Rovi Talks TiVo Retail Future

Dave Zatz —  June 3, 2016

From Rovi CFO Peter Halt:

The consumer channel is one that has been very successful for TiVo. What people often forget is that the investment that they’re making in the consumer device is the same investment that they are making for the MSO provider. What the consumer channel gives them is a direct contact with the consumer and a very passionate loyal audience that gives them direct feedback. And it’s been a source of great innovation for them and stuff like that.

That said, being in the hardware business isn’t something that necessarily excites us. When we acquired Fanhattan and the Fan TV platform, they had an OEM relationship and we’re focused on a box solution. And when we acquired them, we said, we’d look to move to be box agnostic and be able to partner with box providers who can do that. There are several box providers out there who have direct-to-retail. We’ll be looking at the possibilities of working with them, having them control the box. And while that would be a partnership and we wouldn’t get all the sales as a result, we think that’s probably a better way to approach the consumer space. But don’t look for us to exit the consumer space.

51 responses to Rovi Talks TiVo Retail Future

  1. Remember when Philips and Toshiba and Pioneer made TiVos?

    Regarding TiVo’s retail success, I wonder if that’s in the rear view as TiVo net only 3,000 new subscriptions (presumably including Mini) in the last quarter…

  2. Michael Burstin June 3, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Didn’t Sony also make them? My original Tivo series 1 was a Phillips box — I don’t think Tivo even made their own hardware back then.

    Still, can’t quite parse what this means. Are they saying they are done making retail hardware? I certainly hope not — the X1 box, while better than their Moto boxes, it still isn’t reliable. And even when it records what it says its going to record, it sometimes doesn’t appear in the recordings section until after the recording is done!

  3. Yeah, and the guy behind the TiVo at Sony went on to helm Digeo, maker of the competing Moxi DVR (that was acquired by Arris). As the world turns…

  4. I do appreciate him laying out the precise reason his approach is insane first….

  5. It’s been fun….

  6. Replay tried this (dumping the box for a PCI board + software) & it didn’t work out for them.

    At this point I wonder why bother with new hardware, especially OTA support, given the uncertainties over ATSC 3.0 transition.

    I suspect many TV manufacturers will also simplify their SKUs by dropping ATSC circuitry altogether (kosher as long as you sell it here in the U.S. as a “monitor” not a “television”)

  7. As long as they keep good guide data working I can be ok with whatever this really means. My TiVoHD is humming along just fine. and I can still get parts (for now) when needed. etc…..

    And I just sub to locals so in a pinch, if I had to, I could rely on network aps via AppleTV, Hulu, CBS app, etc…..

  8. William Aprea June 3, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Guide data and continued cable card support are the two pillars that must remain standing. Give me 10 years of that and I have no complaints. Would be even better of course if UnlocktheBox is successful and the new security paradigm is backwards compatible via software update.

  9. By the time the box is unlocked, assuming it happens anyway, I doubt TiVo will be positioned to capitalize.

  10. What’s the experience like with the MSO Pace TiVo boxes? Is it pretty much identical to the TiVo hardware, functionality- and performance-wise?

  11. I have to wonder how do Tivo’s numbers for new subs currently compare with Tablo and other DVR consumer/retail products. It’s unclear (to me) if this is really a sustainable market, even with the slow move towards cord cutting.

  12. Sharon, the experience is less about the hardware (although that’s a factor) and more about what the MSO strategy and licensing dictate. For example, Amazon Video would be something of a competitor to a MSO’s PPV business and is not offered.

    dwgsp, whether or not it’s a sustainable business really depends on how a company manages their expenses, via head count, R&D, etc. TiVo has spent oh-so-many millions on R&D that hasn’t materialized into much it seems. So while the retail DVR market may be small, it could conceivably be managed. Also, TiVo didn’t have to be a DVR-only company. With $1b in cash (at one point), they could have expanded into anything – launch a SlingTV-like service, buy a home automation start-up, take on Harmony remotes, do a Roku thing. Or have significantly subsidized hardware and fees to grow the footprint into something that generates sustained revenue via advertising (as Roku does).

    A senior employee used to tell me repeatedly how difficult their business is and my takeaway was they are defeatist with a lack of vision (in retail, anyhow). They also don’t have much follow-thru. TiVo Stream was an R&D project that sat on a shelf for years, HDUI is still incomplete, Amazon Fire TV app hasn’t been taken out of beta or updated since October, TiVo Bolt just got out-of-home streaming 7 months after release, etc. And, despite it all, their solution is still the best. Go figure.

