TiVo Mini Pricing Confirmed. No Netflix?


UPDATE: Our TiVo Mini review is live!

Leading up to the official TiVo Mini retail announcement next week, TiVo’s gone ahead and launched a “test” page (now offline) that confirms both functionality and pricing. As you can see above, $100 hardware will be accompanied by either a $6 monthly service fee or a $150 one-time charge. On the functionality front, there’s not much new to learn… other than the conspicuous absence of both Netflix and Amazon apps from their listing of online partners. Amazon Instant is somewhat understandable given TiVo’s archaic, but high quality, download implementation in light of the Mini’s very limited storage. But the absence of Netflix is somewhat puzzling, despite previously being warned of missing apps. Ah well, there’s always the Roku 3?

(via TiVo Community Forum, thanks Sam and Brennok!)

77 thoughts on “TiVo Mini Pricing Confirmed. No Netflix?”

  1. The Tivo Mini looks like a truly great device, but I cannot figure out what the “service” chage is for, or what services are provided.

  2. I assume it’s for their benefit when communicating subscriber count to investors along with recurring revenue, pitching their analytics business (with larger subscriber count), and potential profit margins. Having said that, while $250 for the box with Lifetime is a bit steep, it’s not insane. Although the apparently MIA Netflix app holds me back a bit. Hm.

  3. I agree that the monthly service fee seems unnecessary and excessive. I can’t think of any other hardware device requiring monthly payments to function. Who would buy a Blu-ray player that won’t play discs without paying a monthly fee?

    It seems to me TiVo has more overhead expenses than competitors, who seem to be able to turn a profit on hardware sales alone.

  4. Tivo was one of the first devices to offer Netflix streaming and they still proceeded to lose millions of subscribers. Plus the Tivo apps are inferior to apps on much cheaper non DVR devices.

  5. I expect we will see Netflix and hopefully Amazon on the Mini along with other content sources (MLB) sometime later this year. I would be very curious if Netflix is a technical or licensing issue.

    For my particular setup, I have Roku or Apple TV or Smart TVs with built-in apps on all 3 of my televisions so missing Netflix is not that big of a deal.

  6. Dave,
    there is really no justification for this. Comparing it Xbox live gold is really not close. You don’t need live gold to do any of the core functionality of the XBox, which is play games. You do need it to play games online, but given how crappy the online experience on the PS3, i’d rather have gold. Now if the rumored XBox set top box comes out and they force you to have gold on that, then you have an argument. But $250 for a box that will get Tivo’s lackluster support and EOL after a year seems crazy. Compare this to the eventual functionality of the Verizon Gateway, and it just seems a waste.

  7. I think a reasonable way to look at the Mini thin client is to compare it to other current and past retail DVR extender products. The MoxiMate was $299 so the Mini is is $50 less than that for the product with lifetime ($249). The Ceton Echo extender is $179 and doesn’t include MoCA and doesn’t support OTT apps at all. There aren’t any other retail extender products unless you start to look at the Sling which doesn’t provide a good comparison (JMHO).

  8. @Ananth,

    Actually I think the XBox Live Gold comparo is perfectly apt. If you want to watch Netflix or Hulu or … on an XBox you have to pay for an XBox Live Gold subscription. It doesn’t matter that other boxes offer the same service for free. If you want to use the XBox for these functions you pay the fee. That’s all.

    What is the fee for? Its a fee that TiVo charges you because they want to, and because they can. It doesn’t matter what its for. If you don’t like it don’t buy the box. The rest is just a waste of energy.

  9. “I would be very curious if Netflix is a technical or licensing issue.”

    It is a real head-scratcher, and one would certainly love to understand the story here.

    I mean, my microwave has a Netflix client. My electric toothbrush has a Netflix client. Until this blog post, I was under the impression that it was against US law to sell any consumer electronic equipment without a Netflix client.

  10. The “not a bad deal” comment came from within TiVo’s offices. We generally frown upon anonymous relevant commentary without disclosure. Yet, I agree with this individual buying the Mini with “lifetime” is not a bad deal – but paying monthly could be a bad deal depending upon how long one keeps it around and dependent upon any potential future rate hikes… which we’ve seen before.

    By the by, looks like TiVo took down that TiVo Mini webpage. Guess we’ll have to wait a few days for a relaunch once they get all their ducks in a row.

  11. “The “not a bad deal” comment came from within TiVo’s offices. We generally frown upon anonymous relevant commentary without disclosure – it’s not professional”

    If they’d just take the time and effort to use a damn proxy server, they’d at least be showing proper respect. By not doing so, they imply Dave is lazy or a shill, which is simply rude.

    “Yet, I agree with this individual that it’s not a bad deal buying the Mini with “lifetime” – but paying monthly could be a bad deal depending upon how long one keeps it around”

    Two and a half benjamins is not a bad deal, assuming that the the Mini is the initial rollout of S5 hardware, and Alviso is going to get around to pushing out new S5 apps for Netflix, Amazon, and some others.

    If this is really only S4.5 hardware, then you’re better off just paying the $100, and dropping it down a well in a year to get the S5. That’s the question.

