TiVo “Lifetime” Service Lasts 10 Years? (UK)

TiVo’s winding down support operations for their original UK DVR offering across the pond, with Series1 service slated to cease on June 1st, 2011. Active users should have recently seen an incoming message from TiVo on their PVR detailing the potentially bad news. Although service will remain free… until it’s gone. Unfortunately, without service those folks may end up with a rather bulky paperweight. From TiVo:

Without the program guide data provided by the TiVo service, Series1 boxes will have limited – if any – functionality. They can still be used to view previously recorded programs and, under certain circumstances, may be used to record programs manually.

The company’s hoping for an orderly transition onto their new Virgin TiVo UK platform. In fact, there’s some sort of vague upgrade program in place that “extends a special offer” to existing owners. Yet, I imagine a large percent of these folks aren’t physically located within Virgin Media’s territory along with those who are probably content with their existing television provider and hardware solution.

Given the headline, the angle that obviously interests me most is the fallout related to owners who had purchased “Lifetime Service”… and what it could foreshadow here in the US if TiVo ever tires of providing dialup guide data. Nicholas de Villiers comments on TiVo’s blog entry:

I’m sorry, but when I gave TiVo £200 for a “lifetime” subscription, it meant for the lifetime of the hardware according to the contract. As my hardware is still in perfect working order and still regularly making daily calls, I’ll be expecting a refund of my money.

While I can’t comprehend running 10 year old DVR hardware, I do understand his perspective.

26 thoughts on “TiVo “Lifetime” Service Lasts 10 Years? (UK)”

  1. I too wonder what kind of backlash TiVo is going to get. I’d be properly upset if TiVo all of a sudden told me they were go to stop supplying guide data to any of my boxes. My original S2 was purchased with lifetime service in 2004. Now I don’t use it as my primary DVR, it’s been sent to the kids room for cartoon duty. It also does not dial up, I’ve long ago purchased an ethernet adapter for it.

  2. I wish they would explain why they’re doing this. Is it that expensive to continue providing guide data to S1 units? (Does the UK have dial-up S2 units? If not, I could see how dropping S1 support would let them ditch their modem pools.) The lack of explanation makes me fearful that they might try the same thing in the US.

    As for 10-year old DVR hardware, I have a couple of 10-year-old Sony S1 units with lifetime subscriptions that are working fine and that I’m still using. (I’ve had to replace the HDDs a couple of times, though.) They’re attached to SDTVs, so I’m not compelled to upgrade them. (And I’m not compelled to upgrade the SDTVs if I have to get a new TiVo HD/Premiere, a new subscription, and a CableCard for each.)

  3. The 10 years is probably necessary for accounting purposes, regardless I highly doubt that there were be anywhere more than .05% (yes, half of 1%) of machines running after a decade.

  4. My series 1 is running just fine here in the UK – but obviously not for much longer. Yes it dials up at night so maybe they can save money by removing the modems – but AFAIK the service is provided by a satellite company who are maybe a bit unhappy that Tivo has hooked up with the Cable company who are their biggest competitor – either reason doesn’t help me of course.

    There is no viable alternative in the UK as no one ever made a Tivo other than the Thomson Series 1 – I would have upgraded if there was! The Tivo UI is still the best :-)

    However now I’m feeling just a bit miffed because I paid for lifetime an like the guy in the article an I’m still alive and so is my Tivo.

  5. Can’t comprehend running 10-year old hardware? If it works and provides satisfactory service, why not? Economic uncertainty abounds. Budgets are limited. New toys (tablets, smartphones, cameras) may have a higher priority than replacing serviceable old toys. Lots of things make holding on to working hardware a rational choice.

  6. My ten-year-old Tivo S1 is still the best PVR I have ever seen or used.

    I also have a Panasonic machine that was their top of the range a couple of years ago and it is pathetic in comparision to the old Tivo. Everything about it is worse than the Tivo, especially the user interface.

    I subscribed to Sky for a year and paid for a so-called PVR box from them. Apart from the fact that the functionality was terrible the boxes themselves were dreadful. I had three different boxes in six months, none of which worked properly and Sky’s so-called ‘service’ is laughable it is so bad.

  7. Michael, I guess I need to start putting winkies after every tongue in cheek line. Moxi killed your sense of technological humor. ;) As it is somewhat ironic that the earliest of DVR early adopters are still running that original SD, dial-up solution. But more power to them! Until June, anyway. It’d be interesting to get a tally of folks impacted… dozens, hundreds, thousands, more?

  8. Tivocommunity.com is down right now(the site has been limping for weeks) but thee was a thread started there in cofeehouse that had 2 important facts in it

    1. The TiVo DVRs have not been sold since 2003, so support dropping is not a massive surprise
    2. The TOS for lifetime on those UK boxes did have a 30 day clause where support could end.

    Likely VM wnated an exlusive and TiVo wants MSO deals so they gave VM exclusive.

  9. I caught the service going free last year and figured it was all over. But I didn’t realize “Lifetime” was in play over there which changes the dynamics. Like you said, it’s amazing that service has lasted this long given TiVo effectively abandoning the UK many years ago.

    Zeo, this comes from TiVo’s current terms of service here in the US. So the same move is possible. Although it’d probably be much uglier and end up in court, because that’s how we roll.

    “TiVo reserves the right to terminate your account and this Agreement for any other reason or no reason if TiVo gives you at least 30 days advance notice of such termination.”

  10. I was just coming here to point out the same section and rectify my earlier post.

    We do have the different condition in the US of TiVo not pulling out of the MSO market and it wouldhurt TiVo to sign any exclusivity deal in the US.

