TiVo, we hardly knew ye.
October 10, 2002 12:31 PM   Subscribe

TiVo, we hardly knew ye. After burning through $200 million in capital since 1997, TiVo has yet to turn a profit. Despite a cult following and 500,000 subscribers, Brendan Koerner concludes that TiVo is destine for the ash heap of history. So what do you think? Will TiVo be the next Apple Newton or Commodore Amiga?
posted by ncurley (79 comments total)
After a friend of mine won a TiVo from their website in somewhat mysterious circumstances, I remeber going over there and thinking how incredibly cool it was that he had hours and hours of simpsons episodes with no commercials. After seeing what it could do, I thought that it would be the biggest invention since fried bread. *Sigh* Guess it's back to the bread....
posted by cohappy at 12:45 PM on October 10, 2002

I think the article is woefully misguided. If TiVo launched in 1995, yeah, they would have been too early to market. They were first, but they're still tops, and if they can float until they attain profitability, they'll do fine.

As for the ease of use being an issue, I think TiVo is light years ahead of almost any other consumer electronics device. It's easier to use than AOL's beginner interfaces. If 30% of users that were forced into taking TiVos in a market test decided not to use it, that's not a direct reflection on the interface. Could be technophobes in general. How many of those same people had VCRs?

Also, why not interview the SonicBlue people that do the Replay units, and see how successful they are, since they were second to market? Or Microsoft too, and get their UltimateTV subscriber numbers?
posted by mathowie at 12:52 PM on October 10, 2002

The line about "only $26MM in cash reserves" reveals this writer's ignorance. Tivo just issued $25MM in stock this week -- before this article went up -- and so his number is only off by 100%, if that matters.

I still believe in TiVo. Full disclosure -- I bought about 12,500 shares of the stock back two years ago at $14, around the time I first bought my box. It's at about $3.50 today. So I'd like to see the co. thrive for reasons of money as well as love. But without exception, everyone I know who owns one of these cannot imagine life without it. I think they will crack a half-million subscribers this year, I think they'll begin to turn a profit this year, and I think their deals with Sony and DirectTV will begin to pay big dividends this year.

The analogy with the early computer hobbyists is totally false. TiVo is not a product for hobbyists -- it has real life usefulness to broad swaths of the population that computers just did not have in the Amiga era. It is NOT difficult to set up, no more than a DVD player, home theater system, or even the average stereo. The ONLY problem is communicating its transformative nature. It's just too big an idea for people to get their heads around, and it doesn't help that EVERY new CE product that's rolled out is hyped as life-changing. One comes along that really fits that label, and consumers shrug. I don't blame them.

P.S. I was in Kmart last week looking for other things, and I saw a standalone 30-hour TiVo on the shelf marked as $199.99, but which scanned at $19.99. Next time you're in the big K, it's worth a look.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:52 PM on October 10, 2002

I would love to own a TiVo, but there's no way in hell that I'm going to cough up another $13/month on top of the $50 I already pay for digital cable just for the privilege of recording SpongeBob and the Simpsons at any hour of the day or night. Sure I could pay the lifetime fee, but that's going to turn a $300 unit into one that costs $550. Rather than lay out that kind of dough, I'd rather just program my VCR manually, thankyewverymuch.
posted by MrBaliHai at 12:55 PM on October 10, 2002

The only place I've ever heard of TiVo is here, on Metafilter, in the odd comment. Do they advertise at all?
posted by picea at 1:03 PM on October 10, 2002

My sister swears by her TiVo. "You have to get a TiVo!" she says. "I don't have cable," I say. "Get cable and get TiVo!" At least once a month.
posted by mikrophon at 1:05 PM on October 10, 2002

$175 grand on Tivo stock?

Uh, brother, can you spare a dime?
posted by websavvy at 1:10 PM on October 10, 2002

I had a Tivo that I "won" on the website. I didn't have cable, and only received three grainy channels, so I sold it and bought a jogging stroller. Now, two years later, I live in a house with a garage and have another child, so we actually use the jogging stroller. But I'd love to have something taping nova, west wing, and a couple of other shows for me. The monthly fee sucks, but the service actually worked. I long for a PVR that uses free scheduling info.
posted by mecran01 at 1:11 PM on October 10, 2002

I've always considered myself somewhat of an early adopter, but I never understood the appeal of TiVo. There is the gee whiz factor of being able to "pause" a broadcast (which I assume means that I can tape and play back simultaneously), but that alone does not seem worth the expense. That it will scour the earth for every showing of Friends is clever, but I can already do that myself with the digital cable indexing.

The technology behind tracking my viewing habits and make suggestions is still to much in its infancy to be worthwhile. Amazon has never given me a worthwhile suggestion. (I loved the Mind of the Married Man gag where he was recording hetero porn to offset his TiVo's conclusion that he was gay)

Maybe if I had a high-defintion set and could obviously see the better quality of a digital recording.
posted by rtimmel at 1:13 PM on October 10, 2002

TiVo may or may not be consigned to the "ash heap of history," but I think the idea is going to be around for a long time. Now pardon me while I leave for Kmart (haven't said that in a . . . ever).
posted by yerfatma at 1:15 PM on October 10, 2002

One, I don't think TiVo will die that easily. They pretty much own the market with UTV backing out (and the TiVo brand name is a defacto verb, like qtip or xerox). Two, even if they do go under, I rather expect the "community" will co-opt the software and create a underground sort of development, and some other company will pick it up and run with it.

