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Television Media

Has TiVo's Fate Been Sealed? 364

Posted by timothy
from the somehow-I-doubt-it dept.
ChipGuy writes "Things are getting bleak for TiVo, reports the New York Times, and adds that TiVo blew a major opportunity to team up with Comcast. And that might have cost CEO Michael Ramsey the job. Om Malik writes that 'The fate of TiVo also highlights the dilemma facing a lot of "exploding TV" start-ups. The technology does not necessarily translate into profits and a business,' and breaks down the financials -- over half a billion dollars in losses so far. PVRBlog adds that 'When the story of TiVo is written, this Comcast negotiation could be the point when the company's outcome was decided.' More reactions here."
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Has TiVo's Fate Been Sealed?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:29PM (#11391063)
    It is official; Netcraft confirms: Tivo is dying

    One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered Tivo community when IDC confirmed that Tivo market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that Tivo has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. Tivo is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [samag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

    You don't need to be a Kreskin [amdest.com] to predict Tivo's future. The hand writing is on the wall: Tivo faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for Tivo because Tivo is dying. Things are looking very bad for Tivo. As many of us are already aware, Tivo continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

    FreeTivo is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeTivo developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeTivo is dying.

    Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

    OpenTivo leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenTivo. How many users of NetTivo are there? Let's see. The number of OpenTivo versus NetTivo posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetTivo users. Tivo/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetTivo posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of Tivo/OS. A recent article put FreeTivo at about 80 percent of the Tivo market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeTivo users. This is consistent with the number of FreeTivo Usenet posts.

    Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeTivo went out of business and was taken over by TivoI who sell another troubled OS. Now TivoI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

    All major surveys show that Tivo has steadily declined in market share. Tivo is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If Tivo is to survive at all it will be among DVR dilettante dabblers. Tivo continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, Tivo is dead.

    Fact: Tivo is dying
  • Eh TiVo will probably die, they have the entire TV industry against them. As long as I can easily buy a clone or make my own (with no restrictions) why should I care?
  • by Wesley Felter (138342) <wesley@felter.org> on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:34PM (#11391106) Homepage
    Where's my OpenCable Moxi [moxi.com]?

    (Translation: Does it matter if TiVo dies as long as something better comes along?)
  • by PopeAlien (164869) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:35PM (#11391115) Homepage Journal
    'The fate of TiVo also highlights the dilemma facing a lot of "exploding TV" start-ups.',

    ok, I admit I'm not real familiar with the latest in television technology, but exploding TV's? what could possibly be the upside of that? faced with that sort of danger you'd definately want a TV-b-Gone. I'd say if their TV's are exploding TiVo's fate has definately been sealed. [tvbgone.com]
  • I don't doubt it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:36PM (#11391121) Homepage Journal
    First, I have to take issue with the claim that such technology, concepts, and products are not enough for a successful business. I think their success to this point is evidence enough of the power of this kind of product.

    On the other hand, I have to agree that Comcast has the power to propel TiVo into a different level of play. With that kind of support, they'd have a huge step up on all this exploding competition. That competition is finding ways to improve upon what TiVo already has - free listings, better storage, better interface, etc. Why compete directly when you could stand on the shoulders of Comcast?
    • Success? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:00PM (#11391286) Homepage Journal
      First, I have to take issue with the claim that such technology, concepts, and products are not enough for a successful business. I think their success to this point is evidence enough of the power of this kind of product.
      "Their success to this point"???!!! For a private company, success means profits. If not actual profits, then hopes of profits in the forseeable future. As the story mentions, they've lost half a billion dollars, and show no sign of going into the black.

      TiVo lovers (I used to be one myself) think this product is terminally cool because, when a TiVo box works correctly, it makes TV watching 100 times more enjoyable. But that, by itself, is not "success". Tivo lovers, though fanatical, are few and far between. TiVo has simply made too many mistakes. The platform is too klugy, so there's always been reliability issues. And if it does break, you have to send it back to the factory, for fees that approach the original purchase price. Even if nothing ever went wrong, most consumers just don't see such an expensive gadget as being worthwhile for what it does. This company is circling the drain.

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but good "technology, concepts, and products" is not a guarantee of success. There are other factors: marketing, management, timing, access to markets, and just plain luck. The few techies that get rich making some amazing breakthrough get all the press -- but most innovative tech companies fail.

      Which is true of all business. You can get very, very rich, but not without taking very, very big risks.

      • Hard drives do die after all. How much longer will some of the older TiVo's out there last? True, this could be a wonderful opportunity for TiVo, but given their track record on taking advange of wonderful opportunities...