  13. So it looks like TiVo as a standalone hardware brand may well be dead, both on the retail and the MSO side. This new eBox that TiVo and Rovi have partnered with Evolution Digital to produce for MSOs (WOW being the first) is a good example. TiVo didn’t design or manufacture the hardware and, from what I can piece together, I don’t think they even contributed all of the software codebase.

    On the retail side, I frankly don’t see how TiVo even moves forward as a viable product for cable TV subscribers given how poorly they’ve performed with subs in that space. On top of that, CableCARD is dying and there’s so much uncertainty around Unlock the Box and the future of cable TV (transitioning from QAM to IP, cloud DVR, UHD, etc). I think the most likely scenario on the retail side is that we see one or more established electronics brands (LG, Roku, Sony, Xiaomi, Samsung, etc.) partner with TiVo/Rovi to license their brand and patents (UI, features, program guide, metadata, etc.) and “fortify” their TV sets or set-top boxes with TiVo functionality for browsing and recording live TV plus facilitating content discovery and tying together OTA plus online TV sources into a coherent user experience. “The Sharp CloudStream with TiVo and GooglePlay” could be a box with a TiVo UI riding atop customized Android with access to apps in the GooglePlay store. Not saying that WILL happen, just giving a example of the kind of thing that we COULD see. With the possible exception of one last high-end CableCARD DVR this year (“TiVo Bolt Pro”), I doubt we ever see any more retail devices that are purely TiVo branded.

  14. He talks about TiVo innovation. So tell me, what exactly did TiVo innovate post-1999?

    I can only think of one thing, really– integrating streaming services into their now playing list. That’s it, for 17 years.

    Everything else they added, streaming services, in-house streaming, commercial skip, HD UI (which as you noted, still ain’t done, in 2016!?!!), multiple tuners, remote streaming, ipad/mobile support, etc, was already done by someone else.

    TiVo survived for 17 years because their initial product way back in 1999 was just _so_ unbelievably, brilliantly, well executed. It was blindingly revolutionary. Amazing. And since 1999? They got nothin’!

    (P.S.: I don’t remember if wishlists were later than 1999. If so, they definitely count, whenever they were added.)

  15. Tim, I’d say it’s unlikely there will be a TiVo Bolt Pro at this point. But sounds like something else is in the works, maybe an OTA-only offering or a Roku-esque device?

    Beyond CableCARD uncertainty, this march towards ATSC 3.0, which isn’t backwards compatible, further confuses things.

    Regarding Evolution Digital, TiVo already deployed their experience to prior boxes, as they have for a number of MSOs with Pace, Samsung, Cisco, etc. And reusing hardware for different software loadouts isn’t entirely novel, as our SDV Tuning Adapters prove, but the mechanism to make it happen and process sounds more efficient here.

  16. Dave, while true, the eBox is much more than just another box with a TiVo UI riding inside.

    “The Evolution eBOX can operate in QAM-only, non-DVR,
    whole home DVR, IP video client mode or as a full IP
    Hybrid set-top box delivering both QAM and IP video
    services. With an advanced guide with universal
    search, consumers can now have one device, one
    remote control and one connection through HDMI 1
    that delivers all their favorite cable channels along with
    the leading OTT services.”

    http://m.evolutiondigital.com/acton/attachment/3194/f-00c5/1/-/-/-/-/eBOX_TiVoPowered_SS_160503.pdf

  17. Tim, I’d say it’s unlikely there will be a TiVo Bolt Pro at this point. But sounds like something else is in the works, maybe an OTA-only offering or a Roku-esque device?

    Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if a Bolt Pro never sees the light of day (just like the Bolt OTA/Aereo Edition failed to materialize). I agree with your thinking about the coming mystery retail product that’s not a traditional DVR — seems like it must be a Roku-esque streaming box and, given that what little brand equity TiVo still has in the minds of American consumers lies in its connection to DVR functionality, I’d say that the product aims to also incorporate live linear TV (with program guide info, etc.) somehow. (I mean, look, if the new product is simply another Roku-like streamer simply featuring a wall of streaming apps, why bother saddling it with the TiVo brand name? I think that would actually be a disservice to the product, not an advantage.)

