TiVo Takes Cord Cutting Too Far?

TiVo’s gearing up for a new round of television advertising targeting cord cutters with a pair of DVR birthing videos. Generally speaking, most ads that attempt to be clever and edgy are neither. I found the spots very mildly amusing, but think the company would have been better served with more focus on the product’s capabilities (like Virgin) – beyond a rushed description that refers to Amazon Instant or Amazon Prime Instant video streaming as Amazon Prime. (I get brevity in a 30 second spot, but this is the company that couldn’t always spell Roamio.) Further, while I don’t know if TiVo took this through a focus group, I suspect “record antenna TV” versus “record over-the-air HD” is a clearer, more powerful descriptor, plus you still have OTA in the product name and cord cutting references. They do wisely avoid TiVo Roamio OTA pricing options, as that’d consume the entire 30 seconds… not to mention, changes could be in the air. Ultimately, the commercial’s value to TiVo largely depends upon where exactly it’s shown along with the corresponding audience’s sensibilities.

Some of the less flattering Facebook and TiVo Community feedback:

  • they’re both bad. Very tortured “cut the cord” metaphor #
  • The irony of exclusively debuting an OTA receiver on a cable channel. #

19 thoughts on “TiVo Takes Cord Cutting Too Far?”

  1. Some additional thoughts…

    Given the timing of this Roamio OTA ad and TiVo’s “late july” Aereo announcement, will TiVo Aereo be a cloud service that runs in parallel to Roamio OTA? Or is this merely bad timing or an attempt to clear inventory. Hm.

    First time I think I’ve seen relatively new Chief Marketing Officer Ira Bahr. He’s good. They got to get him out in front more. While CEO Tom Rogers public speaking/performances are vastly improved in the last year or 18 months, I’d rather hear from Ira or CFO Naveen Chopra. Bonus: Ira chiming in on TiVo’s Facebook comments!


    Lastly, glad to see TiVo outsource ad production. The result may not differ from the Tebow experiment, but this is how professionals do it.

  2. Hi Dave,

    I believe in one of your articles I read that the only way to view live programming or recorded shows on my tivo, when I am away from my home, is through “tunneling”.

    What does that mean exactly and have you written or would you consider writing an article on how to accomplish this. There is no reason, that I see, that I should have to buy a sling box and connect to my tivo to watch my content when I’m traveling.

    Also, in the article you said, “not available at this time” and “at this time” was in italics, do you know something about tivo considering to allow away from network streaming on laptops in the future. I believe they allow away from network streaming on smart phones and tablets, correct?

    Thanks and keep up the great tivo articles.


  3. If I had just a few seconds to talk about Roamio OTA pricingif probably state it thusly: “TiVo, get started for under fifty bucks.”

  4. Jack, it sounds like you’re referring to the new “TiVo Online” experience which allows Roamio Pro/Plus or Stream owners to stream their TiVo content to a web browser. Right now, it only works within the home. However, TiVo indicates they’re working on out-of-home. Some content will likely be restricted, but the impact largely depends on your cable provider (unless you’re OTA).

    The iOS and Android apps currently support both in-home and out-of-home streaming. The iOS apps also allow you to download video to view without a connection. Supposedly that is coming to Android too.

    Regarding tunneling, it’s probably too geeky to write up. There are too many variables that will largely depend on what sort of router you have at home – different models handle VPN, ssh tunneling, etc in different ways, some not at all, and there are other security considerations when opening up your home network to the Internet.

    Scott, good point and angle. Unless the pricing today won’t be the pricing next month. Hm.

  5. “Generally speaking, most ads that attempt to be clever and edgy are neither.”

    I would’ve made a better TiVo ad, but I died.

    Seriously, though, ad effectiveness is a weird thing. Who woulda thunk that GoDaddy’s relentlessly tasteless ad campaign would have enabled it to massively outpace its competition? I’ve got no strong opinion on the TiVo ad, but just sayin’ that ‘what works’ is mysterious. Folks don’t have to necessarily ‘like’ an edgy campaign for it to work. But, of course, not all edgy campaigns work either…

  6. I found the ads to be in poor taste and just downright creepy.

    Honestly, it’s not explaining anything about the actual box or the service.

    I dunno. I came back to TiVo late last year and I’m not seeing they’ve learned anything since I left them in 2008. The OnePass is a great move, but that’s something they could have done years ago.

    They need to find a way to differentiate themselves and make the pricing attractive. A monthly price of $14.95 plus broadband (let’s assume unbundled pricing of $50/month), plus Prime, plus Netflix, plus Hulu comes to about $90/month. At that point you’re probably better off sticking with basic cable and getting a Roku or Apple TV for the other services you want. And considering the amount of menu digging you have to go through to get anywhere on the TiVo, I’m not sure its interface brings anything truly helpful to the party.

    If their pricing is going to change, with some tier or level at $10/month, then I think there’s hope.

  7. I love my tivo roamio ota. I just really want lifetime service for those of us who puchased before the last promotion. Tivo has guaged the market plenty enough and fiddled with pricing so much that their next move better be a stable price with an option for lifetime to all owners. Too much confusion from the marketing team in all regards. I guess in a way the confusion generated from this video Ad correctly sums up the life of the poor little OTA baby.

