TIVO Deathwatch: No Netflix Deal

nailcoffinEngadget reports that Netflix has abandoned its efforts to reach a deal with TIVO to facilitate movie downloads.

The problem: the Hollywood cartel won’t grant the necessary licenses to allow movies to be distributed via download to a TIVO. As Engadget points out, everyone and their dog knew this would happen when the Netflix/Tivo deal was first discussed.

As I have said before, I have loved my TIVOs- even though my primary soon to be obsolete HD TIVO is sputtering to a premature and not uncommon death as we speak. TIVO’s efforts at grabbing for a rope while the waves crash around it was noble at first. Now it’s just sad.

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TIVO Deathwatch: DirecTV Launches Ad Campaign

The New York Times has an interesting article about the forthcoming DirecTV brand digital video recorder. A few highlights:

1) DirecTV is spending $30M on an ad campaign to market its new digital video recorder. The non-HDTV model (which no one should buy since the future of TV is HDTV) will be available in late October. The HDTV version, which DirecTV hopes will be an HR10-250 (the HDTV TIVO I and many others paid $1K a piece for) killer, will be available in mid-2006.

2) The TIVO/DirecTV contract requires DirecTV to pay TIVO around a buck a month per TIVO subscriber. All of this for a buck a month. I’d gladly pay another buck a month if it would keep TIVO on DirecTV life support.

3) DirecTV will continue to “support TIVO” without marketing it. That’s great for non HR10-250 owners, but the HR10-250s don’t support MPEG4, which DirecTV is moving to, so they’ll be obsolete doorstops soon regardless of DirecTV’s stealth support.

4) The TIVO/DirecTV contract expires in early 2007, so even the stealth support may end then. Given that possiblility, why would anyone who uses DirecTV even think for a second about buying a TIVO. That’s right, they wouldn’t, which is exactly what DirecTV wants.

5) TIVO has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against EchoStar, the owner of Dish Network, a DirecTV competitor, over Dish Network’s digital video recorder. Certainly, this raises the possibility of a suit against DirecTV.

TIVO continues to look for a way to reinvent itself in a market that is sadly moving against it. I wish it would work, but as a DirecTV customer, TIVO is no longer an option for me. It looks like people who want to keep using TIVO are going to have to switch back from satellite to cable. I just don’t see that happening to any significant extent.

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TIVO Deathwatch: Some Mighty Good Spin

nailcoffinI belive this statement released by TIVO’s soon to be former CFO might be the best example I’ve ever seen of a one sentence, over the top spin job:

“In light of the company’s recent accelerated achievement of its profitability target, its very strong financial position, and the successful transition in CEO leadership, I feel that this is the right time for me to turn my attention to new and different pursuits.”

David H. Courtney, who became TIVO’s CFO in 1999, is resigning from his management roles at the company in early 2006.

I don’t know anything about this guy. What I do know is that TIVO is fighting for its life right now, and major executive turnover probably isn’t good news.

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TIVO Like a Cell Phone

So now after adding DRM restrictions (or, at a minimum the capability to add them) TIVO has decided that if you cancel your subscription within the first 12 months, you have to pay a $150 early termination fee. The PVRblog tries to take the glass half full approach and hope that this is the end of the rebate approach. Perhaps that will be one good side effect, but mainly this is another attempt by TIVO to recreate itself in a market stacked against it.

TIVO was the great liberator as far as recording and time shifting programming. DirecTV blows it off, so now it’s trying to marry the cable companies, flirt with the Hollywood cartel and dress up like the only thing people hate more than their cable company- their cell phone company.

I don’t buy it. One of the greatest technologies ever is reduced to this. Pity.

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Update: More on TIVO DRM

Engadget is reporting that the previously mentioned evidence of TIVO’s implementation of DRM continues to mount. My favorite part of that post is this comment by a reader:

What is the point of a TiVo then? They’re crippling themselves, and even though I don’t own one, it pisses me off.

I couldn’t agree more. The problem for TIVO is that it is caught between a rock (DirecTV non-support) and a hard place (Hollywood). It’s trying to recreate itself in a hostile environment. As a result, TIVO’s death throes are getting more and more hard to watch.

I’ll continue to hope that TIVO can beat the odds and remain a relevant and useful technology, as least until I conclude that TIVO is not telling the truth about this DRM business.

Note to TIVO: the best way to lose the last remaining part of your once large and loyal subscriber base would be to be less than forthcoming about this DRM business. DRM is a hot button for most of your subscribers, so the best way to address this mess is to play the “I have to do this to get the content you want” card. Blame it on the Hollywood cartel. No one likes them anyway.

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More Bad TIVO News

Apparently, TIVO is not satisfied dying on the vine thanks to its abandonment by DirecTV. Now comes news that the new TIVO operating system has the ability to place a bunch of DRM restrictions on the shows we record.

nailcoffinAccording to this post at PVRblog, the new DRM implementation allows TIVO to place limitations on how long certain shows can be saved (before now, one of the options was “Save Until I Delete”). Additionally, some shows cannot be copied using TIVO Togo (I wouldn’t know since my $1000 doorstops previously known as the TIVO HR210 never supported TIVO Togo).

A post on Tivo Community Forums, a very popular TIVO site that I visit regularly to talk about neat ways to use my $1000 doorstops, contains a bunch of screenshots (here, here, here and here) clearly showing the significant DRM restrictions.

PVRblog has an update that says the DRM on that old King of the Hill show was a mistake on the part of the TV station. Nevertheless, this little accident of grace shows that TIVO has implemented DRM and indicates that it may use it to prevent its (undoubtedly dwindling number of) loyal subscribers from doing what they have been allowed to do for a long time.

