TiVo Needs Cable… Or Do They?

Todd Spangler of Multichannel News wrote a thoughtful piece summarizing TiVo’s challenge in reaching a critical mass:

It’s easier to get a DVR from your cable company. And most people prefer to rent, not own, a set-top. Indeed, most DVRs in use today are already supplied by cable companies, according to a Carmel Group study. TiVo’s survival depends on cable. Cable has limited incentives to see it succeed. Does TiVo have a way out?

For quite awhile I really felt like the Comcast deal would “save” TiVo by exposing them to millions of households and filling their coffers with software licensing royalties. But that was before the NY Times started writing about CableCARDs, before the new lower cost HD model was released (spotted for $258 at Circuit City), and before peace was made with DirecTV. With the change in DirecTV leadership, it looks like TiVo will even be providing software updates once again:

Launching in early 2008, the new software download will provide these customers with DVR enhancements offered with the TiVo service, including a Recently Deleted Folder and Overlap Protection(TM), as well as DIRECTV’s Remote Booking feature. In addition, DIRECTV and TiVo will continue to explore ways to bring future enhancements to DIRECTV customers with TiVo receivers.

Who knows where this renewed chumminess might lead? Todd is right in that TiVo needs partners (they’re fighting an unfair battle with companies entrenched in homes), but cable isn’t the only game in town… (and there’s more to the world than just the US).

PS All signs point towards a launch of Comcast’s TiVo software in New England this month. Stay tuned.

11 thoughts on “TiVo Needs Cable… Or Do They?”

  1. I’m actually really excited to buy one of the new HD TiVos and use it with new crystal clear over air HD. So I think you’re right… I’m not sure TiVo needs cable at all.

  2. it sucks for companies like tivo and sling (kind of) who are at the mercy of the conglomerates. hopefully comcast/tivo will provide a nest egg and opportunity to transition to tivo products… speaking of tivo, record dateline tonight, its a special ‘to catch a predator’ on ipods, and my friend is featured in the article! (www.stolenipods.com) who knows, i might even be in some of the shots, i was there for the filming

  3. Dish, Direct and Comcast can do whatever they like, but i don’t do business with a company that fails to offer the REAL Tivo.

    Anything else is just white bread. I didn’t/don’t spend 2K and hours of my life in entertainment for second best.

    Tivo is King.

  4. I’d love to have one of the new HD TiVos in my house, but with Time Warner switching to SDV in the next few months, who knows which channels I’ll actually be able to receive. It’s changes like that that will keep TiVo a niche player in the market as long as they’re a third-party. Hopefully deals like Comcast and Cox will let them transition to being a successful software provider.

  5. Peter, Missy – For those in the know that’s usually true, but TiVo’s stand-alone subscriber numbers have been pretty stagnant for some time now. I’m not sure how successful that recent massive advertising campaign was (My TiVo Gets Me). They may have been better off saving the millions ($$$) for the launch of this new HD unit while also running a CableCARD educational campaign with the CEA. Maybe they still can.

  6. I don’t get the assumption that people prefer to rent, not buy, their set top boxes.

    Since when have they had a choice?

    Other than TiVo (and ReplayTV) which, before CableCARDs, did not REPLACE their cable box… what STBs could a person buy at retail?

  7. There’s been a few… some more featured than others. The best (and I use that word loosely) of the rest in recent years are the two Sony models (CableCARD) and LG’s Microsoft DVR (all have been discontinued).

    Your point is a good one though, which is why I think an educational advertising campaign by some of these guys could pay off… An independent TiVo will offer a better TiVo experience (never mind VOD and SDV for the moment). In fact, I think that’s what is pushing Digeo’s Moxi into retail — they’ve created many cool features that their cable partners won’t deploy or is slow to deploy. I hope Digeo, TiVo, and the CEA partner to get the word out.

  8. I also think it depends on the market you’re in.

    Some markets have decent STBs and DVRs.

    My market uses the most horrible I have ever experienced. It’s a TW (previously Adelphia) Scientific Atlanta running the crap-tastic Passport software.

    If I had Moxi or some other software on a different box, maybe I could live with it.

    But there’s no way in hell I’m paying TW $100+ for digital cable and HD to be crippled by such a horrible piece of hardware/software like they offer here.

    Hell, Time Warner hasn’t even put their logo on the VOD screens yet so where Adelphia once was it’s just blank. It’s the ugliest thing ever!

  9. I got one clear sign that Comcast’s TiVo software rollout was coming this month. That sign was a letter in my mailbox yesterday informing that they’d be jacking the dvr monthly fee $3 because of “all the money they’re investing” in new technology. I ordered FiOS last week and now I don’t feel one bit guilty about it. FiOS was cheaper prior to that letter (and I get more), now they’ve just widened the gap.

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