    Perhaps Hi can clarify for us…

  12. “The “not a bad deal” comment came from within TiVo’s offices. We generally frown upon anonymous relevant commentary without disclosure – it’s not professional”

    This anonymous cheerleading comment just reinforces my belief that Tivo and its employees exist in a vacuum, oblivious to the fact that they routinely release half-baked products at uncompetitive prices.

    I’m awaiting posts from early-adopting consumers detailing their frustration when they realize critical parts of the Mini don’t work correctly and subsequently start asking when the first software updates will be released.

  13. I kinda do think $250 is a bad deal… $150 would be a great deal, imo. $180 would be a good/decent deal. $200 would be a tolerable deal.

    As someone else mentioned in the TCF, if they’re only charging fees to puff their subscription count, then give us the box for free. Especially for those who have shelled out as much as $1000 for the Lifetimed DVR that this box leeches off of. Give those people some kind of a break.

  14. It is rumored that one issue they face is pressure from the MSO partners who take priority over retail now. They got negative feedback over the fact the Stream didn’t have a service fee and the one cable company leases theirs for $10 a month. It just shows how badly cable companies rip off the consumers. One can only hope one day we get someone with power who actually cares enough about fixing it.

    I don’t think it is a bad deal. I don’t think it is great either. I think there is a lot of marketplace pressure for a lower total price and that should trump any pressure from the MSOs and their ridiculous prices.

    If it had been $150 total and came out with the Elite I would probably have one in my house since I had someone staying in my spare bedroom then. Now at $250 I will try and sell my mom on one for when I want to upgrade from my Elite.

  15. @Glenn

    Except the xbox is not marketed primarily as a Netflix or hulu delivery system, they are extra features they added on. Is it ridiculous to get an Xbox of you have no interest in gaming. Anyone buying an Xbox for that purpose is making a mistake.

  16. TiVo has notified us that this information is not final, suggested we emphasize to readers that this was sourced from a public “test” page, but that the Mini announcement is coming “soon.” We made a few related tweaks to the text, but don’t anticipate any meaningful deviations once it all becomes official (especially in regards to pricing, given what we previously read). Not much communicated regarding the astroturfing, other than it didn’t originate from the Communications team.

  17. It is lame for anyone to just comment “not a bad deal” no matter where you work or the comment was made from.

    That being said, $250 for a Mini isn’t a bad deal. Should a STB that can play premium live TV cost less, of course. But as Sam pointed out, the only one cheaper that can is the Echo (and most think it is too much too).

    What is hilarious is how many will balk at that price but have happily paid their cable co’ STB rent for the past 10+ years. Same reason car leases are so expensive; people can’t do math.

    Bottom line is that a 4 tuner TiVo and a Mini is cheaper than two TiVo dual-tuner DVRs.

  18. I’m not sure $250 is much better.

    But then TiVo has done so well expanding their American market size the last 4 years. Who can criticize their success?

    I can’t think of too many companies that have been able to impact their business as heavily.

    GM, Best Buy, Kmart, Talbots, DSL industry, State of California…

  19. Here is my prediction for TiVo’s Q1 which ends April 31, 2013, TiVo will report their first net gain of TiVo-Owned (retail) subscribers since Jan 31, 2008 when they reported a gain of 33,000 subs. This change will reflect the impact the Mini thin client will have on retail sales.

    Stellar retail growth is impossible in the current market environment in the US. CableCARDs and generic DVRs provide too much of a headwind for TiVo although the availability of a premium whole home solution to retail will help turn the retail subscriber numbers around.

  20. I agree. Good chance TiVo COULD show a net gain of US retail.

    But I think it comes from the concept of not much more bottoming out left. If you haven’t gotten rid of your S2 or S3’s by now you probably will run them into the ground.

    I can’t help but think the cable industry’s constant and OBSCENE price increases haven’t done more to prop up TiVo than anything TiVo has done. In my Comcast market, DVR’s are now over $20/month, up about $8 in four years. Cable modem rentals (not a TiVo deal, but a great example) went $3/5/7 month in less than 4 years. For a modem I bought for $80 back then, now you can get them CONSUMER RETAIL for $60, they probably get them for $40.

    It’s funny to me. We should’ve been talking about this TiVo Mini (extender) back in late 2010, first half 2011 – latest.

    NOW we should be talking about the TV Smart Apps from TiVo. I SHOULD be able to rent a Panasonic TiVo App for, say $4/month. No HW, just SW. Streaming from your Premiere.

    Monthly fee for SW, no HW. Isn’t THAT what TiVo’s been wanting to be for years? Monthly SW fees? It’s possible RIGHT NOW.

  21. Dave,

    THAT would be a great question for you to ask TiVo. When (LOL!) do they plan to develop TV Smart Apps for TiVo that stream from the DVR’s and charge a small monthly fee, NO HW! Stream TV from your TiVo directly to your smart TV through your internal network. People would LOVE it.

    No Cable card and additional out fees, no hardware to take up space, buy and update.

    ONE cable card, ONE DVR, Smart TV App extenders.