As for the folks who balk at the idea of paying $13/mo for the service, well, it's plenty worth it. How often do you find yourself watching iguanas mate on nature channel because it's the only thing even remotely interesting on at that moment on your 300 channels? Me, I'd say that out of all the channels on my sat dish, there's probably max 5-6 hours of programming I actually find worth watching in any 24 hour period. TiVo grabs it (not necessarily what I tell it to grab, it's learned what I like and grabs things it thinks I might like, with a reasonable degree of accuracy), and when I sit down at the boob tube it doesn't matter what's on at that moment. The few hours of programming that were worth watching all day long (whether I knew about them or not) are waiting for me. Yes, I could use a VCR, scan the upcoming listings, and record them manually. That would probably take half an hour a day to do. 30 min * 30 days / 60min = 15 hours. So I'm paying them $13 bucks to save myself 15 hours of labor, as well as the cost of tapes and such. Helluva deal in my opinion.
posted by ehintz at 1:19 PM on October 10, 2002

if I . . . could obviously see the better quality of . . . recording

Try not watching Mind of the Married Man. Sorry. Had to be said.
posted by yerfatma at 1:20 PM on October 10, 2002

I received a ReplayTV last year for Christmas and I must say that it has most definitely changed my tv habits. I am much more loyal to shows now that I know I can catch all the episodes and I spend lots more time doing non-tv things now that I am not glued to the couch.

I just recently "upgraded" my recorder to about ~115 hours capacity with a $150 hard drive. Best decision I have made in a long time. Now I can keep many multiple episodes of each show and go for long stretches without watching tv and know that I am not going to miss anything.

If this sounds like a sickness, its really not. I just really love my ReplayTV.
posted by mmascolino at 1:21 PM on October 10, 2002

I've had my Tivo for a year and a half. I couldn't imagine watching TV without it. The important thing about it is I get to watch shows when I want, not whenever they happen to be on. There are other good things, but being able to fully time-shift is the most important thing.

The bad thing is I no longer see new shows. I have to make a real effort to learn about new programming. Tivo does try to record things it thinks I might like, but it doesn't work very well.

PVR technology will ultimately succeed, but with two important changes. First, it won't be a standalone box - Tivo has already anticipated this with the DirecTV devices. Second, it will be modified to suit the demands of the copyright hoarders. I don't think DRM will screw it up too badly, but we may lose commercial skipping.
posted by Nelson at 1:21 PM on October 10, 2002

Tivo's lack of coherent advertising has always perplexed me. The few commercials that they have aired really have not done an adequate job of explaining what it actually does.

Once you use one for a while its value becomes apparent (you'd have to pry mine out of my cold dead hands.), but explaining that in 30 seconds or less seems to be a bit of a challenge.
posted by gilgamesh at 1:22 PM on October 10, 2002

"$175 grand on Tivo stock?

Uh, brother, can you spare a dime?"

Not when it's currently only worth $43875, he can't.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:22 PM on October 10, 2002

rtimmel, the best way I can describe it is that TiVo frees you from the tyranny of TV scheduling. You come home, switch on TiVo, and there's always something on that you like. You just completely stop watching live TV. Second great thing is you never have to watch commercials (you can FF right through the whole block in 3-4 seconds) and third great thing is the pause. (bio breaks, discussing what the hell they just said on West Wing, putting the kids to bed)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:23 PM on October 10, 2002

I'm surprised no one has linked to the thread in which we all gleefully described our experiences with winning TiVos. I sold mine on eBay as soon as I got it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:24 PM on October 10, 2002

Whoops, math error. It was a $50K investment. Emphasis on "was."
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2002

MrBaliHai, my experience is that $13 spent on TiVo makes that $50 digital cable worth much more. To me they're synergistic: TiVo + cable is worth more than $63. Cable without TiVo is worth less than $50.

Don't complain about the $13 TiVo, complain about the $50 cable and ask why it doesn't do more for you.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2002

TiVo monthly fees have dropped recently to $4.99. Just to clear that up. Also, the interface is simple and sophisticated. My parents never ask me how to use their Tivo and they find AOL too complicated.

You'll have to tear the TiVo from my cold, dead fingers!!!!
posted by eperker at 1:26 PM on October 10, 2002

Yes, it's odd how difficult it is to sell Tivo. How hard it is to differentiate it sufficiently from a VCR.

But there's a WORLD of difference, and I wouldn't willingly give mine up for anything, at this point.
posted by rushmc at 1:28 PM on October 10, 2002

TiVo is building on word of mouth, mainly. Which, I don't think is a bad thing. Reply TV had pounded the airwaves with commercials at times, and I don't think they've been very successful in turning those dollars spent into new users.

