TiVo Courts Cord Cutters

Dave Zatz —  August 28, 2011

tivo_antenna_deal

TiVo’s generally known as the retail DVR for digital cable. Yet, the TiVo Premiere is also capable of dual tuning over-the-air (OTA) high definition programming. And I suspect many cord cutters are frugal and find themselves turned off by TiVo’s $20 monthly service fee. Heck, as a full-on cable fanboy, I find TiVo’s fees irksome (and suggest Lifetime Service to anyone planning to hold onto a box at least 2 years). In an inspired moved, TiVo’s sales and marketing team are extending an olive branch to those who shun pay TV.

First, Solid Signal will sell you a TiVo Premiere for the going rate ($100). But instead of being saddled with the traditional $20/mo fee, TiVo’s slashed it in half to just $10. Deal details can be found here. Basically, when you register your TiVo online enter the activation code Antenna for the special OTA rate. Interestingly, it seems as if TiVo will be actively monitoring our connection type to enforce this dealio:

Discount on TiVo Service pricing available for antenna customers only. Use of a CableCARD™ decoder will result in your monthly service fee being raised to the standard rate of $19.99/mo plus tax.

Hm, what about analog cable or unmapped clear QAM without a CableCARD? Also, can this deal be applied to TiVo units purchased elsewhere/anywhere? Which brings us to promotion two…

bestbuy-tivo-antenna-deal

As of today, Best Buy will sell you a TiVo Premiere with a free $100 (MSRP) Antennas Direct ClearStream 2 long-range HDTV antenna.

28 responses to TiVo Courts Cord Cutters

  1. I’ve been a cord cutter for over 2 years now and could not have done it without TiVo. It really does create an on-demand experience and there are a lot of shows on broadcast TV. Having said that, I hate this promotion. TiVo should be content neutral when it comes to how you get your TV. I think it’s great that they are highlighting this, but to create a surcharge for using the entire capability of the box is just plain stupid. I bet a lot of people end up surprised when their bill all of a sudden goes up. TiVo absolutely should be highlighted the benefits of going OTA because the cable DVR can’t touch them their, but to try and use it as a way to price discriminate is downright distasteful in my opinion.

  2. Well, I’ve never been a fan of all the different service tiers as I believe it creates confusion and an additional barrier to entry. But this promotion only runs through 11/15, so I suspect they’re testing the waters. How about an OTA-only TiVo without CableCARD tuners and that $10/month fee — would that be more agreeable?

    In the old days, when I only subscribed to cable during college football season I was pissed I had to pay full price for TiVo service since I only got 4 channels (and back then there was no Amazon VOD, YouTube, or Netflix). Nowadays, I don’t really care so much either way (and the hardware is tons cheaper).

    But I do find it odd that TiVo will be monitoring how we connect and can modify our plan accordingly (in one direction, anyway).

  3. I’ve been saying for years that they should go after the OTA market more aggressively. After all, they are the only non-PC based retail DVR out there. Now, I have no idea whether my fellow OTAers are interested in recording TV, but it can’t hurt to let them know that there IS a way to do it – for most of us, we only hear from DirecTV, Dish and the cable company (I get letters from these guys weekly telling me how great they are). If TiVo could at least get a slice of that pie, it should do them good…

  4. Am I missing something obvious? Banner ad says “TV antenna users SAVE BIG with TiVo – $9.99 a month”. If I were economizing via antenna, how would spending $120 per year save me money? Sure, it’s cheaper than TiVo’s regular plan, but this seems to targeting a market that has a number of people who are looking to cut expenses, not add them.

    I know that there is a group of people on the ‘bleeding edge’ who want just a TV and an internet connection, and it makes sense that TiVo is trying to attract that market. But there are other alternatives like Roku and AppleTV that have no monthly fee whatsoever.