  22. It’s a great idea, which has been discussed before, but there’s probably too much variability in the endpoints to allow TiVo to efficiently deliver and protect MPEG2 content across the board. ONCE they move to the new Broadcom chip with onboard transcoding, it becomes a little more conceivable. Alternatively, they could probably do it today via the Stream if not via the Premiere. Although the security concerns remain. Perhaps some branding considerations as well… “only a TiVo is a TiVo” And they’re walking a very narrow line with the cable providers on the other side who may not generate as much revenue per box as stand alone retail customers, but eclipse them in number and perhaps long term importance. But they are working on a variety of cloud initiatives and “TV Everywhere” portal for RCN. It’s an interesting business model – seems like they’re putting their UI on top of Comcast’s thePlatform with RCN’s content.

  23. @Dean,

    You make a great point about reduced churn associated with the Series 4 v the legacy platforms. TiVo has acknowledged this on a number of calls. There is some risk of increased churn with their replacement cycle which was evident when they launched the TiVo Premiere so they need to be careful with the launch of new products so they don’t have a huge jump in churn.

    They will be launching TiVo to Smart TVs with their Com Hem partner in Sweden in Q2. I suspect that some of this technology will make it over to the US but as Dave Zatz points out there is the content security that they’ll need to overcome. I imagine that Samsung TVs and other makers can or could support HLS from the TiVo Stream and later from the TiVo XL? with built-in transcoding to H.264.

    TiVo has reiterated many times that they aren’t interested in HW so I don’t think they have any issue putting a TiVo App on a Smart TV or even on a Roku. Its just a matter if figuring out the ROI (new subscriber adds, increased customer satisfaction, reduced churn, recurring subscription fee for app on Roku or Smart TV?).

  24. Yeah, probably not so tied to specific hardware as we see they’ve put TiVo on Motorola, Cisco, and Pace DVR hardware and Insignia TVs thus far. I’d be very interested in a Roku app and would pay a TiVo Extender subscription fee. But how would that coexist with the cable companies solutions and would it potentially be another source of confusion if availability varies. Hm.

  25. I would think the Cable Operators would be happy to have a Roku app available to their customers to stream linear or On Demand. I sound like a broken record but it would reduce cable operator churn and increase customer satisfaction at almost zero cost to the cable operator. I would expect the cable operator would give this away for free to their customers. I’m not sure TiVo would even charge a recurring subscription fee on this sort of App since it could be compared to an iOS device receiving a stream. I think it would depend on whether or not TiVo has to pay Tribune a recurring fee for guide data on the Roku or Smart TV.

  26. I can’t see them doing it without a fee. They are already introducing the Mini with a fee, so it only makes sense that if they ever have a streaming app on another device that there is a monthly fee also. Besides without a monthly fee it would just cannibalize other sales.

  27. @aaronwt, the reason I was contemplating a lower or no fee for an app running on Roku or a Smart TV is the fact that it won’t provide the complete experience the Mini provides. It will be very similar to the iOS experience which is good but not even close to as good as the Mini.

  28. Sam, Comcast and Verizon (soon TWC too) produce apps for other set-top boxes and access is free. I guess this scales for them given potential additional PPV revenue and as the “additional outlet” fee appears to be on the way out. And maybe some customer goodwill, as you suggest. I played with the Verizon FiOS TV app on the Xbox when it first came out… but it was too tedious to get into, move about, and featured only a subset of channels. And would TiVo cable partners be similarly impacted by whatever licensing is currently holding them back in the content space? Related, Slingbox wasn’t really contested as an independent consumer purchase but DISH now moving video content for customers without licensing is leading to additional lawsuits. Although maybe it’s just more ammo as they contest the ad skipping. Brave new world…

    Speaking of the world and one of Sam’s earlier points, TiVo has reinforced at a few venues how the dynamics in the US are different than they are abroad in terms of content licensing and such. Which is why the cloud streaming (Virgin) and smart TV stuff (Com Hem) will hit over there first. But they’ve also indicated they’ll be ready if/when/as the US climate thaws. I’m just glad they’re continuing to stick with retail.

  29. Ben, Chucky, normally such minor infractions wouldn’t bother me. However, TiVo’s newish Director of Comms has conveyed to me on multiple occasions that he’s not pleased with the tenor of our coverage, that I’m “biased” because I’m a customer (whereas we believe that provides valuable insight) and I’m “not professional” in pointing out the HDUI remains incomplete. He’s certainly entitled to those opinions and to manage his PR team accordingly. However, in light of his perspective, we take exceptional offense when TiVo employees or their partners attempt to influence the conversation to their benefit without disclosure.

  30. ???”…“not professional” in pointing out the HDUI remains incomplete..”???

    Since when is showing all the facts being unprofessional?

  31. I’ve been using TiVos for almost twelve years now and I love them. But a fact is a fact. I would consider some one who didn’t mention the facts unprofessional.

    That is not a road a communications director should be going down. To me it would make me wonder what things they are going to try to hide.

  32. Zatz wrote: “TiVo’s newish Director of Comms has conveyed to me on multiple occasions that he’s not pleased with the tenor of our coverage, that I’m ‘biased’ because I’m a customer.”

