TiVo To Drop Mini Service Fees?

Amidst Roku and Fire TV TiVo app chatter, comes word that changes are headed to TiVo’s original (and only) DVR extender – the TiVo Mini.

I’d been hoping for a hardware refresh of perhaps an even smaller form factor, with a more secure power jack, and WiFi to hit RCN’s wishlist (and my kitchen TV). Alas, the only imminent adjustment is in the pricing department. Details remain light, so I’m left to speculate that the $6 monthly service fee will be reduced… or removed. While I’m fairly confident the fee is set to change, it’s not yet clear what will happen to hardware pricing. In a past era, as Replay TV flipped service fees requirements on and off, hardware pricing scaled (as did consumer confusion). So it TiVo were to totally drop the Mini service fees, I could see the little STB itself moving up from $100 to say $180.

Of course, TiVo’s retail customer count remains fairly stagnant at 2004 levels, with defections generally outpacing new sales. So a shift in strategy seems like a wise choice. And reducing or removing a questionable service fee, as the Mini receives most of its data and video from an already subscribed hub DVR, is a great place to start. Further, the more Minis (or incoming virtual apps) attached to a Roamio or outrageously large TiVo Media Server, the less likely a customer would quit the DVR pioneer.

50 thoughts on “TiVo To Drop Mini Service Fees?”

  1. Well, I’d wait. I get the sense there may be a line in the sand – Minis purchased before X date subject to different policies than Minis purchased after.

  2. I keep looking into getting a Tivo/cable card setup and I have to turn away when I find out just how expensive it is. This might help!

  3. Yeah the key here is to find some retailer, eg Best Buy, that will be selling them for the old price on day X.

  4. Personally I think they should consider the Mini a deal sweeter for the customer and keep their margin and fee very low. They really need people to buy a Roamio. And a low margin, no fee TiVo Mini makes a much more compelling offer. The fee on the Roamio is already a bit higher than the fee on a cable provided DVR, plus with cable you don’t have to buy the box or have to buy a new one if it goes bad.

    I concur on the power. WTF were they thinking. A) It needs to be secure. B) It needs to not stick straight out. I think mine got bumped and is extremely lose. I’m afraid to touch it for fear it may fall apart. WiFi could also help, although as long as you have the upper two Roamios, you can use MOCA, which is better. Smaller would be nice, although the Mini’s size isn’t a deal breaker. I’d also like to see them include an mounting method. The existing one is $31 by the time you include shipping. Ridiculous.

  5. Dump the mini. Make it an app on Roku or better yet – negotiate a deal with Amazon to put a “mini” app on the Fire TV and allow prime instant video form the main Roamio box.

  6. New pricing would seem easier rollout on a new model / TSN range than creating confusion on existing stock (which could be repurposed for MSOs). When I first read this my initial temptation was to buy one at best buy and wait for the policy to change before activating, but I really doubt they’ll let that work. Agree 100% on the power jack, wth… I’d also expect the new remote to ship with it.

  7. I’m OK with a separate pricing structure, as long as they let those of us that have already bought minis opt in to Lifetime for the $80 difference…

  8. I just logged into my TiVo account, and one of the two (that I’ve had since June 2013) says “We’re still processing your activation. Try again in 24 hours.”

    The ones that I bought a month before (May 2013) is still set up for monthly service.

  9. They already priced them at $174 with lifetime through the codes that they gave out to retail sales people. In the $35 chromecast era $180 seems steep. If they want to move Roamio units they shouldn’t go north of $150. $125 seems like the sweet spot. Or, charge a $50-75 fee to open up roku or other third party extenders.

    But yes, the service fee for mini’s is a turn off.

  10. Of course this happens after I get 3. ;) Great little box (despite the weird power jack) but I was never happy about the lifetime fee. From the get-go $175 or less felt “right”.

    I agree with others and have said it from the beginning also, use the Mini to drive DVR sales, not nickel and dime people with unsupportable and redundant fees. The goal should be to anchor people into the Tivo ecosystem at every TV, making it less likely for them to leave. That’s not gonna happen when the cost of entry stacks into a small fortune and the boxes are possibly more expensive than the secondary and tertiary TVs they’re connected to.