I've met many people who have TiVo that bought it because they know someone else that had it. All-in-all, $500 for a digital recorder isn't that big of a leap when you're asking $200 for a good quality VCR. It might be a little high in the price-point, but not that far off.

The main feature for me is the auto-recording for Season Passes. I just set up all the programs I like and never have to worry about missing them, being home on time, or whatever.

The pausing live TV may sound gee-whiz, too. But when I watch TV in another room of my house without TiVo, I don't know how many times, I search to pause, or re-wind.

Anything from the phone ringing, to kids yelling, to not wanting to wait for a commercial to grab something to eat or drink. It's an amazing convenience factor.

Of course, the partnerships with networks, where you can select to record a TV show while the commercial advertising it is one by hitting one button I think is a big deal, too.
posted by rich at 1:28 PM on October 10, 2002

I think the thing Tivo needs to do is actually sell some 14 hour machines for the same price as a cheap VCR, and bundle it with 2 months worth of their service.

That's all it would take. Everyone in America would buy one. They'd get hooked on how great a concept it is, and they'd upgrade to the normal priced machines.
posted by crunchland at 1:29 PM on October 10, 2002

I'm more fascinated by the sociology of the responses to this article. If you look on Slate, you'll see people accusing Brendan of being some on-the-take MS apologist, bitter over UltimateTV's defeat by Tivo. It's always scary to get on the wrong side of zealots.

Brendan mentioned the other evening, and alludes to in the article, that there are few less pleasant or awkward minor threats in social life among geeks than being cornered by a Tivo evangelist, except possibly the looming threat of being accosted by a Danger afficonado. This is certainly an image that's bolstered by the vehemence with which partisans here defend the little dancing box.

Tivologists aside, the point that these features dont' necessitate a standalone device with a paid subscription is probably valid. Microsoft's Media Center PC doesn't require paying for the service. Perhaps some wi-fi attachment could plug into your TV and show the shows recorded on your PC's hard drive. Moving more of the functions to one central place, instead of being beholden to the tether of RCA cables, seems like an inexorable trend that Tivo would be foolish to fight.

Why not port the Tivo's linux-based software to the BSD underpinnings of OS X? That would certainly help cement the Mac's attempt to become a digital media hub, and would let Tivo focus on software instead of licensing and making reference boxes.

As an unaffiliated company, Tivo doesn't stand much of a chance in the market unless it partners with a company with a bigger media presence. Every content company attempts to affiliate with any signficant channel of distribution. If Tivo graduates to that level of penetration, the media companies have the brawn and money to either muscle the company into joining, or the resources to pour into cloning (even in a slightly less pleasant version) the functionality of the box.

Join us, or die!
posted by anildash at 1:36 PM on October 10, 2002

TiVo UltimateTV, we hardly knew ye.

sour grapes, msn.
posted by lescour at 1:38 PM on October 10, 2002

No one has mentioned the best Tivo advantage: Skip all the commercials (and Madden) during football. Since TV football averages average a commercial every other play, Tivo has reduced my beer commercial intake by 80%.

Start the game 1 hour late and by the 4th quarter, you are all caught up.
posted by ednopantz at 1:38 PM on October 10, 2002

I have both the Panasonic Showstoper (The original Replay Unit) and an UltimateTV unit (Don't really care for the Tivo interface). unfortunately Microsoft has abandoned the UltimateTV project. The staff that they had working on the software updates for it was cannibalized between the XBOX development and a new development department for the "Freestyle" Microsoft's next attempt for living room dominance....

As I have mentioned here before, I, until about six months ago, sold Home Theater equipment. DVR were always a tough sell. Never once after a demonstration of what the Tivo, UTV, or Replay could do, was the customer not impressed. But then people saw the price tag.... $400+ when there were VCR stilling right next to them for $75..... And even the people who were willing to spend the money for the unit, were shocked to find out that you have to pay monthly to use it.... I remember last Christmas I personally must have sold 75 some DVRs, only to have about 60% of them come back. They were given as gifts, and then people found it they would have to pay monthly to use their gift (I explained it before they bought it... )

I personally think that in order for DVRs to successfully penetrate the market, and become more than a toy for early adopters, they need to change their business model, and drop the monthly fee.... Yes you can argue it is worth it, hell I pay it, but for most people this idea is repulsive... They already feel they pay too much for cable....

On preview: bitter over UltimateTV's defeat by Tivo.

Tivo did not defeat Ultimate... UltimateTV was a joint deal between Microsoft, SONY, RCA, and a loose partnership with News Corp..... Rupert Murdoch was going to buy DirecTV, but then backed out. When Dish Network stepped in to buy DirecTV, MS dropped UTV like a hot potato.... DISH Network killed UltimateTV, not Tivo...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:43 PM on October 10, 2002

Why not port the Tivo's linux-based software to the BSD underpinnings of OS X? That would certainly help cement the Mac's attempt to become a digital media hub, and would let Tivo focus on software instead of licensing and making reference boxes.