    This statement is ridiculous and offers a glimpse into the culture of Tivo. A customer is probably in the best position to thoroughly evaluate Tivo’s offerings. If Tivo didn’t habitually disappoint their customers, they wouldn’t have anything to fear from customer commentary.

  33. “However, TiVo’s newish Director of Comms has conveyed to me on multiple occasions that he’s not pleased with the tenor of our coverage, that I’m “biased” because I’m a customer…”

    Heaven forfend.

    You might want to point out to him that it was your TiVo coverage that brought me into the TiVo ecosystem as a happy paying customer in the first place. Which, I suppose, also makes me biased against TiVo. (Even though I recommend TiVo to others.)

    “…and I’m “not professional” in pointing out the HDUI remains incomplete.”

    To be honest, I’ve never fully understood your obsession on that point. The fact that they’ve been shipping hardware incapable of running the the HDUI with acceptable performance has always seemed far more important an obsession to me. But, again, I’m biased as a customer.

    Obviously, not an issue of professionalism, however.

    “However, in light of his perspective, we take offense to TiVo employees or their partners attempting to influence the conversation to their benefit without disclosure.”

    No matter what his perspective, astroturfing without disclosure by any company in a forum like this is seriously not kosher. If TiVo (or any other company, with any communications perspective) wants to comment, they should just mention who signs their paycheck. Doing so would let them add to the conversation in a genuinely constructive manner. “I work for TiVo, and the opinion around here is that it’s actually a pretty good pricing deal given the hardware costs.” How hard is that? Folks might agree or disagree, but it’d be a value-add to the conversation. Astroturfing without disclosure is truly unprofessional, rather slimy, and just plain wrong.

    But I guess they think anything goes on their end because they’re not customers, and thus can’t be biased…

  34. I definitely agree with aaronwt. Any consumer who has a TiVo Premiere knows it isn’t finished even though today is the 3 year anniversary. While the remaining screens aren’t that important and necessary in HD, it is important the HDUI has not been completed.

    It is also worth mentioning because these days many everyday devices and software are updated and updated often. If you buy a Premiere and expect that, you will quickly be disappointed. I think this is somewhat evident by the change in conversation over at TCF. Now threads tend to fall into when will TiVo fix this or that or jokes that even devices like the Mini won’t be out for years.

  35. Chucky, perhaps I belabor the HDUI point because it’s representative of TiVo’s leisurely development pace – I can’t even come up with a product analogy from another company. In terms of core functionality and day to day usage, TiVo’s HD Season Pass manager, that came with the fall update, was the last remaining bit (and it’s well done). And I suppose they’ll get to the settings screens when they get to them. As brennok said it’s become something of a running joke, and at least one TiVo employee seems to have a problem with that.

    To reiterate a point I made above, TiVo’s rep did email me that he is not aware of the tampering and stated it’s no one on his team. However, he may not comprehend the issue as he seems to wonder why this “works you up.”

  36. I don’t think it’s belaboring the point to keep bringing up the unfinished HDUI. It’s just a continually-visible reminder that Tivo seems to never address its unfinished products.

    Despite charging a premium for their products, I can’t think of a single Tivo device that doesn’t have at least one major issue that will probably never be corrected.

    Come on, how hard could it be to finish the UI? Isn’t it simply backgrounds, templates, and some text? After three years on the market, the failure to finish the HDUI can only be attributed to pure laziness.

  37. Tivo seems to perpetually be on a mission to drive away retail to the point sometimes I wonder why they keep retail sales around. While the new UI of the premiere is nice it was way too slow to navigate and I don’t even try and use the apps they have built in because they run so poorly. I am fortunate enough to have moved into a house where I could do distributed video so I was able to drop from 4 boxes to 2 and hopefully the mini allows me to go to 1 DVR and 1 Mini.

    It gets harder all the time to remain a customer seeing the leaps that cable cos are making with features and pricing isn’t that far off anymore when you consider the initial cost of the box. Right now Verizon is offering a DVR for $12 a mo for 2 years in my area.

    I will probably pick up a mini with lifetime and dump one of my premieres. It leads to a payoff of about time of about 18 months for me at a savings of $14 between $10/mo fee plus $4 cable card. Depending on how bad/where the lag hits might even put it on my primary TV.

  38. The interface is plainly incomplete to approximately… absolutely everybody. Unprofessional? Realist. Blaming Dave for pointing out the obvious is pretty humorous. They need to take the bumps for their developmental inadequacies and either move on or FIX IT.

    I’ve seen that kind of attitude at some other companies too. They don’t have a proper concept of journalism, or choose to ignore it rather than embrace it and bring them into their fold where information can be more managed. They want you to copy and paste their press releases and never deviate from their messaging. They see the press/media/bloggers as an extension of themselves, proverbial fax machines that replicate their message to more people. Otherwise you are a loose cannnon, or unprofessional… unless you’re large enough that they need you. Then you can get away with it.

    As for being biased for being a customer… That one is absolutely priceless. I hate to be unprofessional (snort) by pointing out something else that’s obvious, but being the Head of Corporate Communications is the very definition of bias. Projecting bias on the media in a weak attempt to get them to tow the line fails on its face. He might’ve picked up the bad habit of projecting his biases on the media during his days in politics, but we’re only talking about a DVR now.

