TIVO Deathwatch: Money for Nothing and the TIVOs are Free

nailcoffinI haven’t written in a while about my beloved and soon to be obsolete TIVOs. Recall that TIVO was number one in my Top 50 Gadgets list, but that I believe DirecTV for all intents and purposes killed TIVO when it abandoned TIVO in favor of its own digital recorder line.

Since then, TIVO has been floundering around trying to hook up with the old enemy, the cable companies, while making a deal a day or so in the hopes that one of those deals will be the lifeline it so badly needs.

Today I read another story indicating that TIVO may give its boxes away in order to gain subscribers (I sure am glad I paid a grand a piece for our three HDTV TIVOs so I can use them to prop open our doors).

TIVO’s plan is to give the boxes away in exchange for either a higher monthly fee (in which case, they really aren’t giving them away- they’re merely entering the rent-to-own business) and/or a longer contract.

Here’s the great, big obvious problem with that: how does the customer know that the box it gets will be compatible with the television service for the duration of this longer contract?

Rewind a year or so. If I’d know when I chunked down three large for my HDTV TIVOs that a few months later (a) DirecTV would dump TIVO and (b) DirecTV would move to MPEG-4, making my boxes little more that expensive door stops, I probably wouldn’t have bought them. Having experienced that little slice of gadget bliss, why in the world would I sign anything resembling a long term contract that might require me to pay for service that no longer works with my television provider?

What’s to keep the cable companies from doing what DirecTV did and dumping TIVO in favor of their own boxes? And even if they love TIVO, what happens when someone they don’t love or view as a competitor buys TIVO?

I would love to figure out a way to keep using TIVOs forever, but under the current state of affairs, I don’t see a safe and cost efficient way to do that.

It a shame, because TIVO brought life changing techology into lots of homes.

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