September 6, 2001
11:33 PM   Subscribe

ReplayTV, the once-bankrupted main competitor of TiVo got bought by SonicBlue (they made the Rio mp3 player) and they've relaunched, poised to blow the fucking roof off digital tv recording. Ethernet port? Sharing recorded episodes with other units in your house? Trading entire episodes with anyone else over the net? Merging internet content with TV content? Commercial-free taping? It's all here baby. Now will TiVo evolve, or will ReplayTV take the market?
posted by mathowie (27 comments total)
You know, the digital TV recording concept is nothing too complex. From what I've read, TiVo is just a Linux box with an MPEG-2 video encoder, a custom UI, and a 40-gig HDD. (Techies in the know, am I getting this right?) Just find the right suppliers, invest a load of cash in a good marketing strategy, and maybe one of you guys out there could start something. ;)

"MetaTV" (or MTV, for short. Infringement suits, anyone?)
posted by brownpau at 11:56 PM on September 6, 2001

Threads at the TiVo forum discussing whether TiVo will come up with anything similar: 1, 2, 3, & 4.
posted by riffola at 12:00 AM on September 7, 2001

ReplayTV and Tivo are cool but for $500 - $1000 couldn't you just build a PC w/a few decent sized drives, a TVCard and some good software that does essentially the same thing? I know it's nothing new what I'm asking but it seems what Tivo and ReplayTV give you is an "appliance" w/a nice interface and features. Sort of like buying a Cisco Cache Engine instead of putting together a machine and running Squid.

I have to admit. ReplayTV's new appliance looks like a really cool plug and play box. The VCR still manages to record my few TV shows a week w/o a problem though and it only cost me a one time fee of $89 at Best Buy.
posted by suprfli at 12:17 AM on September 7, 2001

Dong Resin and Alexis Bledel are gonna build a house, and move in together.
Viva la revolution!
posted by dong_resin at 12:21 AM on September 7, 2001

When are one of these boxes going to add an MP3 player? That's the only thing I'm waiting for.
posted by willnot at 12:25 AM on September 7, 2001

Thanks, skallas. I work in corporate DVD authoring for media companies right now, and technologies such as those used by TiVo and ReplayTV are very closely related (especially in the area of broadcast-level MPEG-2 video). That's why I'm keeping an eye on those technologies, as possible career opportunities if/when I move to the US next year. ;)

(And thanks to this thread, my personal range of possibilities just got a bit wider. ^_^ Thanks, MeFi!)
posted by brownpau at 1:18 AM on September 7, 2001

suprfli, to compare an $89 VCR to TiVo is like comparing a tricycle to a Porsche. The thing doesn't just "record a few shows," it changes the entire interface to television watching. Demo one at a friend's for 15 minutes, and you'll see the future.
posted by Fofer at 1:23 AM on September 7, 2001

The Tivo service, which lets you download 2 weeks worth of tv schedules, is the key difference between having a Tivo and having a PC with a TV card. That, and the Tivo OS, which lets you search that downloaded database for favorite actors, directors or tv stars, and automatically record the shows and movies with them. Add on top of that, Tivo Recommends, which will automatically record programs based on what you've recorded in the past, and, as Fofer said, it's lightyears ahead.

But a new Tivo does cost about $300, though, and the Tivo service costs an additional fee, so it's definitely a luxury item.
posted by crunchland at 5:37 AM on September 7, 2001

I won a free tivo and loved it, but I don't have cable and our reception sucks, so it wasn't worth using. But the service really is worthwhile, and it blows a vcr away. Of course, Replay is going to get sued back to the stoneage as soon as they sell one of these.
posted by mecran01 at 5:41 AM on September 7, 2001

From what I've read, TiVo is just a Linux box with an MPEG-2 video encoder, a custom UI, and a 40-gig HDD.

Tivo is also user-friendly, reliable software that runs the box, an infrared port, an infrared transmitter, and the world's best-designed remote.
posted by rcade at 5:46 AM on September 7, 2001

I think I've mentioned it here before, but it is worth repeating... If you are looking for the audio equivalent of the replay device, check out the Audiotron by Turtle Beach. $300 gets you a slick appliance with ethernet that catalogs all the mp3s on your network's windows file shares. If you run their still in beta rev 2 software, it also does streaming internet radio from shoutcast streams. It's got digital out as well for those of you with golden ears. Best money I ever spent.
posted by machaus at 5:55 AM on September 7, 2001

Actually, new 20-hour Tivos from Phillips are now $199, so now is a good time. Now think about the differance between 200 bux and 600 bux for ReplayTV and you'll think twice. The ReplayTV is a very nice looking box. But if the television industry is going to choose sides, they are going to choose Tivo, because they are nicest to them.

