buying a Series 3 or XL TiVo to take full advantage of my HD TV.

    First of all, do you have any idea of what kind of over-the-air signal I would get from downtown Toronto: Church and Front Streets? There are low rise buildings between me and the lake and the CN Tower. I don’t know how bendable TV signals are.

    Secondly, would you recommend getting one of the new 150 HD hour TiVo XLs at $599 from TiVo or choosing a basic 20 HD hour Series 3, which TiVo offered me for $199, then getting a DVR expander to increase the HD capacity. Amazon .com presently offers a 60 HD hour expander for $134 and a 150 HD hour expander for $235. Since memory keeps decreasing in price, I could easily wait a while to expand.

    What size is your Series 3 and is this satisfactory?

    Can programs be shared between Series 3 and Series 2 TiVos?

    It was great to find your blog through Weaknees and to get answers already to many of my questions. Thanks for posting and sharing your TiVo expertise with other TiVo users!

  • http://www.daleisphere.com Dale Dietrich

    Mariyln. I have the original Series 3 with a 250 Gig Hard drive. I also have a 750 Gig side car. So I have a total of 1 Terabyte of drive space available to my S3. Is it satisfactory. It’s huge by most standards, but you can never have too much storage!

    In downtown Toronto you will be able to receive the major Canadian HD channels over-the-air: CBC, CTV, Global and City. You are just a few blocks from me. I get all the U.S. networks too but I’m 26 floors up (though facing North). I tested my S3 at a friends house up at Yonge and Eglinton with just the basic indoor silver sensor antenna I describe above. He could get all the Toronto networks but couldn’t get the U.S. networks. He had trees and buildings blocking his southern exposure. But, if he was willing to put up a proper outdoor antennae my guess is he would get most, if not all the U.S. channels.

    I haven’t done the math on which TiVo to get. After doing the math, factoring in exchange rates, delievery charges, customs charges and taxes, my suggestion is to get the largest one you can afford. Adding the side-car isn’t that difficult but, obviously, if you get one with an integrated larger drive, it makes things easier. I’d look to be certain the newer one CAN be upgraded with the addition of external drives later (that I don’t know).

    Finally, you can share Standard-def programming between the two TiVos but you can’t share high-def content from the S3 to the S2 for obvious reasons. You can also use the TiVo Desktop software to offload TV shows onto your PC over a home network and then import them back to the TiVo at any time to watch later.


  • Marilyn

    Thanks, Dale! I’m trying to decide as I’ll be in the US soon and could have the HD TiVo delivered to me there. That way I could avoid paying shipping and duty. If I chose the basic HD TiVo offered for $199 by TiVo and added the Expander for $135 through Amazon.com I’d be under my customs allowance of $400. This would give me a total of 80+ HD hours.

    It sounds as though I can probably receive all the Canadian HD networks over the air but I can’t know this for sure. However, the channels I’m most interested to see in HD are only available through cable: the movie channels, Showcase and A&E. You mentioned in an earlier post that there was a possibility of CableCards being available in Canada by 2007. Has anything come of this?

    The second sticking point is that I just discovered that I need to pay service for each individual TiVo separately. I would be able to get Lifetime Service for my new TiVo for $299 but would also have to pay $399 to get Lifetime Service for my Series 2 as it wasn’t available when I bought it two years ago, just before the series 3 came out.

    I don’t really need a second TiVo. I already have additional recording space as my son installed extra hard drive in my Series 2. I’d just like HD TiVo in order to get the benefit of my HD TV because I tend to TiVo all the programs I watch. I tried to justify getting the HD TiVo by offering to hand over my old one to my husband but he rarely watches TV other than live news and sports and isn’t interested.

  • Dale Dietrich


    It was the cablecard 2.0 standard that I naievely thought back then would be ratified in 2007. According to Wikipedia, Cablecard 2.0 negotiations remain at an impasse:


    But, even if/when the standard is adopted, it is probable that the Canadian cable companies will not support it. My best advice is to assume the cable companies will never do anything to support the TiVo S3 and plan accordingly. Though sometimes miracles happen! :)


  • Ian


    I was one of those who bought the original TIVO for $1000, back in the day … I now own a series 3. I am moving from the US to Victoria, BC … will I be able to use my Series 3 up there?

    You seem to have a handle on this stuff (and the right passion); will you advise on how I can use my TIVO Series 3 in Victoria? I am not the most tech savy guy so you will need to make it simple. :o)

    Can I simply try the OTA signals from Port Angeles or Bellingham, WA and an appropriate zip? Is it that simple?


  • http://www.daleisphere.com Dale Dietrich

    Yes Ian, that's it. You get the zip codes from the nearest border town and see how it goes. But I honestly don't know what OTA digital signals are available in Victoria – if any. Canadian stations are slowly changing – most have made the switch in Toronto – but not all. Also, not all the Toronto digital stations are in the guide from my nearest border town, but most are. My guess is your going to get dismal results in Victoria unless there is a major U.S. city within, say 50 miles and I don't think there is. But I will be intrigued to hear how it goes once you give it a try.

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  • Polo

    HELP how can I use my tivo 3HD with shawbox!!! I have the lifetime and love the way it looks and all the smart things its does shaw sorry but ur closed caption is soo blurrry! TIVO save me please!

  • http://www.daleisphere.com Dale Dietrich

    The TiVo S3 will NOT work with any set-top box. It does not use an IR blaster like the TiVo Series 2 does. At best you'll be able tune into the analogue stations on the raw Shaw cable – ie: split before it gets to the set-top.

  • Tony

    I have a Series 3 in Vancouver, BC. We have access to four OTA HD channels, which are 2-1 (CBC), 8-1 (Global), 10-1 (City), and 32-1 (CTV).

    All four OTA HD channels are in my TiVo program guide and work flawlessly in conjunction with my regular coaxial analogue cable signals.

    My program guide for the OTA HD channels has been working correctly for a year or two.

    City TV recently came online on channel 10-1.

  • Tony

    I have a Series 3 in Vancouver, BC. We have access to four OTA HD channels, which are 2-1 (CBC), 8-1 (Global), 10-1 (City), and 32-1 (CTV).rnrnAll four OTA HD channels are in my TiVo program guide and work flawlessly in conjunction with my regular coaxial analogue cable signals.rnrnMy program guide for the OTA HD channels has been working correctly for a year or two.rnrnCity TV recently came online on channel 10-1.

  • Tony

    I just checked my calendar: My Vancouver, BC TiVo program guide has included Vancouver OTA HD channels since April 2009.