  5. “But I do find it odd that TiVo will be monitoring how we connect and can modify our plan accordingly”

    Hell, I find it odd that if I cancel my TiVo subscription that my box won’t continue to function sans the guide data. (In other words, I understand no new recording without a subscription, but killing the rest of the functionality of the box has always seemed quite odd to me.)

    But I understood the fine print before I went TiVo, and decided to go ahead and live with it.

    “I’ve never been a fan of all the different service tiers as I believe it creates confusion and an additional barrier to entry.”

    As always, I’m in favor of TiVo adopting the confusing “airline ticketing model” style of pricing. Charge the most the market will bear in any particular niche, and thus tailor the pricing to the niche. TiVo has one platform that fits in many small niches, which is why confusing pricing should be their friend.

    I was the one and only fan of their testing the waters earlier this year in tying the monthly service fee to the amount of subsidy you got in acquiring your hardware. Give the customer whatever pricing scheme they most prefer. Lots of folks seem to want zero money down and high subscription fees, while I prefer the opposite. Why shouldn’t TiVo make us all happy?

    And similarly, I think a separate OTA-only pricing tier scheme makes excellent sense. Confusion is overrated, and tailoring the pricing to different niches is underrated.

  6. “If I were economizing via antenna, how would spending $120 per year save me money?”

    Because OTA+DVR is cheaper than any cable package.

    Because there is more value in OTA+DVR than in OTA-DVR, even if we forget about the OTT offerings in the Premiere.

  7. I really cord cutters are going to avoid monthly fees like the plague. I’m looking into purchasing the Channel Master CM7000PAL – Converter/ DVR. About $300 on Amazon.

    It has a channel guide and the ability to record from the guide. Not sure it has all the bells and whistle of Tivo. But it would be a one time expense.

  8. I had a unit when it was the Echostar DTV Pal DVR. They discontinued it (under their brand at least) and it wasn’t very good:

    http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2010-07/end-of-the-road-for-dish-networks-dtvpal-dvr/

    It’s not even close to a TiVo. More of a glorified VCR – you schedule recordings by date/time and the guide isn’t in the same universe as TiVo’s. Nor is the usability. Considering the break even point would be about 2.5 years, I’d go TiVo.

  9. @Greg Economizing doesn’t have to mean that you are 100% miserly. The advantage of TiVo is that I have probably 20 – 30 shows that are always available and customized for me. Regular live TV alone wouldn’t provide a very satisfactory experience if you only had 3 channels to pick from. By being able to time shift your content and adding in Netflix, Amazon, etc you very much have a “cable” experience at 15% of the price. Even with 2 terrabytes, I am still running out of storage space.

    I wouldn’t object to an OTA only product at a different price, but would prefer not to see them balkanize their product. It’s nice knowing I can go back to cable if I want. As is, I’m not a big fan of the no OTA product that they are releasing. It makes me wonder if their “friends” at cableland put in that request. Allvid really is the best solution for consumers because it would force cable and satellite to compete, but if TiVo ends their content neutral strategy and starts to charging $4 for OTA and another $2 for Netflix, .10 cents added to every Amazon rental, or $10 if you want cable or satellite, then their value proposition will go down the drain.

  10. Well I have 3 HD TiVos used for OTA only.

    A Series 3 HD at $6.95/mo
    A TiVo HD with Lifetime
    A TiVo Premiere with Lifetime

    Nothing changes because my source is OTA instead of cable or satellite. I use a DVR to time shift TV, to avoid commercials, and to save up new stuff for the re-run season (my total storage is at 5.25TB).

    Also I wouldn’t watch a significantly different amount of TV is I had satellite or cable as I have a fixed amount of my time I am willing to allot to watching TV.

    This deal seems to be targeted at taping Solid Signal customer base as Solid Signal is the only vendor promoting this deal. Solid Signal does sell 2 other OTA DVRs both with VCR style functionality.

    Regarding the deal itself if someone is not a current TiVo customer this is a very good deal. At the deals $10/mo service cost it will take 50 months before it would be a better deal to go with lifetime service (a new customer has to pay $500 for lifetime service).

