TiVo Premiere Price Drop! Sort Of?

Dave Zatz —  November 13, 2010

Click to enlarge.

I’m on the road visiting family in Florida, and it just so happens Mom subscribes to the newspaper (how quaint). And in tomorrow’s Best Buy circular the TiVo Premiere is listed for a low $99.99… after $200 in savings. But it’s not quite clear where that savings comes from and if this is a limited time promotion. Now Best Buy has run previous dealios at this price point, but it required the purchase of a television — yet there’s no mention of similar this time around. Additionally, last night I was tipped on a deal at 6th Avenue Electronics where they’re offering the Premiere for $99 with free shipping. (Using coupon code AFL4COUPON knocked another 4 bucks off.)

However, all may not be as it appears… If you recall, TiVo experimented with a cell phone-esque pricing model earlier this fall. Basically, you pick up a subsidized TiVo Premiere for free and pay $20/month with a two year commitment or take the DVR for $100 and pay $20/mo for one year. Whereas recent TiVo service fees have your first DVR running $12.95/mo, while multi-service discount clocks in at $9.95/mo or $6.95/mo (grandfathered).

Assuming the traditional/typical subscription fees were in effect, I purchased a second Premiere this AM from 6ave.com to replace our Series3 and was hopeful of migrating my existing MSD rate to the new unit. But confusion reigns on several online forums today as it’s not quite clear what the current and possibly new TiVo monthly fees are. And, unfortunately, neither Best Buy’s insert or 6th Ave specify what’s expected – although Best Buy does state a minimum 1-year commitment is required. I leave you with one SlickDeals member’s chat transcript with TiVo as food for thought:

(Thanks for all the tips, Brennokbob and Jon!)

41 responses to TiVo Premiere Price Drop! Sort Of?

  1. I’ve emailed TiVo for clarification on my 6th Ave purchase. If I can’t transfer my $6.95/mo MSD, I’ll send the new Premiere back. As it is, I have a decommissioned TiVo HD collecting dust which can take over the S3 if/when it dies.

  2. Noted at the end of an article just put online by the NYT: “On Monday, TiVo announces holiday-season price cuts on its TiVo Premier products.” See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/business/14every.html

  3. If this turns out to be true, it will not be a good move for TiVo. I am curious how they are going to justify it especially since you can still sign up for the 2 years at $19.99 a month with no money down. http://www.tivo.com/promo/gettivo

    I really find it tough to believe they would be this stupid. Hopefully I am not giving them too much credit.

    They will really have a bad PR issue on their hands if all these people go to activate and find a new rate other than the one on the site when they ordered.

  4. I have given up on Tivo…just waiting to get my unit back from being lobotomized from the beta trials.

  5. I can confirm that this price point involves 19.99 a month for one year commitment… no idea if you can change it later though.

  6. TiVo’s website says the pricing is good through 12/31, for whatever that’s worth. Also, knowing the new pricing details I’d say Best Buy’s ad is somewhat deceptive because it’s doesn’t specific “hardware” … so you’re not really saving $200. One year with the old numbers ($300, $13/mo) is $455ish. Whereas one year with the new numbers ($100, $20/mo) is $340ish. So that’s a savings of about $115. Not to mention, it was pretty easy to find the Premiere for less than $300. And, as JoN wonders, what rate do you get after that first year? Early indications during TiVo’s pricing experiment were that rate is permanently locked to one’s account…

  7. Well based on all the online retailers dropping their prices to $99ish, I assume 6ave was just a day early. Not sure how this will play out for those of us who ordered before the new pricing went into effect. I tried to cancel my order via Amazon Payments but all I could do was send an email to 6ave.

    Also, if TiVo doesn’t honor the former pricing options (like transferring my MSD online), 6ave may make us eat the return shipping fees:

    If your order was shipped for free or at a promotional shipping rate, you will incur the actual “to and from” UPS/Freight charges upon returning merchandise.

    By the way, NONE of these sites that I’ve seen so far indicate what the expected TiVo service fee is. Not a good situation…

  8. I went to the website and looked at the offers for current customers. What annoys me is even though I have a lifetime subscription, I would have to pay $199 to continue my subscription even if I purchased a $499 new unit.


  9. Okay, rolling this out in this way is NOT cool. The devices have actually been available for about a WEEK at the 99$ price point, I think it was electronicsave.com that had them first, then the 6ave deal came out, and now BB offering the 99$. I was actually going to order TWO for the PIL, since they are moving from D* to CC soon, and I don’t think they are going to like the CC DVR offerings at all. What with CC charging something like 15$ a month to lease a DVR box, I figured why not spread that love to TIVO.

