What Format does Tablo 4 Record & Is it Encrypted

One thing I do not like is many or most DVR’s encode the recorded shows, so the file can only be played by that DVR device.

Does the Tablo record in an open source format a PC could read, MP4 or MPEG-2… If not encrypted they can be played by most video apps.

I’ve never known tablo recording to be encrypted. But that doesn’t mean you will understand the tablo metadata that describes where the file is and what the folder contains.

Also, just to clarify, formats like h264 and mpeg2 are not “open source”.

I think you meant formats that most PCs can handle.

OG Tablo converted the original mpeg2-ts to mpeg4-ts (converting audio based on whether or not you have the surround sound toggle set). The old Tablo direct HDMI connected units stored in mpeg2-ts ATSC 1.0 native. AFAIK, 4th gen Tablo (the new ones), simply capture the raw mpeg2-ts from ATSC 1.0, no conversion, until “archived”, and then it’s converted to mpeg4 (to help save space).

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Almost entirely correct - per Tablo, if you attach an external drive, the 4th gen will not convert from MPEG-2. I’ve confirmed the external drive format is EXT4 and readable by a Linux system, and the files are playable by Official download of VLC media player, the best Open Source player - VideoLAN - but I haven’t yet tried to transcode them.


Did not know that (I don’t own a 4th gen). Is “archiving” any kind of configurable setting? Or is it just “automatic” (assumed) when you don’t have attached drive?

The latter; automatic and not configurable when on internal storage.

Refining my correction further, the FAQ notes,

All recordings of free ad-supported streaming channels will be recorded in MPEG4 regardless of the storage type used.

…so it’s MPEG2 on external drives, but for over-the-air recordings only.

When I start being concerned about hoarding OTA programing, I will drastically increase my trips to the therapist

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Which makes sense. MPEG2, as many have discussed, is not as universally available as H264/AAC. There’s a reason behind the delays and lack of support on certain platform types.

There’s also a reason for the design of the OG Tablo devices.

You should see a therapist. The point is not being locked into your TV and the device that recorded it (like my Channel Master that died). The point is being able to play the shows on your Laptop with a standard media player program, for example.

PS occasionally DVR’s die. When mine died (Channel Master) the external hard drive still had the shows, but they were not accessible, at least easily. Even buying a new Channel Master DVR would not work because the HDD is tied to that device (I was told). Apparently if you have a PC/Mac running Linux and utility program, you can unlock the files, convert them to format that can be played by most media players. I still have drive and will try to recover the data. My Windows PC can not even read the HDD. The data is there just protected ostensibly for copywrite reasons I assume.

The idea is that if you were concerned about recordings on a USB drive that is spinning away, why would you wait until now before thinking about saving them. Ths USB HDD could have crashed at any point in the last 3 years. And if it had all those important recordings would have been lost since they had no backup.

Maybe for the last 3 years they weren’t that important

Thanks cjcox… I will pull the HDD from the Tablo and plug it into my PC and see what I see. You say I need Linux? I put a 2TB HDD on the Tablo. It seems to be working OK. Per my above reply to zippy, I had bad luck with a Channel Master with a good amount of shows on the hard drive. The DVR died and the shows are inaccessible when the DVR died. It apparently can only be played by that specific DVR.

Apparently Channel Masters stores the data for playback on on that specific DVR, puts a lock on the files. I researched it. Apparently a Linux machine running a program to strip the lock and convert it to a format most media players will handle is out there. I wonder of VLC would work.

I do not have Linux running on any of my machine but might try it. At this point it is more for the challenge and learning. Good excuse to spool up on Linux. I used it long ago but only causally. I would like to experiment.

Tablo going to free schedule is a winner. The Channel Master also has (#had#) free schedule and why I used them. The first one I had was CM DVR+. Great unit but it died after a fwe years. The one I have now is the CM CM-7600 Media Player. The software is not as good as the DVR+ but gets the job done. It has built in WiFi for schedule and streaming content, but is HDMI wired to one TV.

The current channel master DVR Stream+ I have is working fine, but has the same proprietary storage system as the first CM DVR+ I had. (#However CM no longer makes any DVR’s, they sell TiVo#)

My goal is transition to the Tablo exclusively, and retire the CM. For now I am keeping the CM as a backup, until I gain trust with the Tablo… I would love it if the Tablo has file system that allows files to be played on PC media player easily.

The Tablo WiFi to TV / Tablet / Phone, running Tablo App and free schedule, and price is why I bought it. Into it about almost 2 weeks of a a rough honeymoon but getting better. Besides the $100 Tablo I had to add $110, for a 2TB HDD and two Roku 4K sticks (thankfully on sale). The Roku Express I tried first would not stream properly. The Roku 4K sticks are better.

I still occasionally have a recorded show screen and audio get out of sync. Not all shows just one channel and not all shows. It is a sub channel on (ION). I have pretty good antenna and the signal seems strong. Not sure what the deal is, but does not love the standard definition SD show. Not all shows on this channel have playback issues. Not sure but all the other principle channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS) seem to be OK.

Thanks for the info… I will try and get Linux running and VLC… I have used that media player in the past but on Windows. It would be nice if I did not have to run Linux but might be a good learning experience. Thanks.

I suppose I should have got the Tablo or TiVo that allows streaming your DVR shows on your mobile device away from home WiFi…

I think maybe there are confused threads. I’m going to trust others with regards to the 4th gen and claims, that just like the OG units, there’s a Linux style ext4 filesystem there.

But the ultimate goal of “new Tablo” would be for you to never get at this data by some other means. Just a thing with broadcasters.

So, hope you can, but I also know that such access presents a curious problem for Tablo (now).