Soon to appear on an Apple rumors site near you...
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:44 PM on October 10, 2002

You can have my TiVo when you pry it from my cold, dead hands... I try to explain it to my parents over and over again. I like to point out to them all the moments in their lives that TiVo could help with. Miss the first couple innings of the baseball game you wanted to watch, well you don't have to with TiVo. Hell, you don't even have to know what time its on... Couldn't understand what the character on the show just said? hit the 8 sec replay button.
posted by jbelshaw at 1:44 PM on October 10, 2002

"And compared with a VCR or DVD player, a TiVo is difficult to set up and maintain."

I've had more luck and an easier time using my TiVo then my VCR. My VCR collects dust for a living while TiVo is recording Zatoichi movies.
posted by Akuinnen at 1:47 PM on October 10, 2002

Don't you have to have a landline with these things? I don't want to get one of those, otherwise I'd be game.
posted by corpse at 1:50 PM on October 10, 2002

I have and love TiVo... But it may well wind up following the fate of the Mac (not the Amiga, as the article argues)...

I think TiVo-like DVR software will become increasingly popular and ubiquitous, although other companies -- Sony, Microsoft, DirectTV, AOL -- may ultimately be the ones to deliver it and reap the profits.

Just as Microsoft beat Apple, but essentially modeled Windows after the Mac OS, TiVo the company may fall or get pushed to the margin, while their innovative ideas will go mainstream. If you've used TiVo, you never want to go back, and I think most consumers will catch on. The question is if Tivo, the company, will hang on long enough to benefit from the revolution they started...
posted by crookdimwit at 1:50 PM on October 10, 2002

Don't you have to have a landline with these things?

If you are using one of the stand-alone units, yes.
If you are using one of the DVRs for DISH/DirecTV, no, they download the guild through the satellite.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:53 PM on October 10, 2002

Why not port the Tivo's linux-based software to the BSD underpinnings of OS X? That would certainly help cement the Mac's attempt to become a digital media hub, and would let Tivo focus on software instead of licensing and making reference boxes.

The beauty of Tivo is that it is a set-top box that connects just like a VCR.

Welding Tivo functionality to a Mac or any PC for that matter is a step in the wrong direction. People don't to watch TV on their computers at their desk, they want to watch TV in their living room while sitting on a couch. Every bit of reseach and product testing shows this.

The real killer app is a Tivo that incorporates a DVD burner to 'save off' your shows for later viewing.
posted by Argyle at 1:54 PM on October 10, 2002

As seen on slashdot 2 days ago....

Anyway, the main point in most of the slashdot comments seemed to be that
  • Slate is a Microsoft owned publication, and Microsoft is in competition--of course they're going to say it's going to tank
  • Tivo is the de facto PVR/DVR--people say they're going to "Tivo" something for a reason
  • This is most likely an attempt to scare venture capitalists into not investing into the new and innovative technologies--leaving bigger companies to do innovation *cough*Microsoft*cough*
Either way... Tivo is good. But does it really matter--after all, it's just television!
posted by psychotic_venom at 1:55 PM on October 10, 2002

I too won a Tivo in their writing contest. At the time, I didnt have cable and sold it on ebay. A year later, I moved to a different house, and decided to give it another try. TV has not been the same. I never watch live broadcasts, only pre-recorded stuff. The ability to skip commercials makes television bearable.

Even if Tivo goes belly-up, people will be able to use and enjoy their tivo boxes. Adding an ethernet card is simple, and there is already software floating around to generate program-guide data from freely available sources.
posted by bug138 at 2:01 PM on October 10, 2002

Has Tivo found a way to solve the extra-innings/overtime issue with sports? Being able to watch the game on your own schedule isn't very useful if you miss the end because the broadcast exceeded its timeslot. The Oscars tend to run long, too – if I trust Tivo to save the show for later, do I run the risk of missing the Best Picture acceptance speech?
posted by hilker at 2:09 PM on October 10, 2002

How often do you find yourself watching iguanas mate on nature channel because it's the only thing even remotely interesting on at that moment on your 300 channels?

I've given this careful thought and I believe I can safely say: "Never."
posted by timeistight at 2:11 PM on October 10, 2002

I have the DirecTV/TiVo combo. What I like about my unit is that I have 2 inputs and can record 2 channels at once.

The only bad things are that I can't use it where my DirecTV isn't connected and I only have a hard drive that records 35 hours of programming.

On Preview:
Don't you have to have a landline with these things?

If you are using one of the DVRs for DISH/DirecTV, no, they download the guild through the satellite.

You still need a landline.

Has Tivo found a way to solve the extra-innings/overtime issue with sports?

You can manually program a start and end time if you think a program will run longer than it is scheduled.
posted by whtsherbkt at 2:14 PM on October 10, 2002

Most people will just use their computer.(NYTimes)

"For many people, though, the juiciest feature is sure to be the TV module. Like TiVo, ReplayTV and other digital video recorders, it presents a television listings grid for the next two weeks, which the PC downloads from the Internet in the wee hours each morning (free). You page through it with your remote, clicking on the Record button for each show that looks interesting. (Press it twice if you want every episode instead of just one.) When the time comes, the computer records your shows onto the hard drive, ready to watch (or pause, or rewind, or fast-forward). You can even shrink the Media Center screen to a window in a corner of your screen, the better to "work" while keeping an eye on the game."
posted by xammerboy at 2:21 PM on October 10, 2002

You still need a landline

Trust me, there is one sitting in my living room that has worked for over 18 months with out a landline...