    Maybe live TV will be through OTA tuners (available separately — a modular hardware design to could be swapped out for ATSC 3.0 tuners eventually?) or maybe through one or more skinny streaming cable services with cloud DVR, a la PS Vue. Perhaps a deal would be struck with one of those streaming services to feed their content into a TiVo UI that also aims to integrate with various OTT apps, OnePass-style? Or maybe the product will simply be an accessory to existing streamers like Roku and Apple TV to add OTA DVR functionality, essentially a direct competitor to Tablo. Whatever it is, it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s actual TiVo-branded hardware or, as the article above suggests, branded by another CE company.

  18. This tech discussion over my head, mostly. As hardware goes, my Roamio Pro works flawlessly. It’s Tivo software that’s wanting. (1) Sports schedules are not updated frequently enough, so premier events, such as the 2016 NCAA Basketball Semi-finals can get recorded at wrong time (2 hours late in my case). (2) Tivo search does not make it easy to find local sports events, and is often crowded with pre/post game shows. (3) No language selection option: If I set it to record a favorite actor, director or movie, sometimes the Spanish language version is recorded. Since the Roamio has a huge drive, it’s no problem – but this highlights lack of an obvious (to me) choice of feature. (4) Tivo, as far as I can tell, does not store a list of shows I recently watched. If it did, then it might give me the choice not to automatically record shows of recently watched – until say a certain number of days/months had passed. (5) I wish Tivo had more of the intelligence of Netflix – which now occupies 75% of my viewing time.

  19. I’d be content with an Android-like software solution that can be tailored to hardware by OEMs. The issue would be whether or not they will suffer the same fate as Android, with the OEM deciding what features they support and what they don’t. If they can do it like TiVo did in the early days, and run a hardware agnostic software that is able to provide all features and updates on TiVo’s schedule, that would be the best of the options.

  20. We’re entering a very Stephen Tobolowsky moment…

  21. TiVo should have transformed to a software company around 2011 or so.

    Imagine an android TiVo backend. Want a TiVo? Choose a cheap-o TiVo-certified chinese-clone android box, then plug-in a cheap-o USB drive and an ATSC or HDhomerun tuner. That’s the back-end.

    Front-end is HTML5 like Plex Web or youtube.com/TV, so it runs everywhere. Your TiVo client runs on appletv, roku, android/fireTV, iOS, OSX, or windows. One server on commodity hardware, as many tuners as you want, many clients.

    Instead, they tried to go it alone, selling subsidized hardware. They saw their market shrink every year and they didn’t try ANYTHING. TiVo’s inaction was effectively suicide.

  22. Michael Burstin June 3, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I don’t know that they could ever get CableCard certification if they were on an open platform?

  23. That’s Silicon Dust’s problem– they make the HDhomerun tuner, and they have one that accepts a cablecard.

  24. Incidentally, Silicon Dust is writing an android DVR that is pretty much exactly what I described above, minus the far superior TiVo UI.

    https://www.silicondust.com/products/hdhomerun/hd-homerun-dvr/

  25. Incidentally, Silicon Dust is writing an android DVR that is pretty much exactly what I described above, minus the far superior TiVo UI.

    Rodalpho, Google is building DVR (as well as picture-in-picture) functionality into their Android TV platform this year. And they have their own Live Channels app that serves as a program guide for live linear TV, whether it comes from OTA, cable, or online. Google has confirmed that this next version of Android TV will support (i.e. have built-in drivers for) two different USB ATSC OTA tuners. So it looks like we’ll have more options than the Silicon Dust network tuners, at least on the OTA side. And we’ll be able to use the arguably better UI of Google’s native Live Channels app rather than the Silicon Dust DVR software. I believe that recorded TV will also be integrated into the broader Android TV framework, e.g. suggested shows on the home screen UI. I don’t know whether Google will require subscription to a third-party program guide data service, whether it will rely on embedded PSIP data in the OTA sources, or if Google will offer guide data free of charge. I’m kinda thinking it will be that last option, since they’re about to offer live TV listings in their search results:
    http://www.theverge.com/2016/4/20/11475542/google-search-live-tv-listings-doubleclick

    All of these moves on Google’s part isn’t just about making Android TV a better retail option for cord-cutters, it’s also about making it a more robust platform for pay TV providers to embed in their STBs, something that’s already happening in Europe.