    But Virgin was likely being pretty reasonable when they said they did not want to compete with DVRs getting free service. :) I assume TiVo did some cost analysis on simply shutting down service and letting the lifetime holders decide if it was worth going after TiVo

  11. Sets a bad precedent. Now Lifetime is not Lifetime.

    At the very least, Tivo should let S1 users grab Program Info from another source. Open it up with a OS update to just that model.

    I have a buddy with ReplayTV. Remember those? He says it still works after all of these years and they aren’t even in business (sold off for their IP), still getting program info.

  12. the problem is in the fact that TiVo is getting back into the UK market. Before the VM deal – TiVo was giving away FREE guide data to UK users despite not having sold hardware for 7 years.

    But with a deal with VM, it is kind of hard to keep supplying free guide data to DVRs that can be used on Virgin Mobile. Maybe TiVo shoulkd have started charging again ;)

  13. That Tivo link also says you violate your warranty simply by upgrading your hard drive, which looks like a violation of Magnuson-Moss to me.

  14. Of course, that’s mostly CYA mumbo jumbo as I always see the Weaknees and DVRUpgrade guys at CES who are there meeting with TiVo’s sales group. Heck, they often know stuff before I do and/or have access to more compelling collateral materials.

  15. One shouldn’t need a lawyer reading the fine print when they make a one-time purchase of “lifetime” service. Tivo took the money.

    Even for those customers not affected and potential customers, this does not shed a good light on the quality of the firm. Why spend tons of money on marketing and then create PR damage like this to save what has to be very few dollars? Better to have an ad showing grandma still enjoying her 10-year old Tivo. Imagine if Ford stopped supplying parts or service for their cars after a few years?

    Tivo seems intent on alienating the dwindling number of loyal customers that they have. Management is clearly lame. Their days are numbered.

  16. I’ve had a “lifetime” service Tivo S1 for 8 years. It is still, by far and away, better than all the alternatives available in the UK. If I was in a Virgin cable area then I might be tempted.

    I have used my machine hooked up to a Freeview receiver so get all channels I need.

    Not looking forward to finding/building a replacement. I AM NOT HAPPY with the way Tivo have gone.

  17. I had a sprint cellphone with a plan called ‘unlimited nights and weekends’. Wasn’t it a surprise when I got that big bill for lots of late calls. I had so many customer service people tell me ‘It’s just the NAME of the plan.’.

    I don’t fault TiVo for doing what they gotta do, but I would imagine those holdouts could get a refurb S2 with network adapter out of it.

  18. @John Page and @Jon the Heretic: ReplayTV does still work using dial up in the US. I just sold off four units (three were ours and one my dad’s). The two Panasonic Showstoppers only worked via phone updates. The later 5000-series models had Ethernet built in but also could use dial up.

    The units I sold were all “lifetime service” which meant I could sell them for a pretty penny even though they were 6-10 years old. Alas, they were only SD and we’ve moved on to an HD world.

    DirectTV owns the service now and as far as I can tell they have not shut it off…yet. But they don’t sell anything anymore, not even the ill-fated PC-based software that was going up against BeyondTV and Windows Media Center for a while.

  19. I’m astounded that anyone who’s tech-minded enough to purchase a TiVo 10 years ago really cares about keeping a standard definition Series 1 box running today. The last time you could even buy this box was 8 years ago. How many other always-on electronics devices with moving parts actually last that long? Full disclosure: I own a DirecTiVo with lifetime service. It’s useless now. Big whoop.

  20. So I have finally succumbed to seeing what is being said about the demise of tivo here in the UK.

    I have various PVRs, both software and hardware based, and the various ones I have tried so far work ok, but their interfaces are not quite as polished as Tivos is – it was surprising that the Tompson box was quite so rudimentary, I suppose they did not want to get sued in a lookalike case.

    I paid 500 for a lifetime subscription back in roughly 1997 and so classify (I guess) as an early adopter in the UK anyway. The machine has worked perfectly and still does, yes I have upgraded the HD from the original and it provides tireless service.

    What I object to here is not the march of technology but the fact that Virgin media have simply said that – if you don’t live in a virgin cabled area you’re not our concern.

    Maybe some of the people commenting on this string do not realise quite how limited that coverage in the UK is. While “old” technology such as modems and signal carried over airways rather than Satellite (sky – expensive) and Cable (virgin media – not available in the burbs) is effectively free for lifetimers – 360 pounds + a year (600 dollars ish) for the replacement does not feel like any kind of value for money.

    I actually work in IT – keeping this kind of service up and running is as cheap as chips – maybe what should be offered is that people have a local number call to make (0870) that refunds the cost of running the infrastructure and keeps running til they stop getting calls (or it drops to some stupidly low number a day)

    Tivo/Virgin – are you listening?

  21. John, you’d do well to get a TiVo in 1997 as the company didn’t even exist then! The first TiVo’s came out in 1999 in the USA and in 2000 in the UK.

  22. Yup you’re right, my mistake – I remember buying it after the advert on TV where the guy was eating a sandwich and watching and then stopped when the tV was paused. I was fairly sure I had it before y2k though. Oh well …

  23. Ive still got a s1 sony unit with lifetime running since 2002 strictly for the monthly service discount on the other 2 tivos I have. I had to change the hard drive 3 times. The modem fried twice and I put in an ethernet card to bypass the crappy modem.

    I dont see why, If they are shutting down service to the s1s, tivo cant just let them transfer that lifetime service to a new unit since its tivo who is shutting the units down.

  24. In the UK, they only offer(ed) the Series 1 and now the Virgin Media TiVo (on Cisco hardware). They want folks (who can) to switch to Virgin… where there is no such thing as Lifetime.

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