    This new SNEAKY in my opinion pricing model is not the best way of gaining new customers, or keeping the current customers both CURRENT and LOYAL. I know they have earnings coming out next week (of course this won’t affect them at all) but it all wreaks of rats leaving a ship.

    I liked the $19.99 a month plan for HW and service (not for me mind you but I think it had a good place in a service offering) why not give it a BIT more time to work its way out? Now it is buy the HW for 100$, AND pay 19.99$ a month.

    Will goog or appl just buy these guys already and give it away for free.

    disclaimer. Currently long Dec/Jan 10-13 TIVO calls.

  10. Woo-hoo!

    Apparently, the method to upgrade HD’s in the Premiere has now been successfully open-sourced.

    With the new $95 price point on the Premiere, I think it’s about time for me to upgrade my 1TB TiVo HD to a Premiere, open it up, and toss in a 2TB HD.

    I’ll still run the classic UI, but I’m thinking the faster transfer speeds and the extra terabyte are worth the the two Franklins. Plus, I’ll get the 1TB currently inside the TiVo HD for backup purposes in the bargain.

  11. Check out the chat I just had with a TiVo rep… It is $19.99/mth for any *new* activation of a TiVo box — regardless of whether you’re an existing customer.

    Christopher: Hi, my name is Christopher. How may I help you?
    TiVo Customer: Can you tell me what the montly service fee is for a new Tivo Premiere purchased at a retailer?
    Christopher: The monthly service cost is $19.99.
    TiVo Customer: Is the $13.95 rate available only to existing customers who already have their Tivo activated?
    Christopher: No, the monthly rate is $19.99, for all new activations. Existing and new customers both will pay the same rate for new activations.
    TiVo Customer: Okay, I understand. Thank you for your help!

  12. Now I wonder about family plans as well… I have 3 boxes… What would happen to my account if I added a 4th…

    What if I bought a used s3 from a friend?

    So many questions and hardly any answers….

    I’m not looking to get more hardware soon, but I don’t like the trend of confusing and variable pricing…

  13. “Okay, rolling this out in this way is NOT cool”

    OK. Now that I’ve followed up on the details, I agree wholeheartedly.

    I’ve got no problem with TiVo having multiple pricing options, but they definitely did this in a confusing manner that does not inspire trust.

    But I’m still excited that Premiere HD upgrades have been successfully open sourced. I think I’m willing to pay the full price on a Premiere as long as I can open it up and stick in my own 2TB drive. It’s not as much of a bargain as it would’ve been if they were truly selling the hardware for $95, but it’s still a reasonable deal at full price.

  14. I managed to cancel my order with 6ave via email as I highly doubt I could migrate my grandfathered $6.95 MSD online. I probably could have worked with TiVo directly to get it done the way I wanted, but I’ll save that $95.04 for some other gadget. Or to help offset the $475 in masonry work I had done on my new (to me) chimney yesterday. New home, new projects. Time to start a new blog? ;)

  15. “Time to start a new blog?”

    Masonryz Not Funny?

  16. Zatz Not Handy.

  17. Ain’t that the truth! ;)

  18. Regardless of what the reps are saying, TiVo’s own website still lists the $13/month pricing option if you pay full price for the box. I think the chat log from Dan above is another case of a misinformed or confused rep.
    You can see the current direct options here: https://www3.tivo.com/store/premiere.do?WT.ac=home_shophome

  19. The plan somewhat makes sense if TiVo is going to be releasing new hardware yearly. The problem is TiVo’s history and comments don’t point to this.

    Now if we see a newer Premiere released next October assuming they finish this Premiere by then, maybe this is indeed their plan.

  20. “The plan somewhat makes sense if TiVo is going to be releasing new hardware yearly.”

    I think the plan makes sense regardless.

    Having $0, $99, and full freight price points makes perfect business sense. TiVo’s only error was their inability to be up front with the pricing details at the moment of the launch.


    “Now if we see a newer Premiere released next October assuming they finish this Premiere by then, maybe this is indeed their plan.”

    That’s the only thing that makes me hold off upgrading.

    I’m quite happy with my 1TB TiVo HD.

    Now that the Premiere hard drive can be home upgraded, I could upgrade my box to a premiere for $200, and pop in a 2TB HD for $90 to $150 depending on my acoustical requirements.

    The price is close to being worth it for me for the increased storage and faster transfer speeds, even though I’d be running the the classic UI on the Premiere. But I’m somewhat inclined to hold off on the basis that TiVo might soon enough release a box that has the hardware to actually run the new UI.