Regardless of what the manual or the rep on the phone says, you only need a phone line with DriecTV or DISH if you want PPV....

If you don't have a phone line hooked up, after a set amount of time, they turn off your ability to order PPV...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:22 PM on October 10, 2002

actually, landline isn't needed with the new Series 2 TiVos. They have a USB port that you can plug a USB to Ethernet adapter into and go through your cable modem/dsl service. If you have Series 1, like me, you can order a card to pop into it that provides an ethernet port to plug into your network.
posted by jbelshaw at 2:29 PM on October 10, 2002

I had the TiVo/DirecTV combo box (which is about 20X more useful and more user-friendly than the TiVo standalone box one uses with cable) for a year and a half and loved it. I, like all other DirecTivo and most regular TiVo users announced that I would use it forever.

And then I moved to a house where the trees precluded getting satellite, so it was back to the VCR + Cable Box.

It was truly horrible, for a while, and, though I still miss it, I have discovered that I'm reading many, many more books. Of course, I'm still time-shifting by managing 2 VCRs and 2 cable boxes, but I've cut down to maybe 5 or 6 shows a week, from a larger number.

The biggest loss is that we used the TiVo and the scores of premium and regular movie channels on DirecTV to get lots of digital quality movies (including 5.1 audio). All of that convenience is gone.

(By the way, TiVo really does have the big picture alliance -- with DirecTV. DirecTV figured out that the dual tuner capabilities (watch one thing while recording two other things) and search/store capabilities helped them sell the hell out of their multi-channel premium packages and their Pay-Per-View ... which is why they are promoting it aggressively, and why the TiVo service will soon be FREE, rather than $13 a month, for people with the "Platinum" level of service.
posted by MattD at 2:30 PM on October 10, 2002

How often do you find yourself watching iguanas mate on nature channel because it's the only thing even remotely interesting on at that moment on your 300 channels?

I've given this careful thought and I believe I can safely say: "Never."

Then why are you watching?
posted by rtimmel at 2:30 PM on October 10, 2002

I'll never give up my tivo. It was worth every penny. I"ve had it for over 2 years. I bought the lifetime subscription and it has finally paid off (literally). I'd be happy to have been paying 10 bucks a month for it. I LOVE IT.

I update via my dsl.

What a horrible article. They are close to an even quarter very soon. Licensing has been given to a few other companies etc. I think we'll see and increase in stock sooner than later.
posted by tomplus2 at 2:34 PM on October 10, 2002

Any Calgarians here using Shaw's video on demand trial? It sounds like it's using Tivo-like technology but with imposed limitations.
posted by timeistight at 2:35 PM on October 10, 2002

TimeWarner is planning on coming out with it's own TiVo or TiVo wannabe sometime next year, apparently it will have two tuners, and get updates via the cable line. That's what I was told by one of the AOLTW reps a few nights back while trouble shooting a problem with my RoadRunner connection.

I for one love my TiVo, I wish other things in life had that functionality. I wish there was a radio version of TiVo, I don't listen to radio often, but I would if I could have a device record the good stuff without having to tune in at set times. Of course like many others I too have reached for the peanut shaped remote to use a TiVo only to recall that the TV in that particular room is not connected to a TiVo.
posted by riffola at 2:36 PM on October 10, 2002

Tivo service for use with DirectTV is now a piddling $4.95 a month and you can pick up a DirecTivo for $199 and as anyone who has one will tell you they could never, ever go back to not having one. Tivo isn't going anywhere, their new direction is paying dividends (i.e licensing/advertising) the series 2 tivos allow them to ditch the subsidies on the hardware they were previously having to fork over and the number of subscribers continues to increase. Long live TIVO!!!
posted by zeoslap at 2:40 PM on October 10, 2002

consumers love TiVo. Advertisers, broadcasters and their lobbyists hate it. Now, who do you think will prevail? And who do you think will be the trigger man? Hmmm? TiVo will not be allowed to survive. "You have meddled in the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale.!"
posted by pejamo at 2:45 PM on October 10, 2002

Time Warner is beta testing their Tivo-clone in some markets already.
posted by gilgamesh at 2:46 PM on October 10, 2002

Flanders, you have the awesomest MeFi name I've seen in ages.

And thanks for the tip. I love when old stuff gets marked down wrong. I drive my fiancee nuts at Target taking everything over to the floor scanner - "how much is this really?"

Still, I should have entered that damned contest. I remember when it seemed like all the early blog types were "winning" them.
posted by britain at 2:47 PM on October 10, 2002

The issue with the TimeWarner Cablebox DVR is that it will not have a Fast Forward or 30 sec skip button on the remote (so reports have said).... TW doesn't want you skipping though those valuable commercials on it's channels...

Lets remeber what Jamie Kellner, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting (an AOL Time Warner company) has been quoted as saying:

" [Ad skips are] theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming."
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:50 PM on October 10, 2002

You can manually program a start and end time if you think a program will run longer than it is scheduled.