    You can read about it here. Also, check out the embedded video of a session from Google’s big I/O dev conference just a couple weeks ago. Skip to the 26:00 mark and watch a couple minutes.
    http://androidtv.news/2016/05/usb-tuners-come-live-channels-sample-app/

  26. It seems more and more that the winner in all of this is Sony, when they offer a cloud dvr that goes past 30 days more people will migrate from set top dvr’s…. Sony can also roll hardware solutions if they need to. Something a number of software companies are very bad at. (Google…..)

  27. Actually… Quite a few MSOs are very interested in having the Amazon prime video app on their TiVo boxes. The fact it currently isn’t is 100% on Amazon at this time. Unreasonable (completely irrational…) terms offered initially and they’ve drug their feet in coming back to the table with anything else to this point. I find Jeff B comments this week about Apple and unreasonable business terms of Apple’s being the reason why prime isn’t on the Apple TV platform (which they in fact generally are….) a case of the pot calling the kettle black. If Amazon wants prime on MSOs boxes, they aren’t showing it via their actions. And I’m in a position to know…

  28. Tim, there’s a big difference between supporting tuners and the full DVR experience. I hope you’re right, though– Google purchased SageTV many years ago and they had a great product. Microsoft is definitely headed that way with the Xbox as well.

    TiVo had a massive 15+ year lead on these companies and they let it go. And even when they do finally release their DVR products, TiVo will still have the better UI and overall experience, even though it hasn’t substantially improved since 1999. That’s what’s so frustrating!

  29. Rodalpho, I don’t get the comment that it hasn’t substantially improved since 1999. We have more tuners, a much better UI with tons of info on the screen at once (even though we still have a few old menus remaining), an integrated list with both recorded shows and OTT programming, a better/easier HDD upgrade/replacement experience (at least with Roamio — I think Bolt is a little tougher with the way the case is designed), improved features (from 30-second skip to commercial skip to quickplay), streaming (including out of home), etc. Is it 16 or 17 years worth of innovation? Not necessarily… They missed opportunities, were slow with updates, etc, but it is still significantly further along than where we were with the Series 1 and 2, and even 3. I remember how excited I was just to group shows into folders on the S2! They have made a lot of progress, even though we all know they had time and money to do more.

  30. Rodolpho, Google is indeed building the “full DVR” experience into Android TV, although it will almost surely not be as polished or feature-rich as TiVo. Check out the video at that last link to get a peek of the DVR features currently being worked on.

  31. LittleBird, would you be prepared to provide all of Amazon Video or just Prime Video?

  32. Bricketh,

    TiVo has made incremental progress over the years, but (IMO obviously) a brand-new Bolt isn’t a substantially better experience than my S1 back in 1999. Aside from wishlists, core DVR functionality hasn’t improved. I don’t agree that all those minor improvements add up to “substantial”.

    Also of all the things you mentioned, most are either not TiVo innovations or were available in 1999. Only integrating streaming services into now playing was invented at TiVo, and I gave it props earlier in these comments.

    Tim,

    Looks great! A bit late, as cable TV is on its way out, but I suppose better late than never.

  33. Cable TV will outlive most of us, OTA doesn’t work for everybody, nor does satellite.
    And everyone streaming…you won’t like what your primetime is going to look like internet wise. Imagine the bandwidth that Netflix uses at those hours, now add in everything else.

  34. A brand new Bolt (or Roamio) with 4/6 tuners and all the other added stuff isn’t substantially better than an S1? I LOL’d.

    Dave hit the nail on the head with Tivo’s issues here – slow delivery and half-assedness have always been their trademark, but even with their faults they’ve been the best player in the HD DVR space ever since the S3s came out. Before that I think Replay was better for SD, and sadly the fact that no one has pushed them to be better in the CE HD DVR space meant that they never felt like they needed to be full-assed about anything. See: ‘Premiere, the one-box to rule all’ that never came close, for example.

  35. Little Bird’s comments about Amazon don’t surprise me. Bezos is a bit of a prima donna — I think he fancies himself the new Steve Jobs. There’s a lot to like about Amazon but they’re definitely gaining a “doesn’t play well with others” reputation, thanks in no small part to their refusal to place Amazon Video on various competing platforms while also eliminating sales of those platforms’ hardware from their retail store. It all smacks of an Apple-like “it’s our way or the highway” approach. But hey, that’s worked out pretty well for Apple; maybe Amazon is influential enough to pull it off too…

  36. “Little Bird’s comments about Amazon don’t surprise me. Bezos is a bit of a prima donna”

    I don’t think it’s “prima donna” syndrome. What choices does Bezos have here?