        • by fm6 (162816)
          If hard drives were the weak point in the TV design, it wouldn't be all that bad. HDs don't cost a lot to replace, after all.

          Early TiVos were notorious for being shipped with flaky modems. But what really screws people over is the fact that the software upgrade process isn't failsafe. That is, software upgrades often fail, leaving the system nonfunctional, or nearly so, with no way to back things out. Hackers can re-image the system on their own, but most customers don't have that kind of skill. And you d

      • Re:Success? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dant (25668) * on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @01:55AM (#11392587) Journal
        The platform is too klugy, so there's always been reliability issues.

        Erm, really? I've been a TiVo customer since almost the start--I've got two TiVo boxes of my own, and used a very-hacked third for years. I've seen problems with them, sure, but nothing I would blame on TiVo itself.

        What sort of reliability issues are you talking about? Whatever they are, they're all news to me.

        Now, TiVo's business prospects are a completely different matter, and I do fear they will die before the non-techie public realizes what they can do.

      • Re:Success? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JWhitlock (201845) <`John-Whitlock' `at' `ieee.org'> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @09:59AM (#11394343)
        "Their success to this point"???!!! For a private company, success means profits. If not actual profits, then hopes of profits in the forseeable future. As the story mentions, they've lost half a billion dollars, and show no sign of going into the black.

        That "half-a-billion" dollar figure is misleading. That's the IPO money, spent in the dotcom days when a good business plan was to spend millions just to get market share. And spend they did. Very little of that IPO money is left.

        They are currently scraping by quarter to quarter, and losing a few million in cash each quarter. But they have millions in the bank, so they can afford to burn some. Almost all their costs are business costs - they have no remaining debt to finance.

        Yes, I wouldn't call TiVo a success either. They wouldn't make make a good case study for business school, at least not at this point. But it is not as bleak as the half a billion figure looks.

        Consider the MIT graduate, whose parents paid the whole $100,000+ tuition, after grants and scholarships. You might find that he is a net loss for his investors, of perhaps a half a million dollars. But, he has a degree from MIT, a job with a great starting salary, and no student loans. He's not a success yet, but he has a good start. And, just like the folks that bought TIVO at the IPO prices and held on to them, the kid's parents shouldn't expect to see that money back any time soon.

  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:36PM (#11391124) Homepage
    Okay, so if I can pick up a TiVo for a couple of hundred bucks, how much is a MythTV box? You need a fast pentium box with a large HD, right? Plus a video encoder. What's the cheapest MythTV box that I could put together that competes with a base TiVo?
    -russ
    • by garcia (6573) *
      Okay, so if I can pick up a TiVo for a couple of hundred bucks, how much is a MythTV box? You need a fast pentium box with a large HD, right? Plus a video encoder. What's the cheapest MythTV box that I could put together that competes with a base TiVo?

      Couple of things here. First off you can get a baseline Tivo (40 hour) for $99 before rebates. I happened to pick mine up on special (after rebate) for $49.99.

      The 40 hour Tivo is really about a 25 hour Tivo if you are looking to not have super shit qualit
      • If you have something like the PVR350, which has encoder and decoder, you don't need much CPU at all to use it simply as a TiVo-like device. I've read P2 266's working, I bet you could go even lower. Hell the Tivo is like a 33mhz MIPS, isn't it?

        Of course, a MythTV box could in theory do so much more: reencode stuff you want to keep in divx in the background, playback any sort of content you want, play games, stream both live tv and content to other clients, put as many tuners in it as there are PCI slo
        • The Tivo processor is an IBM PowerPC 403GCX. And yes it is a low power chip for embedded systems so it's not blazingly fast. I am not sure of the actual CPU speed used.
          BTW, IBM lists the part as costing $1.90.
      • ... there won't be the loyalty to prevent people from hacking the authentication source, and we'll see ebay flooded with 2nd hand Tivos... and people will modify them like they do leftover internet appliances.

        And I'll see my purchase go the way of the 1st generation DVD players: Given away to my neighbor in exchange for his kid mowing my lawn ;)
    • Depends on what kind of old hardware you have laying around, and that will determine what you should add to turn it into a MythTV.

      IFF (If and Only If) you have hardware encoding on your video/TV tuner card, MythTV will run on a lower end older CPU. www.byopvr.com claims 233MHz if you have hardware MPEG-2 encoding, but that seems fantastically optimistic. Keep in mind that hardware encoding is fairly expensive -- I just bought the USB-2 Hauppauge PVR for $150 at MicroCenter yesterday. (I'm sure they're

    • I spent ~$750 18 months ago for one I was sure would work. I might have been able to spend less, but then I would have been risking poor performance and spending more in the long run to upgrade until it did work. That was a pretty conservative approach.