  11. Probably a good move.

    Personally here’s what I’d like:
    – if the main TiVo is recording a recommendation, and there are no tuners available, kill it and give me the damn tuner
    – let me initiate a transfer from TiVoToGo on the Mini.

  12. if the main TiVo is recording a recommendation, and there are no tuners available, kill it and give me the damn tuner

    Glenn- It has always worked that way for me. It cancels the recording and clears the trickplay buffer. I came in after dynamic allocation though…

  13. So if they remove the monthly fee, will those who purchase lifetime service receive a refund? While I think such is great idea, it’s not very fair to those who purchased lifetime.

    Perhaps a sliding scale refund based on how long you had it? I would be terribly PO’ed if I just bought 2 mini with lifetime last month and TiVo hands out service for free next month.

    I have to go with the if it’s too good to be true, it’s not.

  14. Dropping the monthly sub, would make me consider. Also now that they have announced the android streaming app, could this also stream to an android tv? are there any costs restrictions to streaming?

  15. Wes, those who buy within 30 days of said change would be eligible for a refund. No way tivo is going to offer some kind of a cash refund beyond that. Not a chance.

  16. Glenn, TiVo’s response to letting the Mini initiate a transfer is that the mini has no HD so it can only stream, not transfer. That’s fine. But I agree. I think that we should be able to use the Mini to initiate a transfer to the Roamio, then to initiate the stream from the Roamio to the Mini. Hide this complexity from the user. I also think if you have more than one TiVo, it would be nice to be able to consolidate your list of recording in one list and to distribute any recording request among devices automatically.

  17. I have three Minis(two launch) and have yet to have an issue with the power cord. I can move the Minis around all over the pace and the power cable has never accidentally come out.

  18. Did your source mention a time frame? I have a TiVo HD that constantly loses touch with its SDV tuning adapter and I’d like to replace it with a mini.

  19. bunklung August 18, 2014 at 8:15 am
    I keep looking into getting a Tivo/cable card setup and I have to turn away when I find out just how expensive it is. This might help!

    I’ve NEVER understood this type of comment. DVR’s from Comcast are currently over $20/ month here(might be $22 now). My TiVo HDXL(the expensive one) with lifetime – paid for itself after 44 months and has been in effect FREE for about 21 months now and STILL going.

    How is that MORE expensive?

  20. Oh.

    P.S. My TiVo HDXL was a couple hundred more than the standard version. And the break-even point is even faster today, with better HW.

  21. It’s more expensive upfront. And if it breaks, you’re on the hook. Versus the cable company who indefinitely warranties and replaces their hardware, which you can flip in and out at will. I’d rather rent a TiVo from my cable company.

  22. No offense, Dave. But I just don’t understand that logic.

    Do people pay $20/month to rent an AVR(or laptop or TV, etc) vs. buying it for $500 (or whatever) because it “might” break? That would be considered insane.

    It’s generally agreed that it’s better to buy your car and your house, which can both break and cost REAL $$$$, but for SOME reason a DVR is a “high risk” purchase. And the return on a TiVo purchase vs. cable DVR rental is MUCH MUCH faster and then overhead is FREE after that.

    Once again, I’m NOT trying to start an argument. But there is NO DOUBT people treat DVR rent/purchase COMPLETELY different than everything else I can think of.

  23. Eh, I own my car outright. But I’d rather rent my DVR. So if TiVo makes pause menu ads more obnoxious, I could get out. Or maybe right after I buy a brand new TiVo X, they release a Y – RCN customers can trade up from a Premieres to a the T6 (Roamio) with minimal fuss. Or let’s say I have another television that I want to light up with a STB for a time, I could rent for a few months and return (as I’ve done with Verizon hardware, but can’t with TiVo). Also, it’d make a nice incentive during re/negotiation – Verizon offers set-tops with all sorts of promotional packages. Having said that, I have obviously owned quite a number of pieces of Lifetimed TiVo gear – including my current Premiere Elite and two Minis. I doubt Verizon would ever offer TiVo hardware, so it’s purely a hypothetical preference for me.