  11. Why wouldn’t channel data for 30 channels cost less than channel data for 200? I have lifetime on all my Tivos as I’m in it for the long haul, but I would have considered the 9.99 plan if it had been available at the time. Actually, on second thought, I can do one better. I would have bought the 9.99 plan over the lifetime. The cable industry has been screwing Tivo for years. Why not add a little incentive to a means of watching TV that levels the playing field a bit?

  12. “Why wouldn’t channel data for 30 channels cost less than channel data for 200?”

    Except these days we’re not really paying for guide data, not solely anyhow… at first we’re subsidizing the TiVo hardware – which surely costs more than $100. Once that’s done, it’s profit for TiVo. Of course, not all of it is profit they’ve got a data center to run, the guide data costs money, as does their support staff. But the quantity of guide data probably doesn’t matter to Tribune or get TiVo a discount. Wouldn’t it be nice if that monthly fee kept Rhapsody working or got us an updated Netflix app? ;)

  13. 9.99 for tivo X 2 + 7.99 for netflix + 7.99 for hulu is still 36 bucks a month a month a far cry from the 120 you pay for cable not to mention the rental fees for all the boxes you need and you can’t transfer tivo shows or stream shows from one cable box to another. I was a tivo person, switched to Uverse for 1 year, and then switched back because the Television cost was 84 bucks + 7 for each box + 10 for HD + 5 for redzone. so the 15 i paid for hd and redzone went to netflix and hulu and the 98 dollars for my 2 STBs paid for Tivo Premier. now i have TV all the time and am not left in the dark when the connection goes down.

  14. Dave’s twitter feed this morning led me to teh google, which led me to Davis Freeberg’s blog, which I then put in my RSS reader. Good work all around.

    As a TiVo user, I certainly think they should extend the poison pill. I don’t want to see them get rolled in a patent land grab and turned into dust…

  15. Will the Antenna promo code only work if the Premiere is purchased from Solid Signal?

  16. @Adam — I believe, people had luck applying the code to any TiVo units. I’m not sure it works on $49 refurb units TiVo was (is?) selling.

    @everyone else — I am one of those people who use TiVo with an antenna. I have U-Verse service, but the service level was 1HD/3SD initially and I’ve had frequent outages as well (can’t view U-Verse DVR when service is down), so when there was a crazy good deal on Premiere XL (half-off or something like that), I couldn’t pass up, especially since it was back when you could transfer grandfathered $7/mo plans to it.

    Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m all in favor of this pricing plan especially since there aren’t that many options out there like that.

    Overall, I haven’t cut the cord yet, but whenever I move to a new place, I’ll likely just get a very fast broadband connection and use TiVo, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and supplement it with purchased videos for cable programming. Now, if I wanted to be really evil, I’d just set-up SABnzbd with Sick Bear application that automatically downloads shows I watch :P

  17. I’m going with the Magnavox MDR513H/F7
    or something similar.
    Manually programmed, but no monthly nickel and dime-ing.
    36 programmable recording events. (plus repeating daily or weekly slots)
    Up to 387 hours storage on built-in Hard Drive
    Dubs to DVD’s, DVD-RW’s
    Built-in tuner
    160 bucks and it’s mine-all-mine.

  18. If what you want is a digital VCR and HD isn’t so important, the Magnavox seems like a versatile machine and gets positive owner reviews on Amazon.

  19. There are now digital VCRs with HDMI out for $200.

    However, they are one tuner only, no extra apps like Netflix, and use guide data via OTA (not as good as Tivo or W7MC)

    This deal is a huge bargain for OTA viewers (better than lifetime since the price increase).