    Plus, since the guys at Engadget use Tivos, we can expect their access to be cut too, right? What? You’ll never do that? Of course not.

    I was going to type next that, “He should have enough experience and skill to know how the game works.” But then I just saw Dave’s message above about how he apparently doesn’t understand why internet astroturfing is unappreciated. So, he’s either actually naive or so enshrined in black hat PR that he doesn’t even understand the other side. But I’ll go with naive.

    These unprofessional comments are my own and Dave, the actual professional, has absolutely nothing to do with them.

  39. It WOULD be unprofessional of Dave NOT to bring up the unfinished HDUI. Why?

    Because EVERYBODY ELSE DOES!!!!!

    The only people who seem to not care about the HDUI being incomplete is TiVo and some of the “we don’t need anything new, until TiVo DOES it, of course” nuts at TCF.

    3 years, what an embarrassment. Especially, considering the ENORMOUS amount of money TiVo spends on R&D.

  40. haha not a bad deal. Wonder who at TiVo posted that. I’m not in the market for Mini, but if I was I couldn’t see getting one with a subscription. Would definitely have to be lifetime and that is just so I can say the box costs $250. There is no honest, upfront reason that thing should have a sub.

    I would like the TiVo iOS app to support airplay (workaround the mini).
    I would like the TiVo Mini to support Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO Go (hmmmm maybe all TiVos can support those).

  41. The concept of “Thinking Like a Customer” is a well established business, sales and marketing strategy. The Tivo Director of Communications is incompetent and should be fired on the spot.

  42. Okay, so I’ll pay the $249. Been waiting long enough for this. Now, wait, what? It won’t work on a Premiere? Only a Premiere 4? Oh fer chrissakes. Please confirm this is just a temporary limitation. I only watch recorded shows, never live. I also never need more than 2 tuners. WTF?

  43. I’m pretty sure this is an artificial limitation. Whether or not they lift it once full-fledged dynamic tuning is introduced at a later date is anyone’s guess.

    Swung by Best Buy today and didn’t see anything out yet. Of course an announcement and reviews in the next day or so don’t necessarily indicate synchronized brick & mortar availability. Although I suspect we’re far enough along that we should be able to order online at the very least. Perhaps confirmed by the “test” page screengrabs displayed in this post. As TiVo’s presumably beat Verizon to market with their solution, I’ll surely be picking one up. But the live television tuning lag will determine if we keep it…

  44. Looks like the Mini has made it to the products list on main tivo site but none of the pages are live yet. Anouncement tonight sometime?

  45. Cool, just tweeted it out. But I’m kinda hoping for a Wednesday announcement, as I have a follow-on post of sorts (given I won’t be doing a hands on right away) and need a little more time. We’ll see…

  46. Have we ever heard confirmation Best Buy is getting them immediately? I would guess based off the lack of details it will be handled like the Stream where we won’t see it for a couple weeks other than direct from TiVo. This would also match up with a late press release since you would only be able to order it online.

  47. Speaking of streaming to so-called Smart TVs, support for a common protected content streaming protocol would seem like something most TV manufacturers could get behind yes? Why aren’t they?

    You remember that whole RVU thing that had Ben excited at one point, allowing a Samsung TV to work with DirecTV without a STB? What ever happened to that?

    Why isn’t there a standard for this sort of thing widely implemented by TV manufacturers yet? The RVU Alliance page shows only Samsung and Pace having certified devices and it looks like the certifications have mostly dried up.

    Its not like TiVo could come up with something and the TV manufacturers would follow them. TiVo would have to use an industry standard protocol. What else could they implement to that provides the needed protection?

  48. Chatter indicates the announcement/launch has been shifting. I still anticipate hearing something this week, as soon as tomorrow perhaps. Having said that, I’ve read two unconfirmed reports on the TiVo Community that indicate it’s been pushed into next week – although that could be specific to Best Buy availability, versus online reviews and such. Hm.

  49. Where is it? Where is it? Where is it?

    Yes I mean the Tivo Desktop update. Of course, what did you think I meant…

  50. “Where is it? Where is it? Where is it? Yes I mean the Tivo Desktop update. Of course, what did you think I meant…”

    Not to worry. After fixing TiVo Desktop, Morac is now busy cranking out TiVo Mini’s in his basement…

  51. “I’m pretty sure this is an artificial limitation. Whether or not they lift it once full-fledged dynamic tuning is introduced at a later date is anyone’s guess.”

    What concerns me is the initial wording on the product’s description/ad copy. If they intended to lift it (and make it compatible with 2-tuner Premieres later) you’d think there’d be an asterisk, and/or some wording to the affect (“compatibility with older Premiere units coming soon!”) Otherwise it’s a confusing marketing gambit, as they alienate existing customers with those boxes, hear it won’t work for them, and then promptly lose their attention. It just seems weird to me to expect that one day their ad copy might change entirely (“remember when we said it wouldn’t work on your 2-tuner Premiere, for dumb reasons, well, now we’ve finally gotten the software right and now it’ll work on your box too.”) At this point that’s the BEST I can hope for, and with TiVo, year after year, I feel like I’ve been beaten down and laughed at for having any SHRED of optimism.