  24. @Dean L

    I think your math is a bit fuzzy, Comcast charges $10-$15 for a DVR
    and that rental price was definitely alot closer to $10 when TiVo HD xl was for sale

    Also are you including the cable card fee $2-$5 as part of the cost you have to recover when using a TiVo? I assume you include the tax and lifetime subscription fee

    Back in ’08
    HDXL is $600
    Lifetime $400

    now lets say Comcast rents its DVR for $12 but you figure the TiVo needs a $2 cable card rental fee so if you cancel out the monthly cable card fee because that’s included in Comcast’s DVR it works out to be $10 a month

    that means break even point is 100 months,
    that’s nearly 9 years
    more then twice then what you thought

  25. @Mark V
    There 2 things you aren’t taking into account.
    1) At any given point in time, you could sell the Tivo with lifetime for hundreds of dollars. So that would cut years off the break even time.

    2) Historically (at least for me), I couldn’t get from the cable company’s DVR what I got from a Tivo. In terms of just space and tuners, I would have always needed more than one box or the most expensive box the cable company had to offer to match a tivo.

    I owned half a dozen tivos with lifetime over the years, and before upgrading to a new one or after selling an old one, i would always check the numbers. And I have saved a lot money by now.

  26. @D I agree TiVo needs to get creative with pricing

    I’m taking a guess but I think they are making about or at least 30% profit on a mini

    They need to give up on the monthly or lifetime fee for a mini and just use it as a value add for selling TiVos. They will still benefit from additional profit by selling them in addition to the main Tivo and sure they might not be selling two Tivos to one family BUT they could actually start to make their product look like a way to save money which would result in more sales of Tivos.

    I love tivo i bought one of the very first ones, i had a 14hr unit, I think that was back in 1998 and I have a Roamio but the difference between then and now is I can’t and don’t recommend them anymore.
    Theirs so much more that they can and should be doing with software on the current boxes and i’m not even talking about the outdated non hd menus
    I can appreciate the massive overhaul they did moving away from adobe air but the fact is that was to fix the mistake of even using adobe air in the first place

    Sadly i don’t see this company turning around its been filled with yes men who just tell investors what ever it takes to keep them employed and getting bonuses
    (Ira Bahr and Tom Rogers i’m looking at you)

    Honestly when the engineers who were originally running the company left i think that’s when it took its turn for the worse.
    So unless the people with the real drive and passion for the product come back

    Tivo will likely get bought up by a cable company or a set top box manufacture

    Apple and Microsoft and Google won’t bother with them since the future is more about on-demand video which is they will just call it cloud something or another and it will have a slightly better interface and vastly improved fee structure and then we will all buy AppleTVs to get it
    And yes they will have some angle for Live events maybe available in real time streaming and a start the show in progress from the begining,
    IE you get home an hour after it starts or something

  27. @Takeagabu

    Starting with point 2, which doesn’t really address the expense argument Dean L and i are talking about

    i’m not going to argue “value” because i dislike cable DVRs but they have gotten drastically better. Yet even back in the day when a cable DVR could not perform prioritization the average consumer did not care of feel their was “value” to get a TiVo so consumers voted with their dollars and said Tivo does not provide “value”

    Your first point i’m not sure i follow… Isn’t the whole point of calculating cost of owning vs renting something involve still having something to use at the end of the day?
    IE if you say you broke even by selling it after a certain amount of time and buying something new you still had to reinvest that money back into the same scenario you started with which means your just starting from zero again

    If you say well you have the latest DVR, renters also get the latest dvr just by trading what they have been renting in for something else

    Let me be clear though i’m not saying your not getting more with Tivo then say a cable dvr 6 vs 4 tuner or transferring shows to your tablet
    (although the dish hopper seems to do a pretty good job)

    I’m saying clearly mostly people don’t feel their is any ‘value’ and that it is expensive
    9 years is a long time to wait for a rtoi

  28. @Mark V
    It does address the point if you need to have a certain number of tuners or amount of space. If you can get that with one tivo box but you need either 2 dvrs or 1 more expensive DVR, then you need to compare the cost of a tivo to a higher monthly cost for the cable equipment. Dean said his DVRs are $20-$22 a month, not $12.