    – He can’t sell a-la-carte video on a platform that wants a non-negligible percentage take of the sale, since the margins wouldn’t support it.

    – He could allow Prime video only on platforms that charge a cut, but part of the point of Prime video is to use its leverage to promote the rest of Amazon’s video business. So he has an actual sound business reason for not wanting to put Prime video on lean-back platforms where he can’t economically also do his video business.

    If I were in his shoes I’d be doing the exact same thing he’s doing, not to be a prima-donna, but simply as business stategery. Why is it to Amazon’s benefit to put Prime video on MSO boxes if they can’t also do video commerce there?

  37. Why is it to Amazon’s benefit to put Prime video on MSO boxes if they can’t also do video commerce there?

    I find it funny that you are so critical of Apple but not Amazon, Chucky. Anyhow, the major benefit that Amazon derives from Prime Video (all Prime benefits, really) is that it 1) encourages folks to pony up for the Prime subscription fees which are a major contributor of overall Amazon profitability and 2) it further engages/enmeshes them in the Amazon ecosystem, resulting in greater retail sales generally and, one would presume, of Amazon devices specifically.

    Yes, I’m sure that there are some folks who would never otherwise rent or buy a la carte video from Amazon unless they were already using Amazon Prime but I would bet that those marginal video sales’ impact on Amazon’s bottom line pales in comparison to the effect that Amazon Prime Video has via 1) and 2) above. I would bet that Amazon has more to lose by refusing to compromise on a higher commission than they would like on video rentals/sales and thereby completely keeping Amazon Video off of those platforms. And, of course, they certainly have the option of giving MSOs and other platforms an Amazon Prime Video app that doesn’t engage in transactions. (That’s essentially what they have on the iPhone and iPad, so there’s already a precedent in place.) But no, Bezos doesn’t wish to compromise. Rather than going the extra mile to make his Prime members happy about that $99 a year they’re paying by letting them access Prime Video on the device of their choice, he’s going to tell them which devices they can use for it. (And when it comes to how Amazon “negotiates” the terms of putting their app on a platform, take note of Little Bird’s description: “completely irrational” and “drug their feet on coming back to the table”. Like I said, it’s Amazon’s way or the highway.)

  38. “I find it funny that you are so critical of Apple but not Amazon, Chucky.”

    Unlike Apple, Amazon is platform agnostic. I can watch Amazon video on devices that don’t come from Amazon. I can read Amazon eBooks on devices that don’t come from Amazon. That’s a fundamental difference to me, and is the reason why I do my digital commerce with Amazon.

    “Anyhow, the major benefit that Amazon derives from Prime Video (all Prime benefits, really) is that it 1) encourages folks to pony up for the Prime subscription fees which are a major contributor of overall Amazon profitability and 2) it further engages/enmeshes them in the Amazon ecosystem, resulting in greater retail sales generally and, one would presume, of Amazon devices specifically.”

    I’m pretty damn sure Bezos doesn’t agree with you on why Amazon is pouring boatloads of money into Prime video, and I agree with Bezos’ analysis over yours.

    1) Sure, driving Prime subscriptions is some part of the reason, but Prime video is so damn expensive for Amazon compared to all the other non-fulfillment benefits put together that Occam’s razor points to other motivations. 2) I’m pretty damn sure Amazon isn’t looking towards its device manufacture division as a profit center.

    I mean, according to your reasoning, Apple should license AirPlay to TV makers and STB makers for cheap or free in order to boost their mobile device business. Same with Google and their “casting” scheme. But they don’t because they are pursuing other strategic goals. Hell, Apple should let other devices access iTunes music and movies too, right? By not doing so, they’re just being irrational and prima-donnas, no?

    At the end of the day, there are no terms that’d be acceptable to the MSO’s that’d let Amazon sell a-la-carte at a profit. The margins aren’t there. So it’s simply a matter of whether they abandon the a-la-carte business and offer Prime video standalone in the lean-back. And as stated, Bezos’ strategy seems entirely sound to me. (I can understand you not necessarily agreeing with it, but I’m surprised you don’t even seem to vaguely get Amazon’s motivation for pouring all that money into Prime video.)