My VCR can do that. I know that Tivos are capable of receiving program data in the form of a specially encoded broadcast on some obscure cable channel in the middle of the night. Couldn't they send out a inobtrusive revision during a live broadcast, that would only affect units recording that broadcast, along the lines of "this program is not over; don't stop recording unless another show has higher priority until further notice"? They'd have to work with broadcasters to get this done, but it would be a big selling point. Have you noticed that the main point of most DirecTV ads is all the extra sports programming?
posted by hilker at 2:57 PM on October 10, 2002

knowing that this is probably not the most appropriate place to ask this, but I trust MetFis...

How is the picture deterioration with TiVo? Is the compression visible even in the higher-quality mode? Are people forking over $200+ to see RealVideo-like reproductions of their favorite shows?
posted by herc at 3:09 PM on October 10, 2002

$175 grand on Tivo stock?
stupidsexyFlanders just got a lot less stupid and a lot more sexy.
posted by quonsar at 3:11 PM on October 10, 2002

No DirectTivo unlike standalone always records in highest quality as its a direct copy of the MPEG stream beamed down from the satellite. It also records the Dolby5.1 stream.
posted by zeoslap at 3:12 PM on October 10, 2002

And thanks for the tip. I love when old stuff gets marked down wrong. I drive my fiancee nuts at Target taking everything over to the floor scanner - "how much is this really?"

i'm curious about this. do they have some rule where if it scans for that price, that's what you pay?

if i was a cashier, and i scanned a $199 box, and it came up $19.99, even if you padded your purchases with a number of items (like underwear, minidiscs, and nachos), i would notice, and stop you.

if, on the other hand, they have a policy which *insists* they must sell it to you for that price, well, it's time to start faking UPC codes.
posted by fishfucker at 3:15 PM on October 10, 2002

That eyetv for Mac OS X looks pretty nifty to me. No subscription fees, big plus, but I don't know if it'll work with digital cable.
posted by Tacodog at 3:24 PM on October 10, 2002

mmmm, TiVO, I'd kill anyone of you for the chance to have one here in Canada. (kidding). I've never understood why no one uses the Gemstar Guide+ that comes automatically in your cable stream already. But then I recently found out about RCA Scenium with it's PVR and DVD player. If I can get one I'll buy it. No service required, it reads from your cable stream, just like all RCA Tvs do. I know it's no TiVo, but I'm jonesing and need my fix any way I can get it.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:25 PM on October 10, 2002

Anyone think that the lag in TiVo/PVR popularity has to do at all with our object oriented culture?
  • My DVD player takes and returns DVD's.
  • My VCR takes, returns and even makes tapes.
The TiVo is an experience, a change in lifestyle but doesn't come with or take any ancillary objects. I could see how the buying public might be suspect.

Don't misunderstand me, I am as object oriented, (or more), as the next guy but I can't imagine the uphill battle of trying to sell this device. You can't sell the great health benefits, the great safety it will provide only it's convenience. Convenience is a very tough sell.

With that said, I want one! If I had cable, I'd have one.
posted by geekyguy at 3:40 PM on October 10, 2002

I have a ReplayTV, which I will never, ever give up. Let me mention one thing that I think is overlooked: the ability to create your own TVguide. You go in and delete all those channels you don't get or never use, which makes finding things MUCH easier. Every time I'm at my boyfriend's house, I get hives just trying to figure out what's on to watch -- it takes 10 minutes going through all those damn channels on his ATT digital cable. And then sitting through commericials... I usually just end up taking a nap instead.

I definitely agree that TiVo/Replay need to change their business models -- people just don't like paying those monthly fees. We pay enough monthly fees already! I've been thinking of upgrading to the new Replay (it automagically skips the commercials -- genius!), put I'm put off by their new "plans" which make the whole thing very expensive.

The idea of putting a cheapo 14-hr TiVo out there -- whoever said that, brilliant.
posted by MikeB at 3:46 PM on October 10, 2002

It's true, geekyguy. It's odd to spend $300 for a box that doesn't open up or "do" anything--it just sits there.
posted by goethean at 3:48 PM on October 10, 2002

Anyone think that the lag in TiVo/PVR popularity has to do at all with our object oriented culture?

I blame object-oriented programmers.
posted by timeistight at 4:25 PM on October 10, 2002

5`s of what the manual or the rep on the phone says, you only need a phone line with DriecTV or DISH if you want PPV....

Which means for most people, yes, you need a phone line. Fortunately, those little wireless phone line doohickeys work.
posted by kindall at 4:26 PM on October 10, 2002

Tivo may be doomed, but the concept behind TiVo will just evolve into a better version. We're seeing this already up here in Canada. The basic concept behind Tivo is too good for another company to pick up.
posted by rampage at 4:29 PM on October 10, 2002

TimeWarner is planning on coming out with it's own TiVo or TiVo wannabe

I've heard this rumor too. I would hope at least ff is enabled.

I currently have HBO on demand which means I always have the HBO dramas to watch whenever I want (the Sunday shows appear the next day). It is also great to go back and look at previous episodes.