  8. My $0.02: I’ll be really surprised if the July Aereo announcement turns out to be a replacement for the Roamio OTA. Why would TiVo go to the expense of a new TV ad specifically for the R/OTA and specifically targeting cord-cutters if that product is soon to be phased out? I’ve never ever heard of a company doing that just to blow through remaining inventory of an obsolescent product. (They could do that easily enough by dropping the price, going back to the $299 hardware + lifetime service deal.) Besides being a waste of money for the media buys to air the ad, it would muddle their marketing message to cord cutters. People first hear about a product through a TV commercial and then, days later when they follow up on it, learn there’s some different but sorta similar product also aimed at cord-cutters? That’s just inviting confusion.

    My guess is that Aereo will be some sort of new complementary service/feature set, either as part of the regular TiVo service or for an additional charge, and it will mainly appeal to cord-cutters and will therefore largely be used in conjunction with the R/OTA, although could probably also be used with any modern TiVo box. I’m sure it will also tie into the TiVo apps and website too.

  9. This is the first of many steps Tivo will be taking to try and change their image from just being synonomous with “DVR”. They feel they have to get beyond that and better communicate all the other things (e.g.- OTT access etc.) that they enable to grow and believe the general consumer doesn’t understand that well enough.

    Whether this is the right approach to starting down that path is a different question.

  10. Ads are to get people’s attention and better yet get them talking. While these are not the best, I think they may work for that.

    Tivo needs to cut their pricing to be worth while. My $80 Bluray streams Netflix, Amazon and Hulu Plus – I don’t need a Tivo for that. Tivo is a great interface, hands down. What I want a Tivo for is a DVR. If I am paying $20+ for these three streaming services already, why do I need Tivo?

    My point is that Tivo Roamio OTA was a great deal for me at $299 for a lifetime sub. I wouldn’t pay more than $399 for it, especially since need another $149 device to stream to my smart devices. Of course, I don’t need that, there is an open source tool that will auto-download the shows and auto convert them to whatever smart device format I need, and strip the commercials, but that does mean leaving another PC on and having extra storage somewhere.

    Just sell the OTA for $299 and offer a $15/mo deal that turns into lifetime after a year or so.

    Oh, and a 500GB / 75hr device kinda stinks. First thing I did was put a 3TB drive in for $130.

    And fox OnePasses. If I say no rent/buy, that also means nothing I don’t have a sub for (Hulu Plus or Vudu) – just show me when Netflix or Prime have it as I have those subs (or whatever subs I have at present).

    Integration with my IMDB review ratings would be excellent as well. Profiles for everyone at the house and disk quotas are much needed, plus more parental controls like pre-approving a show that is beyond a normal kid-level.

  11. Little Bird, they’ve been saying and trying that for ten years… Remember when they put TiVo To Go on US Airway tray tables in 2006? I do. And this surely isn’t the first attempt in the Roamio era. Beyond the wasteful and wasted Tebow endorsement, they blanketed several large US airports, including IAD and Sea-Tac, in yards Roamio streaming advertising about 20 months ago… with growth remaining flat.

    What’s different now is that time warp patent litigation and licensing is behind them with most revenue drying up in 2018. So, between now and then, they need to figure how to create a sustainable business and retail customers are way more lucrative than MSO subscribers. Also, they finally and wisely gave up on the big US cable companies playing ball which dovetails nicely with consumer interest in cord cutting – they see the opportunity and are going after it. Also what’s different is senior management and board are finally ready to listen to the/a CMO, which is why we finally see meaningful changes and exprimentation in pricing. This is huge. (Whereas at least one former CMO was ousted for not delivering … while they kept his hands tied.)

    Maybe related – I’ve only vaguely been paying attention, but it looks like CEO has scheduled recurring weekly transactions to unload stock. Should we assume he thinks the company is basically at peak valuation? Or is he just remodeling his house?

    Tim, yes this changes my thinking. Although, with TiVo marketing, logic doesn’t always apply. Hm.

  12. “Ads are to get people’s attention and better yet get them talking. While these are not the best, I think they may work for that.”

    Yeah. Mentioned that upthread. Ad effectiveness is a different matter than liking an ad.


    “And fox OnePasses. If I say no rent/buy, that also means nothing I don’t have a sub for (Hulu Plus or Vudu) – just show me when Netflix or Prime have it as I have those subs (or whatever subs I have at present).”

    That’s existed with OnePass since day one. Turn off any service you don’t receive in the video providers, and those items won’t appear in OnePasses or Search. Without that, OnePass would be sorta useless…

  13. Additional $0.01 follow-up: Reading the story (linked by Dave) about TiVo’s desire to partner with cable to lease OTA DVRs, it occurred to me that the “TiVo Aereo” product to be unveiled in July could be essentially the same thing as the Roamio OTA (and with a built-in Stream function) but made only for deployment by broadband internet providers to lease to their cord-cutter customers. Doesn’t TiVo already use a different set of model names for the cable DVRs used by MSOs like Suddenlink rather than labeling them “Roamio”? This way, the MSO will be able to decide which OTT services they want to include on the Aereo and they’ll market it themselves (probably as a bundle — get internet, HBO Now, and TiVo Aereo powered by CableVision for $X per month). Meanwhile TiVo continues to market the Roamio OTA directly to retails.

    Oh, and I think the TV ad above is pretty funny. (Yes, a little tasteless and weird too.) Should get noticed.

  14. I think anytime a tech company shows a woman shooting an electronic device out of her vagina that a CEO should be punched in the crotch.

  15. The other problem with the ad is that it reminds me, unfavorably, to this ad. I wonder if it’s the same stupid ad agency or ad creative staff.

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