    “That’s essentially what they have on the iPhone and iPad, so there’s already a precedent in place.”

    As has been my mantra for 5+ years now, video in the lean-back is much more valuable than video on mobile…

  39. Unlike Apple, Amazon is platform agnostic. I can watch Amazon video on devices that don’t come from Amazon. I can read Amazon eBooks on devices that don’t come from Amazon. That’s a fundamental difference to me, and is the reason why I do my digital commerce with Amazon.

    Oh, you mean the way that Apple has supported the iPod and iPhone on Windows from day one? You mean the way that Apple has provided a free version of iTunes (and QuickTime before that) to Windows for well over a decade so that Windows users can access the iTunes Store and connect the content on their PC to an Apple TV and/or AirPort Express? You mean the way that Apple provides an Apple Music app for Android? Oh, OK.

    In all of those cases, Apple was rolling out something new and was bowing to the realities that existed in the marketplace, that there were a majority of people out there using non-Apple devices. If they wanted those new products/services to gain a major toehold, they realized they must to some degree support Windows and Android. And so they did. But Apple doesn’t want to fully support those competing platforms. They had much rather you buy their hardware to fully reap the benefits of the Apple ecosystem. Which is annoying but also makes a degree of sense because Apple is a hardware company. They’ve traditionally made their profits on hardware sales — those shiny Apple devices they want you to buy — not software or services (or reselling unrelated merchandise like shoes or diapers or TVs like Amazon does).

    Amazon, when first rolling out Amazon Video, was more motivated to get it on whatever devices they could. But now that Prime is more popular and, critically, now that Amazon has their own Fire devices, they are far less motivated to support competing platforms. Bezos is betting that Amazon Prime Video is now big enough that they can sway consumers over to their own platform by withholding it from their major competitors. Look, if Amazon thought it would be a net positive for them to drop Amazon Video support for all non-Amazon devices at some point in the future, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did so.

    And I still contend that you overvalue the importance of Amazon Video’s rental/sales to the bigger picture. Frankly, that market is completely commoditized. All the major players, whether iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Vudu, Fandango Now, Sony, Microsoft or pay TV’s in-house on-demand offerings (if the case of rentals) carry pretty much the exact same library of content at about the same prices and get access to new titles on the same day. And when a device (whether its Apple TV, Android TV, or an MSO’s STB) has its own competing video service and an existing account already set up with the consumer, Amazon or any other competing service is going to be at a disadvantage there, even if they could earn the same profit margin on transactions on that device (which, of course, they can’t expect).

    I’m doubtful that commission rates for its video rental and sales are the deciding factor (or at least the only factor) in whether or not Amazon Video will support various platforms to some extent. At this point, it’s mainly about trying to deter folks from using other platforms and instead buying their own Amazon-branded hardware. And, hey, I’m not saying there’s anything illegal or even unethical about that. I’m just saying that I and a lot of consumers don’t like it and it was definitely a factor in my decision not to renew my Prime membership recently.

  40. slowbiscuit: That’s right, a brand-new bolt isn’t substantially better at stuff I care about– core DVR functionality. Obviously multiple tuners and HD support are huge, but those are table stakes.

  41. “Oh, you mean the way that Apple has supported the iPod and iPhone on Windows from day one?”

    No. I mean digital commerce that can used in a platform-agnostic manner.

    “You mean the way that Apple has provided a free version of iTunes … to Windows for well over a decade so that Windows users can access the iTunes Store and connect the content on their PC to an Apple TV and/or AirPort Express?”

    OK. Our endpoint there is an AppleTV only. So: No. I mean digital commerce that can used in a platform-agnostic manner.

    “You mean the way that Apple provides an Apple Music app for Android?”

    A somewhat better fend-off, Tim. It’s a big departure from the Cupertino modus operndi. But it’s just a radio service they can’t get customers for. If they did an iTunes app for Android that let you access your cloud music, that’d be something more equivalent to the topic at hand.

    “In all of those cases, Apple was rolling out something new and was bowing to the realities that existed in the marketplace”

    They aren’t giving away anything valuable in any of those examples. Lean-back access to Prime Video is valuable.

    “But now that Prime is more popular and, critically, now that Amazon has their own Fire devices, they are far less motivated to support competing platforms.”