On 10/1 TWC launched a free on demand service for the likes of CNN, Comedy Central, BBC America, Lifetime, History, Cartoon Network, etc. It doesn't have the full range of programming but when there isn't anything on regular programming it is nice to find some gems.

Ads? Comedy Central's shows that go to breaks will have one house ad -ie teasing Conan's show- which you can skip over. And no, the daily show wasn't on it, the last time I checked.

And the CNN on Demand? Right now all it has is Larry King interviews. Shoot me now.

The idea of Tivo will never die, but it will be coopted by the big media companies.
posted by birdherder at 4:42 PM on October 10, 2002

kindall, while that may be true of DirecTV/DISH standalone receivers, the "DirecTV with TiVo" combination unit (heretofore referred to affectionately as "DirecTiVo") does, in fact need to dial in every so often. Most certainly.

Yes, it gets the TV Guide data off the satellite stream. And yes, the phone call is typically used to send PPV ordering information back to the mother ship. But the DirecTiVo also gets OS updates (such as last year's v2.5 upgrade which activated the dual tuner,) as well as the "Showcase" and "TiVolution Magazine" data from this phone call. If a call isn't made in 14 days (I think that's the time frame) then your PVR functionality ceases to work. Lots of annoying reminders pop up. And yes, this will happen even if you've paid for for lifetime service with TiVo!

It annoys some people (especially those nogoodniks who reallyreallyreally don't want to have their receiver calling anyone reporting what they are actually "receiving" ... as well as those who simply don't have a phone line.) There are software hacks circulating in "underground" communities to remove this requirement, but keep in mind this means you'll likely not get any more of the cool OS updates TiVo releases every so often. And yes, you can add in a 3rd party unsupported "TurboNet" card to use your broadband connection instead of designating a phone line ... but you must have one or the other hooked up.

The difficulty in removing this phone line requirement puts a crimp in the casual DTV signal thief. I heartily believe that's why DTV is subsidizing these units so heavily. (Hell, I got two for FREE after Circuit City rebates last year. I upgraded one and have one sitting unused in my closet as a backup!) The subsidy extends to explain why the TiVo service on these units have gone DOWN ($5/month, or FREE if you subscribe to the Total Choice Platinum package) while the standalone prices have gone UP. Not to mention that TiVo service is mirrored to ALL of your DirecTiVo boxes at no additional fee (above and beyond the $5 mirroring fee you're already paying.) The dual tuners, "pure" digital signal, and intelligent PVR OS make this the best satellite receiver on the market. I'd rather pay for all of it's joys than jump through the hoops and hassles of H card emulation. And I certainly don't want to use a seperate TiVo standalone box piggybacked on a standalone DTV receiver. You lose two of the DirecTiVo's greatest strengths,

By the way, the upcoming OS update for the DirecTiVo -- 3.0, a code base unification -- will require a P4 card. Which hasn't been hacked or emulated yet, as the H and HU cards have. The benefits of TiVo to the user, coupled with the intricacy of hacking the software/hardware authentication schemes will most likelyresult in less DTV piracy, and that's why DTV sees a bright future in these combo boxes. (By the way, the 3.0 upgrade will also make installing a TurboNet somewhat trivial. Drivers are included and don't need to be reinstalled after every update... even though this is unsupported.)

For the record, lifetime service is no longer offered. But with the monthly fee being so low now, I don't see why anyone would go for it anyway. What used to take 2 years to make economic sense would now take 4... and by then you'd probably want a new receiver anyway.
posted by Fofer at 5:19 PM on October 10, 2002

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm certainly not about to churn my data hard drive with all that tv recording/erasing/recording. So with a PC-based system, I'd at the very least want a second hard drive devoted exclusively to the DVR function. And I dont' think I'd be too thrilled about the load on my processor for an hour or so at a time, either....
posted by rushmc at 6:09 PM on October 10, 2002

I got one of the original Replay units from a friend who had a couple extras (he did some work for the company). After a while the modem burned out, and I was without it for about a year. Recently I upgraded to one of the 4500 series units. I don't know how I lived without it. As anyone who watches TV in an intentional (i.e. specific shows each day or week) way knows, there is a low-level stress which comes each fall as all the shows start up again. Did I set the VCR right? Is there room on the tape? Should I skip out of this cocktail party in time to catch West Wing? All of that is now gone. I tell the Replay what I want to see, instruct it to keep a few weeks of each, and I forget about it. Later I can sit down and watch three Buffys in a row when I feel like it. If I'm home sick, I can watch the last four Sopranos. If I get home late, that night's Daily Show is waiting for me. I never watch a show I don't want to see. I never complain that there isn't anything on. I never see any commercials. I am free.

I think this is the beginning of a fundamental shift in the idea of television. In the future we'll just watch what we want whenever we want, not what everybody else is watching at 8 pm on Thursday. So if TiVo (or Replay) goes away, something else will come along (like EyeTV). But I'll still be sad, just like when Kozmo went under. Uh oh--what about Netflix? I hope they're OK.
posted by notclosed at 7:06 PM on October 10, 2002

Being long term (involuntary) unemployed, having a Tivo is a mind-saver. I just finished watching ALL the NYPD Blues from ep 1 to the end of last season and now that Oxygen is showing La Femme Nikita, I've season passed that.