  52. Tivo is to DVRs what Vonage is to VOIP. Both wanted to earn a reputation for gold standard consumer offerings, and both had some significant success early on in that regard. But I finally dropped Vonage when, after YEARS of waiting, they wouldn’t offer something as simple as call blocking, with what I can only assume is the same kind of laziness and arrogance being demonstrated by Tivo.

    I admit, I’m always been a Tivo fanatic. So much so that I’ve completely resisted the temptation to even compare them with the competition, mostly because, for as long as I’ve owned a Tivo, it just didn’t seem possible that anyone COULD compete. But just as my opinion of Vonage finally changed, so is my opinion of Tivo beginning to.

    My number one disappointment with Tivo has always been that I have 4 televisions in my home, and I simply could not justify paying a monthly rate for each of them, especially when 1 TV gets 95% of the viewing. When I was subscribing to 2 Tivos, I loved that I could stream from the Living Room unit to the bedroom, but after a while I realized all I was doing on the bedroom Tivo was streaming. I questioned…”Why would I subscribe to a second Tivo when I never record anything on it. Recordings ONLY happen on the Living Room Tivo, and then I stream them to the bedroom.” Upon this realization, I promptly called Tivo and canceled service to the other Tivo, believing it would simply kill my ability to schedule recordings without affecting the ability to stream from the Living Room to the Bedroom. Alas, when the 2nd Tivo’s service died, so did my ability to stream to the bedroom. I was dumbfounded…what sense did that make? That was many years ago. As a faithful Tivo user, I resigned to the reality that Tivo would have to be limited to the Living Room, unless I wanted to carry it from room to room.

    But then a miracle happened. Many, MANY months ago, I heard about this upcoming offering called “Tivo Mini” that would offer the exact type of streaming that I’ve been longing for for so long. Month after month, I’ve been waiting for the big announcement, and now when the moment is finally imminent…..ANOTHER F’ING MONTHLY FEE to simply transfer the Tivo recording from the Living Room to the Bedroom.

    Simply put, I won’t do it. Tivo will finally lose me as a customer the same way Vonage did. Turns out, Tivo actually DOES have competition. I didn’t want to go there, but maybe it’s time.

  53. Robert: Bravo!

    I completely agree with what you wrote. I feel like I’m at the same stage in my relationship with Tivo–at one time I was the biggest Tivo fan possible, but years of enduring disappointment after disappointment have left me considering other options.

  54. @Robert,
    You can buy the Mini for $250 without a monthly fee. What’s your alternative – pay your cable operator more money for a lesser user experience?

  55. Sam, I can answer that question for myself.

    The alternative to an overpriced Mini is not another mediocre solution. The alternative to spending $250 on a Mini is doing nothing at all, which leaves me no worse off than before.

    I’ll just keep my unsubscribed Premiere which works fine as a trick-play dual-tuner cable box.

    Tivo is nearly last to the party in offering IP thin clients, but they’re priced it like they’ve invented something revolutionary.

  56. I just realized I was unclear. My unsubscribed Tivo is used at my secondary viewing location, the location which would be appropriate for a Mini.

    My subscribed four-tuner Tivo sits at my primary viewing location.

    $250 is far too much for an IP thin client Mini. At that price, there is no compelling reason for me to invest in a Mini.

  57. Robert and Kwijibo, I agree with everything you’ve written, pretty much. I too have been with TiVo since the beginning. Had a Series 1 standalone, upgraded to DirecTiVos, switched away from DTV when the relationship with TiVo soured, switched back to cable and got a Series 3 (paid a pretty penny for it too,) and ultimately landed back with this current Premiere. I have been a huge evangelist for this product, was even featured in a Los Angeles Times article about it awhile back. And it’s been a long and often-frustrating road.

    In 2012 I can say this: TiVo takes too long, doesn’t innovate enough, and thinks too highly of themselves. I doubt I will be paying for any more TiVo hardware. My Roku and AppleTV certainly get more interaction from me these days. Every since function the TiVo has, beyond basic DVRing, is positively horrific when compared to my other set-top boxes. TiVo is so far from being the “one box” it’s not even funny. The UI remains slow, and it seems ridiculous to re-mention it, but the fact that the HDUI is still not complete is downright embarrassing.

    That being said, I actually would spring the one-time fee of $250 for a Mini, for my bedroom. I like the idea (and the elegance of the implementation.) And yet, TiVo WON’T LET ME. Because I have a 2-tuner Premiere and not a 4-tuner one. WTF? I only watch recorded television, have few SP’s, and never a tuner conflict. Why can’t I use a Mini? This company keeps coming up with new and novel ways to disappoint me. Even the Stream is a great product, but that it can’t stream outside the home (while the SlingPlayer, or any HTPC can) is infuriating. It’s as if TiVo has actually and actively gone out of their way to make these things more difficult than they need to be. If I want to use a Mini and only watch shows from my NP list (no tuner needed) then why not let me? If I want to watch my TiVo Stream while traveling, and accept the fact that if my home upstream isn’t blazing fast, it might not be a perfect viewing experience, why not let me? (The fact of the matter is, my upstream is quite capable. But their app and setup simply won’t allow it to work the way I want.) It makes the Stream infinitely less compelling of a product.