    You always take into account the resale value of the item since you are not oblogated to buy a new device. If it turns out that the cable company offers something that is better and cheaper than the tivo, you can sell yours and start renting pocketing all the money.

  29. When I last argued with Comcast early this year, to get a better rate. DVR’s were 21.99 a month, I believe. I almost fell out of my chair. When I got my TiVo in 2009, DVR rental was $12/month but as you can see it has gone up AMAZINGLY fast. When I FIRST got my TiVo I figured break even was about 66 months, but obviously with the large rental increases it’s OBVIOUSLY became MUCH MUCH less than that. every time I re-calculated it when down and down.

    And remember, that was a VERY expensive TiVo back then and also today.

    Cable companies LOVE to MIX the DVR charge into your rate. Call them and ask how much a DVR per month is DIRECTLY. You may be surprised.

    My TiVo HDXL was NOT $1000 it was $880. Of course, the standard HD would’ve been $700.

    Also, when I bought my cable router to own it, Comcast was about to increase it’s rental rate from $3 to $5. I thought THAT was highway robbery! Now it’s $9/month.

    The router cost $88, in late 2008. So I’ve saved HUNDREDS $$$ since.

    Of course, it COULD break, or whatever. LOL!

    The argument about TiVo advertising is ludicrous. You are a Comcast customer, with ENDLESS ads on cable channel TV, ALL OVER the DVR(start maying attention), and stamped on your forehead if Comcast could figure out how to do it – and anywhere else they can think of – and you’re going to complain about a one line ad on a TiVo?

    The double standards people have for TiVo’s and cable DVR’s is b@tsh!t goofy.

  30. If you REALLY want to break it down into HARD numbers –

    $880 divided by 66 months of ownership equal $13.33/month. And dropping every month now.

    And once again, that DVR was $200 MORE than the standard one, as well as today’s prices are even better.

    My DVR may “finally” be passed by cable DVR’s, for SOME of the cable customers who can GET one. But I have 2 HD tuners, can pass resolution natively, 157 hours of recording, and LESS advertising than a cable DVR.

    Plus I’m NOT feeding a rotten company that works VERY hard to screw it’s own customers.

  31. There seems to be this illusion that households all know about TiVo, have evaluated it and decided to go with their Cable companies DVR. The truth is in most households the DVR is nothing more than the mandatory cable box with ability to record shows. They have no idea TiVo exists or that there are better options.

    And to back this up last year I’m over a friends apartment and noticed she has the original TimeWarner Cable DVR circa 2004! She had no idea that there was something better even a newer box from TimeWarner. And I have other friends all with the mandatory cable box with the DVR in the den.

    If TiVo was plug and play I’d tell them to buy a Roamio but just thinking of explaining what a CablCard is, about pairing, about Switched Digital Video and the need for a possible extra box. And the need to reboot the extra box sometimes.

  32. New base lifetime Roamio is $500 (includes the cost of a reseller code off ebay.)

    Used, I’ve seen a maxed out (2TB) Premiere sell for $250 (tivocommunity forum).

    Cableco HD DVRs are $22-$25/month with taxes.

    Cablecards usually $5/month or less from cable companies.

    Easy to break-even within a couple of years even if you buy a new Roamio.

    And you can take your Tivo on vacation with you – many new cable company DVRs won’t even playback existing recordings without a live cable signal (after being turned off)

  33. Yes the break even point is quicker than ever now. I’ve owned many lifetime TiVos over the years. And just during the last seven years with FiOS, I’ve saven a bunch o fmoney by not renting the FiOS DVRs and using the TiVos in stead. Plus when I’m done with my tivos I sell them to cover most of the cost of the new model lifetime TiVos. One day at work we sat down and compared the price of the Tivos to what a couple of my co-workers pay Comcast. They were shocked at how much they paid Comcast over the last four years of renting their DVRs. They would have saved a bunch of money had they used TiVos instead.

