Skip to main content

TiVo’s skip button changed how we watch TV forever

TiVo’s skip button changed how we watch TV forever


Button of the Month: the TiVo skip forward button

Share this story

Photo by Avery White for The Verge

For years, the word TiVo was synonymous with DVRs. Launched back in the heady days of 1999, the product came on the scene and quickly changed how we watched TV forever — and it all started with a button on its remote that represented a major leap forward in technology. 

Before TiVo, you could record shows from a live broadcast on VHS tapes, but the process was limited and costly. You’d need a VCR that could record shows plus the tapes themselves, which cost extra money and took up space. For all that, the technology was still limited; recordings had to be made manually, every time. And while tapes were good for recording things to watch later, they didn’t give you much control over a live broadcast while it was actually happening. 

TiVo changed that by making recording digital. Suddenly, recording shows was easy and automated, and the digital nature of the recordings meant there were new ways to interact with them. A pause button let you stop in the middle of a live show or news broadcast to grab a snack, then come back right where you left off. Missed something? A rewind button allowed you to jump back a few seconds to catch it. 

The most magical button of all: the skip button

But then there is the most magical button of all: the skip button. It’s the little arrow with a line next to it, and it paved the way for how we interact with digital TV by letting viewers jump freely around a TV show. 

VHS recordings could be fast-forwarded, rewound, or paused, but it was only with the move to digital that more granular, real-time jumping around was made possible. TiVo’s ability to instantly go back a few seconds to catch a line of dialogue was far more convenient than waiting for your VHS to finish recording and then rewinding to watch it again. And the ability to jump forward to quickly fly through commercials was revolutionary. 

The 30-second skip wasn’t technically the intended purpose of the button (it was originally a “skip to the end” button), but the feature — more so than anything else — exemplified TiVo’s approach to television. It gave viewers the chance to watch TV the way they always wanted: skipping the commercials and just enjoying the show. 

That button would set the standard for how we watch digital media today

TiVo would eventually build on its fast-forwarding options, adding automated skipping features that could cut out commercials entirely from a recorded show or skip all of the commercials with a single press. It all started with that first skip button on the company’s iconic peanut-shaped remote, a button that still exists on TiVo’s newest products. 

That button set the standard for how we watch digital media today. Stream a show on Netflix, Hulu, or Disney Plus, and you’ll see software buttons to jump forward or backward 10 seconds, just like TiVo’s. YouTube has physical hotkeys to skip forward or backward through a video on a laptop, and most streaming apps offer similar features on mobile when you swipe or double-tap on a video. 

The TiVo skip button helped shift TV from the uncontrollable vagaries of live broadcasts into a form that gave users control over what they watched. Nowadays, commercials are either nonexistent (thanks, streaming shows) or nearly inescapable (like Hulu’s endlessly repeating ads). But the ability to jump around our shows remains, and it all started here. 

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 6 minutes ago The tablet didn’t call that play by itself

External Link
Elizabeth Lopatto6 minutes ago
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.

The Verge
Richard Lawler38 minutes ago
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.

The Verge
Richard LawlerTwo hours ago
Green light.

Good morning to everyone, except for the intern or whoever prevented us from seeing how Microsoft’s Surface held up to yet another violent NFL incident.

Today’s big event is the crash of a NASA spaceship this evening — on purpose. Mary Beth Griggs can explain.

David PierceTwo hours ago
Thousands and thousands of reasons people love Android.

“Android fans, what are the primary reasons why you will never ever switch to an iPhone?” That question led to almost 30,000 comments so far, and was for a while the most popular thing on Reddit. It’s a totally fascinating peek into the platform wars, and I’ve spent way too much time reading through it. I also laughed hard at “I can turn my text bubbles to any color I like.”

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
Thomas Ricker10:44 AM UTC
The Simpsons pays tribute to Chrome’s dino game.

Season 34 of The Simpsons kicked off on Sunday night with an opening credits “couch gag” based on the offline dino game from Google’s Chrome browser. Cactus, cactus, couch, d’oh! Perfect.

Thomas Ricker7:29 AM UTC
Table breaks before Apple Watch Ultra’s sapphire glass.

”It’s the most rugged and capable Apple Watch yet,” said Apple at the launch of the Apple Watch Ultra (read The Verge review here). YouTuber TechRax put that claim to the test with a series of drop, scratch, and hammer tests. Takeaways: the titanium case will scratch with enough abuse, and that flat sapphire front crystal is tough — tougher than the table which cracks before the Ultra fails — but not indestructible.

Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.

Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.

External Link
Emma RothSep 25
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.