Another feature of ReplayTV is the commercial skip, which is probably utilized using an extra-bandwidth marker than networks put into shows to designate where commercials begin and end. They already said as soon as this thing hits the market, those markers are going bye-bye.
posted by benjh at 6:49 AM on September 7, 2001

Cnet has a story this morning about the challenges facing TiVo, not the least of which is, as we've noted here, that the technology is easy enough to incorporate into all sorts of competing products. The quote I liked was:

"This may be a case of functionality masquerading as a company."
posted by briank at 6:55 AM on September 7, 2001

Well, strictly speaking, the only end-user products Tivo sells are the OS and access to the tv-schedule service. The actual boxes are built by Sony or Phillips.
posted by crunchland at 7:12 AM on September 7, 2001

think about the differance between 200 bux and 600 bux for ReplayTV and you'll think twice

The quoted prices are misleading. ReplayTVs come with lifetime service as part of the original cost. Tivos give you the option to subscribe for $10 a month or pay a one-time $250 fee for lifetime access to the service. Tivo is more flexible, but the point is that the Tivo price does not include everything the Replay price does.

The new ReplayTV sounds great. It looks like they have listened to the features Tivo users lust after and implemented them all. I think networks will get really upset if this becomes popular and they will probably try to shut it down. I don't see how it could possibly be illegal, though, to share TV recordings. You know, fair use and all.
posted by daveadams at 8:05 AM on September 7, 2001

As far as Tivo's lack of product, I disagree. Their service, their OS, and their UI (including the remote) all provide an amazingly easy-to-use system that cannot be replicated for any reasonable cost using piece parts. I've not used ReplayTV, but I understand that its fans are just as happy with it as I have been with my Tivo. Whether Tivo will be able to survive on subscription revenue and licensing fees is questionable, but the fact that they have a great product that has little competition is not. A lot of businesses fail and it's not necessarily because they didn't have a great, unique product.
posted by daveadams at 8:08 AM on September 7, 2001

I feel Replay may be headed to Napster-land, with MPAA/Networks playing the role of RIAA...
posted by owillis at 8:11 AM on September 7, 2001

Think of this two... fair use dictates you have a right to use it. What if an HBO subscriber records "The Sopranos" then sends it to a non-HBO subscriber. Then it ceases to be fair use.
posted by benjh at 8:26 AM on September 7, 2001

HBO Subscribers: Remember this the next time you invite a non-subscriber over to your house.
posted by harmful at 9:09 AM on September 7, 2001

the new-n-improved replaytv box won't let you record two shows at once. when it does, i'll consider it.
posted by double+good at 10:30 AM on September 7, 2001

ZDnet had an interesting article which tied into some of the issues being raised here. TV's relationship with advertising came about in its current form (interstitial ads) by coincidence - that doesn't mean it's going to stay that way forever. If enough people skip the ads, product placement can occur right smack dab in the middle of the shows.
posted by Sinner at 10:38 AM on September 7, 2001

the world's best-designed remote

Except that you can't tell which end is up without looking at it (the same problem Apple's puck mouse had). I don't know how many times I pointed that thing at myself and fast-forwarded instead of rewound.

Well, strictly speaking, the only end-user products Tivo sells are the OS and access to the tv-schedule service. The actual boxes are built by Sony or Phillips.

True, but TiVo is still taking the hit economically. Sony and Phillips are selling those boxes at below cost, at TiVo's expense.
posted by jkottke at 10:45 AM on September 7, 2001

The best feature (IMO) of both these systems is also the simplest. You're watching a live program and get interrupted- hit "pause" and pick up the show whenever you want.

The dark side to all this digital tv recording is that anecdotal studies are showing that people will watch much more tv with these devices than previously. Do we really need to watch *more* tv?
posted by jeremias at 11:11 AM on September 8, 2001

The Philips version of the TiVo remote has definite usability issues, including the aforementioned pointing-it-the-wrong way thing and also an inability to tell where your finger is on the navigation disc without looking, often leading to going down when you meant to go right and similar errors. The Sony version of the remote is better. (The Sony remote also has an off button, which the Philips doesn't. It takes seven button presses to put a Philips DirecTiVo into Standby mode.)
posted by kindall at 11:23 AM on September 8, 2001

Kindall: by the by, you may want to consider NOT putting your DTivo into standby mode. The TiVo BBS already linked above has a firm, FAQ-level consensus that it actually is never a good idea to put your TiVo into standby. Because the disk drive is "always on" you aren't saving any power and there are distinct problems with the shut down / power up sequence which cause many users problems.

(It took me a month to persuade my wife not to shut off my DirecTivo whenever she passed through the living room and I wasn't watching.)
posted by MattD at 2:57 PM on September 8, 2001

I think TIVO is amazing. I've had one for about 6 months and find that I watch about the same amount of TV, but now I get to skim the cream from a whole day of milking.
posted by prodigal at 4:36 PM on September 8, 2001

Because the disk drive is "always on" you aren't saving any power

What, the video output circuitry doesn't use power? I find that very hard to believe. It would be a new form of magic circuitry that didn't require power to operate, and while TiVo's engineers are smart, I don't think they've overturned the foundations of physics. I probably would have heard of it if they had.

Just checked, and "Standby" is still there and functional on my TiVo. If it caused problems, surely they would have removed it in the most recent update.
posted by kindall at 6:33 PM on September 8, 2001

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