They do need to expose more ways to fine tune the Tivo Suggests function (the one that records what it thinks you'll like) and when a show comes on more than once a day (such as LFN now) allow you to choose which one to get.

I would really love the two tuner deal but not possible with cable just now.

And as for using a PC, check out Freevo. My buddy is building a living room entertainment PC (you can't possibly know someone geekier than him!) and this is a prime candidate for replacing his Tivo.
posted by billsaysthis at 7:07 PM on October 10, 2002

I don't understand why what I quoted wasn't italicized like I intended it to be, Fofer, but you and I are actually in agreement: we're both replying to Steve_at_Linnwood, who actually made the claim about not needing a phone line.
posted by kindall at 7:56 PM on October 10, 2002

I don't own a TiVo yet, but I've wanted one for a while. My concern is less technological than social, though.

Mainly, I'm concerned that I will end up watching more television than I do now. I realize this is entirely an act of self-discipline, but having the temptation limited by programming schedules allows me to set priorities for things like exercise, reading and doing something productive with my time rather than sitting on the couch.

I suppose one could make the argument that my time would be used more efficiently with TiVo, but I can't help but think having access to every episode of CSI, West Wing, Sopranos, Six Feet Under and then still have all of my cartoons (someone, somewhere has GOT to be rerunning Robotech, right?) would put me on the couch.

Maybe I'm being a ninny about this.
posted by Team_Billy at 9:47 AM on October 11, 2002

Ah I see. Yes, as he said, the standalone Dish/DTV Receivers can be phone-less... but the combo DirecTiVo box requests one as actively as the standalone TiVo box does. Just to clarify.
posted by Fofer at 9:50 AM on October 11, 2002

...clarifying simply because the thread is about TiVo, so DTV receivers in that context are the combo boxes.
posted by Fofer at 9:58 AM on October 11, 2002

Team_Billy: Maybe I'm being a ninny about this.

Your concerns are sound. Yes, one could argue that "you're not watching more TV, you're just watching [b]better[/b] TV" ... but it does become an issue of self-discipline. TiVo makes it so damn easy to catch every show you have even a passing interest in... and then the show is there, waiting for you... and since TiVo went to all that trouble recording it, well then, you've just got to watch it, right? The time-shifting power and omniscience of an indexed TV Guide is intoxicating.

The new paradigm takes some time to get used to. I remember in the first two months feeling anxious, because all of these great shows were going to auto-delete if I didn't watch them quickly! (The 80 GB upgrade, easy as cake, helped a lot with that by the way. Ahhh, that's better...)

TiVo has changed the way I watch and interface with television, and yes, I watch a lot more of it as a result. This could be good or bad, depending on your perspective. (I'm working on it.)

One thing I will say -- I am much more selective about what I watch now. If a new show doesn't cut the mustard in the first 15 minutes -- that it, it's gone. Delete show, cancel Season Pass, bye-bye.
posted by Fofer at 10:10 AM on October 11, 2002

I've had mine for 11 months now, and I'm very happy with the service. It will definitely change your viewing habits. I found it to be slightly harder to set up than a VCR, but much easier to use. The season pass function is to me, the greatest thing about it.
My only gripe is the 3 second delay when changing channels. It doesn't sound like much, but it's really annoying when you're trying to surf. Of course now that I'm guaranteed to have something I want to watch everytime I turn on the set, I hardly ever channel surf anymore.
posted by reidfleming at 12:21 PM on October 11, 2002

One thing I will say -- I am much more selective about what I watch now. If a new show doesn't cut the mustard in the first 15 minutes -- that it, it's gone. Delete show, cancel Season Pass, bye-bye.

Can you say "Push, Nevada"? I knew you could!

I too love my Tivos. I won the first one as many others here had (Was that ever a shock to the system!). I got my second Tivo (boxless) from a clearance aisle in WalMart for....$5!!! WalMart never even sold Tivos, as far as I can recall! Odd.

It didn't have the remote, but then when I took it to the Electronics counter, the somewhat mentally-challenged cashier asks me "Doesn't that come with a remote?", to which I replied "yes", and he says "Does it look like this?" and he gives me the Tivo remote. Sheesh...$5....I felt like I was stealing (I hope I wasn't).

So now there's one upstairs and downstairs, and add to that is the fact that the cable guy activated all premium channels for me, out of his frustration because his OWN support people treated his request for help the way they treat their customers...well....now TV-land is very, very good in the SalAmander household!
posted by Sal Amander at 12:30 PM on October 11, 2002

TiVo makes it so damn easy to catch every show you have even a passing interest in... and then the show is there, waiting for you... and since TiVo went to all that trouble recording it, well then, you've just got to watch it, right?

I have recordings on my TiVo that are going on four months old -- and not suggestions, these are recordings I specifically requested. Mostly movies I haven't felt in the mood for yet.

Most nights I still don't watch any TV at all.
posted by kindall at 12:31 PM on October 11, 2002

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