    I do love you and your comments, Tim. But you don’t get the prime directive animating Amazon, Prime, or Prime Video.

    They’ll support any platform with viewers that gives them an Amazon Video app.

    They’d be on AppleTV and MSO boxes tomorrow if they gave them an Amazon video app.

    They’re on TiVo, fergawdsakes.

    “And I still contend that you overvalue the importance of Amazon Video’s rental/sales to the bigger picture”

    Well, first of all, regardless of my views, I think I’m correctly assessing Amazon’s valuation of being large in content retail.

    As to my views, I think Amazon in wanting to be the Everything Store, and in thinking the digital aspect of the Everything Store has greater lock-in and margins, is quite sane to want to be a major player in content retail.

    “I’m just saying that I and a lot of consumers don’t like it and it was definitely a factor in my decision not to renew my Prime membership recently.”

    And we’ve been here before. I’ll just repeat: you pay for Prime for physical fulfillment. To me, it’s a bargain. And there are bunch of little bonuses. Prime video is the most valuable of all those little bonuses, by far. But unless you get real value out the physical fulfillment aspect, they’re essentially not trying to sell you Prime as a standalone video service.

  42. Hey, I guess we can go round and round on this, Chucky. You can continue to give point-by-point rebuttals to my comments as though you’re giving thoughtful counterfactuals but you’re simply offering up differing opinions, such as “They (Apple) aren’t giving away anything valuable in any of those examples,” “They’ll (Amazon) support any platform with viewers that gives them an Amazon Video app,” “You pay for Prime for physical fulfillment. To me, it’s a bargain.” I don’t really agree with any of those opinions. But hey, you know what they say about opinions, everybody’s got one.

    Look, I get it, you’re an Amazon fan. You certainly seem to have drunk their kool-aid and bought into their ecosystem/vision for retail and media. Cool. I’m not anti-Amazon, necessarily, but I’m not a proponent of them either. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of any of these major corporate tech behemoths. I weigh out what I like and don’t like among each and do business accordingly. And one thing I’ve grown tired of, one reason I’m moving away from Apple products and services, is ecosystem lock-in and a desire of a large company to push their agenda on the customers who pay them rather than trying to please the customer.

  43. He probably meant, ” . . . don’t look for us to leave the consumer space, just the DVR space.” And while we’re on the subject, some more satire: No real person nor any individual representing Rovi or TiVo said the following, but one could imagine such a response in alternate universe:

    “Oh, and we don’t like the costs, however nominal people might think it to be, of providing service to all the current TiVo DVR’s out there, so, yes, those TiVo DVR’s will be bricks soon enough. But hey, it is not as if I’ve said that current TiVo subs need not worry about their DVR’s functioning today or for a foreseeable period. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid saying anything even remotely re-assuring to our current subscribers who have made huge financial investments in the Tom Rogers era products. Hey, I even avoid using the term “DVR” in any public comments because I don’t want all those TiVo fans getting their hopes up that we won’t brick those DV–uh, machines before the end of the year. We’re being responsible in being as ambiguous as we can, or, perhaps, more accurately, saying and doing things as if all those TiVo DV–uh machines even exist. Ignore and pretend they are not there, and pretty soon, it just melts away; people will stop talking about, so when the coup de gras comes in the Friday email that those DV-uh machines no longer have service on Monday, no one will have had time to mount an exodus campaigns or join the Windows Media Center support groups. I suppose I could say something re-assuring, but its more fun this way. The good news for our shareholders is that any legal actions taken against us will immediately be sent to arbitration (as part of our user agreement) where a kindly, retired, elderly, sometimes napping, no longer really a judge–or maybe he was never a judge–shall oversee such cases with expeditious dispatch in the same vigorous jurisprudence pioneered by the late Roland Freisler, politically correct tongue lashings to be dispensed to any of those who dare to be plaintiff’s in our–I mean his court of binding arbitration, and you can guess in who’s favor those so-called rulings will be. Uh, our legal beagle is giving me a pretty weird look right now with the finger running across his throat, so I guess we should move on, right? Yeah, that’s what he is a saying. OK. Thank goodness we always have a lawyer here for these calls. It keeps staff from saying anything stupid like stuff that can be used against us in a real court of law. So, next question, please.”

  44. Tim,

    “Look, I get it, you’re an Amazon fan . You certainly seem to have … bought into their ecosystem/vision for … media.”