    In the end, my solution has been, and will remain, a super long (50 foot) component cable. I set up my bedroom TV to be the second screen connected to the TiVo in my living room. I ran it in the crawlspace between both rooms. And thankfully the Bluetooth Slide Remote works well (a heckuva lot better than the “IR Pyramids” and “infared-over-coax” injection system I’d tried previously.)`

    Yes, both TV’s are now showing the same thing on both screens, but with AppleTV and Roku and Blu Ray that’s less of a concern. And occasionally I’ll get HDMI issues if the switcher in my living room isn’t on the right output. But it was a cheap (and nearly perfect) solution for my needs right now, and I like having the one consolidated SP and NP list. So TiVo can stick their TiVo Mini where the sun don’t shine. They’ve lost me… again.

  58. Tivo seems to be focused on getting MORE MONEY out of their existing customers, when what they SHOULD be doing is focusing on exciting, industry leading innovations that would result in MORE CUSTOMERS.

    $100 for the mini is fair, but a subscription is insulting. It’s like we’re supposed to think…”Gee…if I’m paying $15 per month for a BIG Tivo, then $6 for a SMALL one ain’t bad,” and just ignore the fact that the “small one” is just a dumb box that can’t function on its own.

  59. @Sam

    If $250 were the price of the hardware, it would be highway robbery. I’m not going to turn a blind eye to the fact that the subscription is built in to that price just to make myself feel better. I’m confident they’re not losing money on the hardware selling them for $100. I’d pay that, but no monthly fee. Heck, I would even be ok with paying a little more for the Premier (say $20 per month?), but I want unlimited Minis for cost of hardware only…NO ADDITIONAL SUBSCRIPTION. And I’m not going to be ok with Tivo’s tactics just because they’re banking on the alternatives being worse.

  60. @Robert,

    I can appreciate your perspective. The bottom-line is really that TiVo is pricing the Mini at launch in the best interest of the company and not necessarily existing TiVo subscribers. They need to charge a recurring subscription fee in order to count Mini boxes as ‘retail subscribers’. I think they will sell a lot of Mini’s at $99 & $5.95/mo. If their sales don’t meet their sales objectives they will lower the price.

    I’m confident as well that they aren’t losing money at $99 for the hardware. They aren’t losing money on the Stream at $129 either.

  61. Robert writes:

    “Turns out, Tivo actually DOES have competition. I didn’t want to go there, but maybe it’s time.”


    “And I’m not going to be ok with Tivo’s tactics just because they’re banking on the alternatives being worse.”

    But that’s the thing with TiVo. What you think they’re banking on is actually true.

    Now, if the Mini ain’t worth $250 to you, then you won’t buy one. Makes sense to me.

    But you seem to appreciate good DVR’s, which is why you’re running a Rube Goldberg-esque cable thing in order to take care of your particular use-case scenario by remaining with with the company at a lower cost. Again, makes sense to me. Now, maybe you’ll eventually give that up, but you seem well to be well aware of the fact that you’d be losing something by doing so…

  62. @Chucky

    Indeed, I do appreciate good DVRs, and that’s what Tivo is…a good DVR. But I want a really GREAT DVR, and while they have been that for a really long time, as Tivo continues to be content to lag in innovation, their competition–which previously didn’t even make it on my radar–is now under consideration. Do I want to go with MythTV? No, not really. But it’s far more attractive to me, out of principle alone, than supporting a company that has become comfortable with taking their customers for granted.

    Worse than that, as far as I’m concerned the Tivo Mini is a scheme to steal from those customers. What is the subscription for? I mean really, what would I be subscribing to, exactly? Can you tell me? Because it seems to me that I’d be subscribing to a video feed, for content that I saved via a device, that I already had to pay a subscription to use. It’s completely asinine and offensive. I mean, it would be slightly less offensive if they came out and said that Tivo minis are not available for sell. They’re “lease only” for $5.95 per month. Absurd? Yes. But still makes more sense than a subscription.

    I was trying to come up a good analogy, but they all sounded ridiculous. But then I realized, I think they might HAVE to be ridiculous to be analogous with the Mini.

  63. Robert,

    I agree the service fee is my main complaint with the Mini pricing.

    The Premieres historically were sold below-cost, with a higher service fee charged to compensate for that loss. I assume the rationale for the Mini service fee is that Tivo is concerned that a Mini sale means that a consumer has rejected a Premiere purchase. In order to keep subscription revenue they’ve attached a service fee.

    However, even at the $99 price Tivo is likely already making a profit. The Premiere service fee was compensation for selling below cost, but the Mini fee will be supplementing an already-profitable device.

    Like I mentioned in a previous Zatz thread, Tivo should be thankful that a consumer wishes to buy a Mini (which makes them money the instant the sale occurs) instead of a Premiere (which loses money unless the consumer maintains service long enough for Tivo to break even.)