I would not really worry about this as none of it will be able to to be done after 2027 “if” they really do turn off ATSC 1 and ATSC 3 is fully available. ATSC 3 DRM is being done to keep people from doing this and to stop people from pirating the signals.

If you want to stream, then IMO buy a streaming DVR don’t try to reinvent the wheel when there are already a few good choices out there. I don’t worry about losing recordings as pretty much everything except news and sports is available somewhere streaming.

My understanding is that software is available to let Windows read the Linux EXT4 partition format, but I have no experience or advice to offer on that score.

I encourage you to play with Linux, which is free and fun to learn.

OK thank you for follow up can clearing it up cjox. Wishful thinking in my part, It is the same with other DVR’s. It is a broadcaster thing (copywrite).

Just as a side note, I have an Ematic AT103B I play with in the spare bedroom on an older Sony (not smart TV). It has one of the two Roku 4k sticks now.

The Ematic is just an oddity but for what it is and cost it works. I recall 4 yrs ago I paid $34, You can get them today for that or less. It is barebones but records to a HDD) in a *MTS easily uploaded to a PC and played by media players. I am using an old 500mb HDD I paid $5 for. HDD format is FAT. I need to try flash drive sticks. No WiFi needed or wanted. It gets a schedule encoded in the stations signal. You can get 12 to 24 hours of schedule I recall. It even gives you detailed show description (with button pushing). It has a nerd interface, text not graphical, not for people who can’t set a digital clock in their microwave.

To record with the Ematic you can select from the station sent schedule or manually change the channel, start stop time and date, once/daily/weekly. The file names are crude by todays ICON thumbnail graphical standard. It is text list, with channel ID + date + start time. It is a one tuner deal… So you can only record and/or watch one station. However for $23 + $5 HDD it works… It is crude and requires more user button pushing, menus, manual programing… The BONUS, files are 100% not encrypted or in format that can’t be played directly be media player on phone or computer.

There are a handful of weird things. It can’t record one show past midnight. If the show goes from 11:05AM to 12:05AM it will not accept it. There could be a workaround and/or I am doing something wrong. Software updates is via USB port. You go into settings and say update and it looks at USB for file. Since my unit is older I thought about trying to update the software. As far as I know it is not supported. I looked and sent email… It is likely some Chinese factory that still pumps these out and has zero support and likely software is not available. They have been out for 10 to 13 yrs and still sold new from $28 to $38, Walmart has a $23 sale. So they have a following.

I AM NOT RECOMMENDING EMATIC… Only mention in relationship to having un-encrypted files you can play on PC media players away from DVR.

Computer based DVR with a Hauppauge TV tuner and software I built up in the late 2000’s (about the time digital TV came out) also recorded in open format not Linux or encrypted… but the software, schedule was advanced. The TV schedule was free and the interface with graphical. You still needed to open a program and to see the shows go to a folder and select program. NERD quality user interface, software settings, etc. Hey it’s a hobby.

I have to admit the DVR’s from Tablo, TiVo and Channel Master DVR’s (now out of DVR business) and others, with all the streaming channels, advanced schedule features, graphical interface are very nice, but restrictive. Also they are small compact units, that don’t require you keep your PC on all the time.

NOT RECOMMENDING THE EMATIC AT103B. It is not well supported and in many ways “flaky” like a digital version of a 1980’s tape VCR. However that is part of it’s charm. I am going to try a Flash Drive stick in the USB port. I think you can swap drives or memory stick without worry? Don’t know have only used the one drive. Many DVR’s are tied to that one storage device and can not be swapped unless you format the new storage. I have been told once you do this you can not reinstall the old drive without reformatting (erasing the data).

If EMATIC records to flash drive it allows me to plug into a laptop USB to watch a show while traveling, off the web, great. If not I can take shows of HDD and then transfer the MTS files to flash drive via PC, if I don’t want to carry around the compact HDD.

I know other DVR’s allow you to stream content from your DVR’s storage away from home Via Internet. May be that is what I need? I had a SLING 8 years ago, I used with cable company DVR. That was really flaky but worked. You had IR repeaters to remote control the DVR. SLING discontinued this service, but the idea of watching recorded shows on any media player (cell phone, laptop, PC) off the internet (in the back in an airplane) is something I would use.

The Tablo and Channel Master DVR are what I am using. But the Ematic experiment continues. It is a hobby not a way of life. I will say the Tablo is warming up to me. I solved all my teething pains with the Tablo. If it lasts (does not die like my first Channel Master did after 4 yrs) great. Like I said if you have encoded shows on a DVR that goes bye bye you also lose the data (unless you use Linux and some conversion utility).

In this DIGITAL world companies can spy and control what we do and how we use their products. Tesla can shut features off on your car remotely. Samsung can shut your phone off it is was bought on grey market (a phone used in one country that was marketed to another country). There is good about technology and bad. Would I go back to VCR? No.

Have you found a way to play our m3u8 streams from OTA on VLC and other player? I’m close to figuring it out but I don’t know how to incorporate the authentication to the stream link.


GET /views/guide/channels/S21299_006_01/airings?date=2023-11-25&state=requested&lh HTTP/1.1
Authorization: tablo:auth_key [Redacted for security
Date: Sat, 25 Nov 2023 23:23:14 GMT
Connection: Close
Host: local.ip:8887
Accept-Encoding: gzip
User-Agent: Tablo/1.0.7 (Mobile; Normal; Android OS 11)


On OG, I just click the channel, I see something like:


I can open that up directly in VLC and watch live TV using that.

I can´t do that. Would you help me? Perhaps video example or picture would be nice. Iḿ stuck on the tablo unauthorized text in browser and no playback in VLC.