    I have the same antenna as above and with an amplifier (I split the OTA signal between two Tivos) I can get all locals plus a couple of Charlotte stations (60 miles distant)

    My antenna simply hangs off my entertainment center, pointed out the window (much easier than mounting outside)

  20. Spot on about the disadvantages of the Channel Master (the re-branded Echostar product), but what surprises me is how fairly popular and liked the device is according to reviews on Amazon. Those enthusiastic about the product outnumber some of the nightmare posts, but most people on Amazon accept the lack of Name Based Recording because there are absolutely NO FEES to use the 2 tuner DVR. It gets the job done. Not with bells and whistles, but well enough for many embracing the Channel Master simply because they refuse to pay TiVo any amount of money, even for all its sophisticated features.

    I would have gotten the old Echostar product, now branded Channel Master, but no Name Based Recording was the deal breaker for me. Apparently, it is NOT for a significant number of people. They accept it and it doesn’t seem to trouble them–in exchange for no monthly fees.

    To be correct, TiVo is NOT the only OTA ATSC HD DVR out there. Bright has a rudimentary 1 tuner box with NO FEES and then the Channel Master 2 tuner DVR just a few steps above rudimentary as it has some features the Bright does not. Then there is the feature rich TiVo, still only 2 tuners after all these years, but with the monthly fee that so many don’t want to pay. no matter how superior the TiVo.

    The other “DVR’s” record in standard def only, so I don’t really count those in our discussion of HD.

    As for TiVo’s OTA only discount price: Finally, a good, smart move in the right direction. In fact, up until now I never wanted the nightmare and now $20 per month forever Premiere (not replacing my Series 3), but a new Premiere at a 50% discount or a reasonable subscription cost of $10.00 is extremely tempting, as I would use it for OTA only, anyway.

    Gee, I just may get a TiVo Premiere and the Antenna promotion subscription. At those prices, the extra cost of a TiVo–never ending subscription–seems worth it or at least a fair trade-off. Let’s hope TiVo keeps coming up with more innovative pricing for different users.

  21. Allen Schreiber August 30, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Once again I have to say, “Don’t you !@#$ get it TiVo??? The monthly fees are killing you!” Wrap Lifetime Service into the price of the box with an entry price from $299 to $399 and slap a sticker that says, “No monthly fees!” on the box and watch as people start buying the box.

  22. “Once again I have to say, “Don’t you !@#$ get it TiVo??? The monthly fees are killing you!” Wrap Lifetime Service into the price of the box with an entry price from $299 to $399 and slap a sticker that says, “No monthly fees!” on the box and watch as people start buying the box.”

    FWIW, I initially stayed away from TiVo precisely because of the very existence of the “lifetime service” option, as it seemed to me to be a bet on the part of the company that they’d die before the hardware they were trying to sell me did. In short, I generally react to “lifetime service” plans by considering the companies that offer them to be scammers.

    When I finally got over that general prejudice and did go TiVo, I didn’t get lifetime service, figuring that I’d want to upgrade my hardware to next-gen TiVo or switch away from the TiVo platform before the lifetime monetary benefits kicked in. As it turned out, I didn’t like the next-gen TiVo hardware/software, and I do like my initial TiVo hardware enough to keep using it. So, it turns out in the end that I’d have saved money with lifetime. But I’d still have done the initial decision the same way based on the available info to me at the time.

    But all that is digression. My only point here is that I’m of the opinion that TiVo should let a thousand pricing schemes bloom for different use-cases. You want lifetime service? Fine, TiVo should sell it to you for a price. I want unsubsidized hardware and a low yearly fee for service? Fine, TiVo should sell it to me for a price. Someone else wants no money down and a high monthly fee to cover the subsidy? Fine, TiVo should sell it to them for a price.

    TiVo should be wherever a niche of customers wants them to be, as long as they can turn a profit there. One platform + Many niches = Varied pricing schemes.

  23. Allen Schreiber August 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I know that TiVo’s service (Guide data in particular) has value, but if similar devices (VCR, DVD/Blu-Ray players, game consoles, stereo, etc.) had monthly service charges, they would not be as popular as they are. I know that the TiVo to DVD player, etc comparison is not an apples-to-apples comparison, but I would bet that the majority of consumers see it that way.