  64. @Kwijibo

    Agreed. But here’s my take: If Tivo is afraid that folks will drop second or third Premier subs in favor of a Mini, they’re absolutely right. But instead of tricking customers into paying an unfair “subscription”, they should be more focused on increasing their customer base by providing a fair deal and a great product. It seems they’re not confident in their ability to do the latter, so they’d rather shaft their customers and be more certain about their revenue outcome. But how many customers will they lose in the process?

  65. Brilliant! I came back here to post that I finally decided on an analogy for the Tivo Mini “subscription”. It’s like a tax! I was going to state that it’s not a subscription at all…we’re being taxed to use it. And wouldn’t you know it, here on the front page of Zatz was a link to this thread referencing “the Tivo tax.” That’s exactly right…can’t think of a better analogy at all.

  66. By the way, the proper “fix” to this mess is to license the Premier unit as “Mini enabled” or something like that. So it’s $14.99 for a Tivo Premier, or $20.99 per month for a “Mini enabled” Tivo Premier, which would add the ability to stream to unlimited Minis @ $99 each. They make money on the hardware AND receive a fair increase on the main unit for anyone wishing to stream to the Minis.

    When the next generation Tivos come out, they could do the same thing with those, OR they could follow the Tivo tradition by raising the monthly rate and justify it by having them be already enabled for Mini streaming.

    Tivo, I really hope you’re listening. It’s a perfect fix. I would guess the vast majority of your customers are not going to pay more than 1 Mini subscription anyway. By licensing the main Tivo unit for streaming, you increase the number of Mini sales and increase customer satisfaction at the same time.

  67. CNET published then pulled a TiVo Mini review. However, as the Google cache reaffirms the pricing details above (and lack of Netflix) we’ve taken the liberty of restoring the title from Speculation to Confirmed and undid a few of the prior tweaks. We suppose it’s possible the Mini’s delayed launch could be related to a reformulation of pricing or features and will update the post accordingly when/if presented with new, differing intel.


  68. Honestly, I think they’ve nailed it. When we were talking 9.99$ a month MAYBE back in what february, that seemed too high. at 5.99$ it’s pretty darn good and based on the performance people are reporting (and I fully expect to see a better live tv experience if not buffering) overall it represents darn good value. Think about it, replace a second premier box with this thing for a one time fee of 249$. A premier is easily 99$ (refurbed) and then 10-12$ (or 120$ a year) a month, so what you can recoup ALL your costs for the mini with lifetime in 1 yr. That’s a pretty darn good payout, AND I would expect such a box to never fall in value below about 200$ (there aren’t any moving parts really, so reliability should be good) so one is really out NET only about 50$.

    For TIVO, I think it will make their premier xl/4 products and service a bit more sticky since the consumer will see this as a wash, and the either ONE box or ONE LESS box model will save them over time, offer a better or equal experience now to other MRV solutions and keep customers on TIVO. Best case would be a PXL/4 with a mini all lifetime and be done with it.

    Now for tivo REVENUE and FBI (fee based income) and RECURRING revenues, this could actually be problematic. As an example the 99$ for HW is probably immediately bookable and the monthly is probably bookable monthly (or quarterly at least) but the “iifetime” probably has to be book over 2 years and deferred.

    Since there don’t appear to be too many XL/4 or higher boxes, this doesn’t present too much of an accounting issue, but it could GROW to be on over time.

  69. @tivoboy,

    The up-front cost is booked as hardware revenue in the quarter sold. There will be a corresponding ‘cost of hardware revenue’ entry which probably is close to zero margin for the Mini.

    For lifetime of the Mini, I would assume that TiVo will continue to recognize that revenue ratably over 66 months. That would imply an TiVo-Owned Mini ARPU of $2.25/mo for 66 months.

    Over time this will have the effect of slowly bringing down TiVo-Owned ARPU as the Mini boxes become a higher percentage of Average TiVo-Owned Subscriptions. OTOH, churn on older Series 3 boxes is higher than the new Series 4 boxes and the Series 3 & older boxes have a lower ARPU already so I don’t think the impact will be very evident for quite some time.

    From a company perspective, retail is becoming a smaller percentage of total revenue QoQ as the MSO revenue is growing rapidly. This will further dilute the material impact of the retail Mini on TiVo’s bottom-line.

    Send me an email (sambiller at gmail dot com) or DM on twitter and I’ll point you to a lot more details.

  70. @tivoboy

    You’re saying it’s a good value, but given your example, it seems it would only be a good value for homes that were suckered into paying for a second or third Tivo when they only wanted a very basic feature – the ability to transfer a recording to another room. For those people who were ripped off, then sure, I guess with the lower fee, they’d be getting ripped off less, so I can see why it would seem like a good value.

    But I would say it’s a HORRIBLE value, and I’m not alone. Joshua Goldman (CNET) stated it very well, in his review, saying “I’m not entirely sure why TiVo charges a subscription fee for a device that’s basically sucking information from a host DVR that you’re also paying a subscription fee for…”. Sums it up perfectly.

Comments are closed.