    (OTOH, one wonders if a platform developed on Flash will ever be “mature”, no matter what hardware you throw at it…)

  21. By the way, Chucky… I believe I predicted this mass confusion. ;) Too many options are bad. And the outreach was bungled because the marketing/PR and sales teams aren’t moving in lockstep. I didn’t get to Best Buy today — I’m curious what sort of signage is out, if any, regarding the service fees.

  22. “By the way, Chucky… I believe I predicted this mass confusion.”

    Yes. You did. But TiVo’s problem was execution on the ground, not the overall tiered pricing strategy.

    Either condoning or being ignorant of stuff like the blatantly false Best Buy ad you show at the top of the thread is an unforced error.

    Tiered pricing makes sense. Lying to your prospective customers is bad business practice.

    “And the outreach was bungled because the marketing/PR and sales teams aren’t moving in lockstep.”

    This degree of difficulty in avoiding something like this really is pretty low. If your prediction was based on thinking that even minor tasks are beyond the competency of Team TiVo, then I endorse your accuracy. Otherwise, you just caught a lucky roll here…

  23. Tivo has changed pricing and altered options many times in the past 10 years, and I don’t recall it having been this confusing/sneaky/covert. Maybe they fired their marketing group prior to their sales group putting this puppy out there.

  24. @Chucky

    The problem is it isn’t a deal at all. In the past it might have been, but you can find the Premiere at electronics-expo routinely for less than MSRP and when you add in lifetime at $299 you are maybe paying $100 more than $100+19.99 a month for a year.

    Even if you do upgrade yearly, lifetime will still hold the value in resale.

  25. tivoboy, don’t know about the covert angle, but we did experience mass confusion in 2006 when changes were made and a subscriber’s monthly fee was variable and determined by length of contract/commitment…


  26. “The problem is it isn’t a deal at all.”

    Sure. I certainly wouldn’t go for the $0 or $99 options. I’d buy a Premiere at full freight now that I can home upgrade the hard drive. (Well, actually, I’d take advantage of the $199 upgrade deal they’re offering to current subscribers.)

    But lots of consumers are happy to pay more over time in order to pay less up front. Those consumers may be suckers, but I’ve got nothing against TiVo trying to get their business.

    TiVo has a problem in this particular rollout with deception, either through carelessness or through malice. But I continue to think it makes good business sense for them to target consumers who are willing to pay more over time in order to pay less up front.

  27. it seems the only real issue in this pricing at 19.95 for retail DVRs is does the 19.95 continue after the 1 year is up.

    From all I read – I could simply cancel at the end of 1 year and then be activating an “old” TiVo at whatever rate my account allows, including MSD.

    I am really not seeing a clear cut statement from TiVo that the 19.95 is really “locked” to that TiVo DVR forever.

  28. Going long more Tivo Jan options with this info (and others). I’ll give my reasoning in Jan. :-)

  29. Zeo, I assume as you do that you should be able to cancel and resubscribe at whatever that prevailing rate is. However, they’ll probably lock you into another 1 year contract. As a hardware flipper, that’s something I’ll avoid. I have one Premiere with Lifetime, anything else will stay at the $6.95/mo MSD (knowing I flip hardware). However, I did read on the TCF that you can no longer transfer service by TSN online yourself… hmmm.

    Chucky, I doubt it was malice. Just poor planning and poor communication. I agree the zero upfront will appeal to many for various reasons. Anecdotally, based on our affiliate account, that particular plan/promotion seemed to generate a lot of interest and sales. (Which funded my just ordered 13″ MBA w/ 4GB of memory.)

  30. “Which funded my just ordered 13″ MBA w/ 4GB of memory”

    You are wise to have special ordered the 4GB up front. Apple’s decision solder the RAM is nasty.

    I’ve got a very similar machine at the moment. It’s a current version MBP w 4GB and Apple SSD. It’s beautiful gear. Runs cool, smooth, and with lots of teh snappy just where you want it.

    In short, you should be happy with your MBA. (Of course, the fact that OS X seems to have been EOL’d is a major drag, but since the hardware lifetime on a laptop is only 3 years to begin with, there’s still no reason yet not to buy ’em.)

  31. I’ve got the original 13″ unibody Macbook (with 4GB). As we discussed last spring, I often had a hard time with a bazillion tabs open. But have improved the situation since moving from Firefox to Chrome (and inherited new issues). It’s kind of a bummer to take the hit in processing speed (it’s less powerful than my 2 year old machine), but I rarely render video and play zero games. What I’m on the lookout for now is a new travel bag. And once we get moved next month, a non-Apple LCD.