  34. Just returned my TiVo Mini today due to this report. I had bought lifetime for it 5 days ago. Not sure what the new offer will be, but I’m sure I would have been bitter as hell having just bought lifetime and having it be worthless within a month. Thank goodness for 30 day return windows!

  35. I am a Cablevision customer and ran a price comparison before purchasing my Roamio Pro plus mini. Break even for me was about 4 years with over $28 / month saved after that point. The biggest problem – convincing my spouse that spending $1350 would save us money in the long term (she *knows* I’ll be looking to upgrade to whatever is the latest and greatest in 3 years). The easiest sell – at the time, Cablevision’s multi-room DVR interface was reported to be horrible and had little storage. Now it has the same storage as a basic Roamio (75 hours).

    Cablevision fee chart
    Multi-Room DVR $12.95
    Cable Box $ 6.70
    Remote control $ 0.25
    Additional Outlet $ 1.50
    Cablecard $ 2.00

    I have TVs in two rooms, so my Cablevision bill for hardware rental is
    $12.95 + ($6.95 * 2) + $1.50 = $28.35

    My Tivo equivalent (single Cablecard) is $26.35 plus $1.84 tax = $28.19 cheaper per month

    Tivo hardware prices
    Roamio is $200
    Roamio plus is $400
    Roamio pro is $600
    Lifetime Svc $500
    Mini/lifetime $250

    The cost for a Roamio plus mini with lifetime and the breakeven period in months
    Roamio $ 950 (34 months to break even)
    Roamio Plus $1150 (41 months to break even)
    Roamio Pro $1350 (48 months to break even)

    Break even point for a Cablevision customer with a Roamio and mini vs Cablevision’s cloud based multi-room DVR is about 3-4 years depending on the version of Roamio you have. After that point, you save over $28 / month with Tivo

    I believe Tivo’s biggest problem is that most of their customers are not willing to lay out that initial $1000+ on the hope of saving money down the road. For me, buying the Tivo locked me into Cablevision and ruled out any satellite solution.

  36. @Rick

    Why do you have to pay two cable box fees?
    wouldn’t it be one DVR fee and one cablebox fee?
    $12.95 + $6.95 + $1.50 = $21.40

  37. Cablevision charged me both for the DVR and for the decoder box and for the remote…plus a second decoder box and second remote in the other room….At least the $12.95 is better than what I used to have from them a year ago (for $11.95) – a 2 tuner 30 hour (HD) single location recorder.

  38. Here’s a copy / paste from my Aug 2013 bill – oldest one I can still see and the last one before I got Tivo:

    DVR Service $10.95 (At $10.95 each)
    2 Cable Box(es) $13.90 (At $6.71 each and remote(s) at $0.24 each)
    Additional Outlet $1.50

    DVR service back then was $10.95 for a HUGE in home box with 30 or 40 hours of HD space and 2 tuners and an absolutely horrible interface!

  39. I’m hoping this might be revealed along with all of the other upcoming goodies at the upcoming CEDIA Expo, running from Wednesday to Saturday of next week (9/10-13). Just a few more days, hopefully…

  40. Dave, Would you happen to know if the Tivo website is often out of stock on the Tivo Mini? The site has indicated out of stock since at least Friday, and it say out until 9/9/14. Could it have something to do with the possible changes you thought might happen?

    Just wondering, thanks.

  41. Yes, I think it’s highly likely something could be announced at CEDIA and I think it’s highly likely there will be some sort of line in the sand related to a hardware and service pricing shift. By the by, Best Buy has raised the price of the TiVo Mini to $150… related?


  42. Hmm…ordered a TiVo Mini from Wal Mart tonight for ~$85 before tax just in case they do remove the service fee. I’d love to have a Mini in the mix, but not badly enough at the current cost. I bought a ReplayTV the day they began bundling the service with the purchase price, before they had adjusted the retail price. We’ll see if lightning strikes twice or not.

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