    Chucky is correct that “lifetime service” seems like a scam. My opinion is that it should just be part of the inherent functionality of the box.

    If monthly or any other variable pricing was going to work out for them, I would think it would have by now. I believe that simplified pricing would make the TiVo more attractive because they could lower the “service” costs based on volume sales.

    However, I do have to admit that without knowing what TiVo’s internal fixed and variable costs per unit are, the $299 per box retail could drive up sales but blow the company out of the water if the box is being sold at a loss at that price point.

  24. Both Xbox and PS3 have subscription services… And it seems to work fine for them. Then again, they offer more for less. If TiVo service was $60/year, they’d have many more takers. But TiVo subsidizes hardware in a way Microsoft and Sony don’t. So they couldn’t really go that low. Unless they used some of their $600 million in cash to accumulate retail customers. Not sure why that hasn’t been one of their top priorities (as far as I can tell).

    So following on the plan above, let’s sell a TiVo Premiere with Basic service and no fees as they once did a million years ago at the $300 price point and also offer a second tier of service running $60/year for online apps and more substantial DVR features.

  25. Allen Schreiber August 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Dave, you are indeed correct about XBOX Live and Playstation Network. But neither cosole is a motionless brick without the service. The TiVo is.

    I had forgotten about TiVo Basic (even though I am a Pioneer owner). The lack of Season Passes was enough to push me into a contract way back when.

    http://support.tivo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/25

    I’m not sure on a Premiere what would be disabled if not exactly like the classic TiVo Basic. Maybe they could disable one of the tuners or the HD interface.

  26. I have to agree with Mr. Schreiber on this: the monthly fee is killing them.

    Cable has the advantage of being able to hide the DVR fee in a triple or quadruple play package – I would guess most subscribers have no idea how much they pay for the DVR each month and just as many don’t even realize they’re paying for the DVR/Cable box – they just consider it a part of the service.

    Tivo’s lifetime fee is astronomical – tech changes too quickly for a new user (not a devoted fan, but a new user) to feel comfortable committing that much money.

    They’ve been promoting the service so badly it’s mind boggling: step one has got to be explaining to consumers WHY TiVo is a better idea than the box their pay tv provider gives them (and maintains and upgrades) – the feature set it too difficult to sell to the not-especialy-tech-savvy consumer. They need a dollars and cents based reason.

  27. Uhh, you folks are missing an important fact. Tivo’s OTA only capabilities SUCK!
    (their Netflix implementation is even worse)
    I was a loyal Tivo customer moving from a S1 to S2 then the HD w/lifetime then a 2nd.
    Then came our economic crash of which I was a victim.
    I decide to cut the cord (Comcast) and switch to OTA only on the 2 HD boxes only to find that w/o a cable subscription the GUIDE INFO which is critical to the function & value of the Tivo is all but gone rendering the Tivo boxes elaborate & expensive VCR’s.
    A SW patch offering the user the ability to “MAP” channels to program info would have been a (relatively) simple and inexpensive solution to augment thier OTA claims & retain customers but instead we get (nutered) PREMIER !!
    Sorry but but Im done with TIVO.

  28. I think Tivo is really missing the emerging cloud technology and services. Why would I want to have a piece of hardware at home that sooner or later will be end of life and then I have to worry about how to migrate my recordings to the next device.

    I am using a cloud based PVR with a web GUI for European Free TV that allows me to set up recordings based on pre-defined or ad-hoc queries. The recordings are stored in the Cloud for online viewing or pushed to my NAS if I want. There are tools and workflows to cut recordings and archive them. This usually costs me 2-5 $ / mth and maybe every other month I spend a bit of time to update my queries.

    This is a huge time saver. I never have to worry about schedules or even titles/names. The NAS takes care of what needs to be preserved and the Web Gui makes access a no-brainer, without the need for a slingbox.

    In comparison, dealing with Tivo, DTVPal or all those other crippled solutions is a major pain.