All in all, this is just one more reason why TIVO is dying on the vine. Whether TIVO is doing all of this stuff on its own (highly unlikely) or being required to do it by the TV network cartel (very likely), doesn’t matter. The result is the same: less appealing service that alienates its subscribers.

Bye Bye TIVO, it’s been nice knowing you.

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The TIVO Deathmarch Continues

nailcoffinHD Beat is reporting on a “reliable” rumor that, as I predicted, DirecTV will switch out at no cost to the customer the soon to be obsolete $1000 door stops previously known as the TIVO HR10-250 in exchange for a new one or two year satellite service commitment.

HD Beat and the quoted article actually say that the DirecTV representative did not give any details about the timing of the switch out or whether a new contract would be required. Logic tells me, however, that a contract will be required as a way to boost customer retention and allocate the cost of the new boxes. I wouldn’t mind having to sign a 1 or 2 year contract if I could be assured of good service, a good box (like, for example, the TIVO box that DirecTV is dumping), and lots of new HDTV channels (not just satellite streams of the local channels that I already get over the air). I don’t see how I can get those assurances so the prospect of a long term satellite contract isn’t very appealing to me.

Big Loser: TIVO (great box; but dying on the vine thanks to DirecTV)
Jury’s Out: DirecTV (if the box is good and free, minimal damage)
Big Winner: Cable TV (angry DirecTV subscribers may go back to cable)

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Another Nail

nailcoffinI’m getting tired of my self-imposed TIVO deathwatch, but I simply can’t help myself. PVR Wire confirms that DirecTV will soon stop marketing TIVO.

DirecTV says people who ask will still be able to get a TIVO. Of course it also says “if you don’t have a (digital video recorder) from us, you won’t be getting the DirecTV experience.” You can also still get an 8-Track tape player if you want.

The bottom line is that this is going to end up either:

Crappy: DirecTV pushes some lesser box on its subscribers, but at least switches out existing HDTV TIVOs at no cost to the customer. Then all we have to do is pay Weaknees to upgrade that box like we did for the TIVO.

Really Crappy: DirecTV pushes some lesser box on its subscribers and makes us pay for it. This would be really stupid because it would lead to the loss of a bunch of subscribers, myself included.

My prediction: They will switch out the boxes if you agree to a one or two year contract.

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Where Have You Gone Mr. TIVO Man

tivo.logo.man[1]-797758

A Newsome turns his lonely remote to you (woo woo woo).

If I sound bitter, it’s only because I am.

The reason I write so much about the impending death of TIVO is because I love my TIVO so much. It makes me mad that I am going to lose such great (and expensive) technology. But if I (like a lot of TIVO’s customers) am a DirecTV customer unwilling to go backwards to cable, then I have no choice but to find an alternative, since DirecTV is killing TIVO slowly, but surely.

Here’s an article in Forbes that says DirecTV may start shipping non-TIVO DVRs next month. So the end that I have been dreading is about to begin.

What’s that you say Mr. R. Murdoch, Mr. TIVO has up and gone away?

TIVO, HDTV, Media PC = SOL

I continue to read with interest (both the curiosity and vested kind) the discussions and debate regarding the future of PVRs and Media PCs, especially as it relates the the delivery of HDTV.

Here’s where we are to date:

1) TIVO, which I have used for years but is dying on the vine due to its break with DirecTV, has a great interface and, for a few more months until the HDTV models become incompatible with the DirecTV stream, delivers HDTV, both via satellite and over the air antenna. This is good, but DirecTV is about to switch over to MPEG4, which the current HD TIVOs cannot decode- thus they will become $1000 paperweights.

2) DirectTV has abandoned TIVO in favor of its forthcoming DirectTV branded HDTV compatible PVRs. TIVO is not a medium or long term solution for satellite owners.

3) Media PCs are nifty (sort of), but don’t truly support HDTV (over the air doesn’t really count because not many TIVO or Media PC owners get most of their programming over the air).

Now the current debate, led by two smart guys whose blogs I read literally every day.

The Thomas Hawk camp argues that Microsoft is catering to the Hollywood cartel by not leading the charge to make Media PCs HDTV friendly. I dislike the Hollywood cartel second only to the record label cartel, so this argument is appealing to me.

The Ed Bott Camp argues that unless the voices of reason, led by the EFF, get the DMCA overturned by the Supreme Court (which Ed implies is unlikely and I couldn’t agree more), Microsoft cannot bring HDTV to Media PCs because of the differential treatment of PVRs (closed box) versus Media PCs (open box) under the DMCA. Granted, I don’t practice in this area, but based on my reading of the DMCA, I believe Ed is correct.

The issue I have is not so much why Microsoft doesn’t turn its nose up at the Hollywood cartel and do it anyway – because the feds have a history of beating up Microsoft over alleged federal law violations, and all they need is an excuse and a bunch of compaign contributions to try it again. My question is why can’t Microsoft and everyone else with a brain cell to dangle and a dollar to be made line up against the Hollywood cartel and let it know that it needs movies distributed at least as badly as a Media PC needs HDTV. Tell them that they can be reasonable and play fair, or they can keep churning out copy-protected DVDs that can languish on the shelves of empty Blockbuster stores (though Netflix would stand to profit nicely from such an outcome).

One of the first rules of negotiation is that when you have no bargaining power in a certain situation, change the situation so hopefully the disparity in bargaining power will be lessened.

I say let’s make this issue not “how we will be forced to distribute your content” but instead “we are the gatekeepers to the new generation of viewers and if you want us to distribute your content, here’s how we will do it.” Yes, that would put Media PCs at a disadvantage over DVD Players and whatever replaces TIVO, but there is plenty of content that would readily be licensed and before long someone would break ranks with the cartel. Once that happens, momentum has shifted and truth and justice will prevail.

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