  32. Tangentially, it’s remarkable just how trivial the hardware requirements are for a HTPC compared to a laptop.

    – My TiVo HD has all the computing power of a mid-1990’s Mac, and yet still performs like a champ.

    – My Mac Mini HTPC has 2GB of RAM and a 5200RPM HD, and yet still is overpowered to serve as both a HTPC and a home server simultaneously.

    Compare to the minimum requirements for a decent experience with a laptop running modern OS X, which really are 4GB and an SSD…

  33. The difference is probably binary action and minimal chrome (at the television) versus multi-tasking (at a computer). Also consuming (at the TV) versus creating (at the PC). But you’d probably feel different if you were a gamer. Back when I ran a projector powered by a HTPC, I had to beef it up for the occasional gaming.

  34. “I often had a hard time with a bazillion tabs open. But have improved the situation since moving from Firefox to Chrome (and inherited new issues).”

    As always:

    – The desire to have 100+ tabs open is reasonable.

    – The desire of browsers to treat background tabs as requiring constant CPU cycles is psychotic.

    – The workaround is to use a default browser with JavaScript and all Plug-Ins disabled. When you come across a webpage that you want to view as the page designers intended, you hit a keyshortcut that you’ve previously tied to a 6 line AppleScript that launches the page in a “full-featured” browser. With an SSD, the whole “view in a second browser” process takes a fraction of a second.

    I’ve currently got over 200 tabs open in my default browser with JavaScript and all Plug-Ins disabled. If I look in Activity Monitor, the browser is sucking up 600MB of RAM, but only 0.2 to 0.3 percent of CPU despite all those open tabs. With an SSD to make viewing a page in a secondary browser with “features” enabled essentially instantaneous, you’re got a painless “bazillion tabs open” workflow…

  35. looks like TiVoPony answered one of the questions.

    After the one year commitment it stays at $19.99 with no commitment.

  36. @Dave – right it would be a minimum 1 year contract to put the normal pricing on the DVR after the first year. Used to be you could just hit the website and scoot a new TSN into place when you flipped hardware.

    Now that option is not on the website and you have to call in to swap out a TSN. I have no idea what restrictions if any would come up when calling in.

    Loosing the ability to easily swap TSNs on normal pricing plans would be a much bigger deal to me then some goofy Christmas shopping promo price.

  37. Looks the WAPO thinks the “deal” is a bit sneaky as well


    RE: MBA11 13″, I think it is an excellent machine. I normally have it open about 25 tabs in FF every morning for easy reading. The MBA just seems VERY quick indeed. Might have to now put an SSD in my MBP 15″ to see how well that works.

    I REALLY like the instant on/off, and I really like the weight and I REALLY like the screen (is isn’t anywhere NEAR as GLASSY as the other macbook products) and the speed is just fine.

    Oh, and the battery life is excellent. I have killflash installed on FF, and I get over 10 HOURS or normal email/web use. CRAZY excellent battery life batman

  38. Wow, I feel extremely lucky that I activated my new Premiere XL unit before all this went into effect (bought for half the price at Electronics Expo a month or so ago using a coupon, so it’s different from $99 or $0 deals now).

    Activated about 8-10 days ago and back then you could actually do TSN transfers yourself. Since I had my S2DT on $7/mo discounted plan, so I was able to transfer that to XL without any issues (don’t need S2DT anymore, since using XL for OTA HD).

    The screen did remark that it should mostly be used for warranty exchange purposes, but now they are REALLY cracking down on this. This is the relevant article updated 11/13/10 — http://support.tivo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/20

  39. Chucky, could you elaborate on, or post a link to, this open-sourced upgrade method for the Premiere that you’ve mentioned a few times? Is this something new that is different from the various methods that folks have been using the last several years? Is it supported by TiVo now (i.e. doesn’t void your warranty)? Thanks!

  40. A little research has revealed “comer”‘s all-in-one jmfs Live CD. Is this what you are referring to?

  41. After many calls to TiVo, I got the person to check with a supervisor on the current promotions. They said that the $100+$20/mo for a year applies to all units purchased from retailers after Nov 14 and that after the one year, the sub would continue at $20/mo until you cancel it. (Hard to believe but I was pretty picky about getting the correct answer). Currently the only way to get a new unit ($300) with a lifetime sub ($400) is to call TiVo and order both from them at the same time.