    I’ve bought into their digital content services primarily for one reason, which I keep trying to clarify: they’re platform-agnostic on how you consume them, show all current indications they will continue to be platform-agnostic, and most importantly, think have strong incentives to continue being platform-agnostic.

    I don’t drink the kool-aid served by any big tech corporates, but I do seek out the particular product lines of ones whom I think have incentives that align with my own incentives. It’s the best way I know to guess how they’ll behave in the future.

    “one reason I’m moving away from Apple products and services, is ecosystem lock-in and a desire of a large company to push their agenda”

    Half-agree! I tend to love Apple computers and mobile devices, though less and less over time as software QC and UX have significantly decreased. But I continue to stick with those products because, no matter how hard I search, I can’t find alternatives I consider viable. But Apple services? I avoid them like the plague, and have forever. Badly implemented, unreliable, and tied to platform lock-in. Proud to say my household has never given up credit card info to Apple.

    “you’re simply offering up differing opinions … I don’t really agree with any of those opinions. But hey, you know what they say about opinions, everybody’s got one.”

    I honestly don’t understand how this one particular topic got so unpleasantly contentious, Tim. All the valuable commenters here are mostly just offering up educated opinions. And I genuinely consider you to you to be be a valuable commenter, and enjoy reading your educated opinions !!!

    My only real point here has been that I don’t think you understand Amazon’s strategic goals, either for Prime video or Prime in general, and I’ve been trying to lay out their thinking for you. Note well that I’m not telling you should like Amazon’s strategy, or that it’s in your individual interest to be an Amazon customer, be it of Prime video or anything else. We all have different use-case-scenarios.

    But really, beyond the various tangents, I’ve just been trying to explain their motivations and incentives, cuz you’re usually mostly on target about such things, and I don’t think you are here. (If I didn’t generally value your educated opinions, I’d likely have ignored you here. Plus, we’re both doing this in the wrong thread.)

  45. “Damage control?”

    Yup. But it says nothing. Artful damage control.

  46. Dave – anything and everything Amazon is willing to pony up. There is a big misunderstanding that smaller cable operators (in general) are trying to defend their legacy video businesses. There isn’t much left to defend given the rapid rise of programming costs that can’t be passed on to customers (how happy would ‘cable customers’ be if their cable bills went up EVERY year by 5% or more….?). Some of us are eager to get out of the middle of the relationship between content owners and end customers. Let the content owners demand their annual price increases directly from the customer rather than hiding behind the distributors.

  47. Thanks for illuminating things, Little Bird. I’ve been following the ACA closer in the last year and do recognize notable differences in the concerns, costs, etc of large cable operators vs smaller ones.

  48. Please allow some leeway for my musings about Amazon and TiVo.

    I don’t understand Amazon investing in its own content. My wish is Amazon would take the TiVo box, sell or offload it’s own Prime Video, open the box to all apps Netflix, Hulu, HBOnow, SlingTV, future offerings ESPNwatch, etc… and be the sole provider of a la carte movies.

    Offer PrimeShopping clients low-end TiVo as part of PrimeShopping (2 yr commitment) with ability to pay to upgrade to more powerful box.

    Like Amazon Market, Amazon could handle, for a small cut of the action, all customer service for video providers.

    If I were Amazon, I’d consider including VOiP for landline phone, fold in GoogleVoice-like telephone service, and turn the telcos into purely data providers.

    For Amazon, such an offering seems far more “sticky” and sustainable than competing on programming.

    Consumers like me who don’t like being locked into a walled garden (like Apples), are placated by the somewhat open market of alternative video apps.

  49. LOL, Tivo is dead, even on the oft touted software side they can’t code themselves out of a paper bag these days. I remember the last of my tivo’s (before I wised up and ebayed them all) got an update for MLB extra- the damn thing was an abomination- constantly locking up, rebooting and a UI that was put together hopefully (for their sake) after a full night of partying. As for the commercial skip- all we could do is wonder- does it work, or does it not- same program, different night? Oh well, the PS Vue works pretty well for me now.

  50. What Rovi is saying is that they will continue to push the TiVo UI to consumers via someone else’s hardware. Reading between the lines of their statement, it may mean they will no longer be selling their own hardware, so it’s goodbye to any future TiVo retail hardware. Rovi is a B2B company.