      Of course, a TiVo is only a couple hundred bucks, but a "lifetime subscription" is about $300, so I didn't really spend a huge amount more than the equivalent TiVo.

    • by sydsavage (453743) on Monday January 17, 2005 @11:05PM (#11391691)
      Yep, a home built MythTV box is going to cost more than TiVo, and it's not exactly a plug and play experience. Here's an approximate breakdown of what I spent building mine:
      • $30 case
      • $70 motherboard (Shuttle MN31N)
      • $80 cpu (AMD Athlon XP 2500+)
      • $90 512 meg ram
      • $50 40 gig harddrive
      • $120 250 gig harddrive
      • $180 Hauppauge PVR-350
      • $80 DVD burner (not necessary, but nice to have)
      • Many, many hours getting the right combination of drivers, etc compiled
      Now, before anybody jumps all over me and says I could have saved $x here or there, I should point out that I originally built the computer to be a linux workstation, and then decided to try my hand at building a DVR. Originally, I spent $335, including shipping, to put together a decent box to run SuSE 9.1. I went for the Shuttle mobo so I wouldn't have to buy a seperate graphics card or sound card. This board has a twin VGA nVidia GeForce4 MX with shared memory, Realtek ALC650 audio, and onboard 1394 and USB 2.0. It is capable of digital audio out with the addition of a $30 header board. I went with the AMD processor because I wanted good performance, without spending too much. The board supports anything from a Duron 700 up to an Athlon XP3000+ (or possibly higher, I think that's all that was out when the documentation was printed).

      So, if you wanted to trim the price down further, you could find a motherboard with integrated graphics that has S-Video out, and then get the cheaper Hauppauge PVR-250 or another capture card. This will give up some quality, as the PVR-350's video out is allegedly much better than other graphics cards, but it's a trade-off for price. You could get by with a lot slower processor than mine. You can get buy with a lot less memory than I have. You could probably find a case for free or close to it.

      Another possible route would be to start with a Shuttle bare bones system, and add a Hauppauge or other capture card into the one PCI slot. I hope to add more capture cards to my system, so I ended up ruling out this solution.

      As far as the time I put into it, I consider that to be an education. Without a reason, I wouldn't normally get my hands so deep into the o/s internals. I learned a lot about kernel modules and how they work on this project.

      If you decide to do this, I highly recommend it. But don't go into it thinking it's a way to get cheap TiVo. It's a way to have fun building a cool project that you will (hopefully) enjoy long after the building is done. I still take a lot of pride in my system, and really enjoy showing it off to guests. And it does a whole lot more than TiVo, I should add.

  • Very True (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:38PM (#11391144)
    Tivo is toast. It's a great product without question. The issue is that all the major cable companies (Comcast, Cox, etc.) are building those capabilities into the set top box.

    Over Christmas, my grandfather asked about Tivo because his brother had recently gotten one. He really didn't know quite what it was, but he wanted one. So, we went to all the consumer electronics shops and looked into it. It was going to be $100.00 bucks after a rebate, twelve bucks a month, and then he had to get some kind of phone line across the room to the back of the TV. They suggested a wireless phone jack, which was an extra $85 dollars or so.

    Instead of messing with all that, I stopped by the Cox office and they gave us a new cable box for free and the extra DVR functionality for an extra ten dollars a month over what he had already been paying. He's not going to notice a big difference between that and Tivo, so it's definitely "good enough".

    I like Tivo's announcement about Internet-oriented content, but I just don't think they have a chance. EVERYONE and his mother is going after the set top box "center of the digital living room lifestyle". This includes at least Sony, Cisco, Microsoft, Apple, Nintendo, all the set top box manufacturers and cable providers, as well as many other upstarts. People will want as few boxes as possible (hopefully one), so products like Tivo that don't have the depth of stickiness, that aren't the anchor of critical functionality (cable TV vs. VCR, if you absolutely had to choose which one would it be). As such, Tivo is in big, big, big trouble.
    • Re:Very True (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lightspawn (155347) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:07PM (#11391317) Homepage
      Instead of messing with all that, I stopped by the Cox office and they gave us a new cable box for free and the extra DVR functionality for an extra ten dollars a month over what he had already been paying. He's not going to notice a big difference between that and Tivo, so it's definitely "good enough".


      But only because he's never used a TiVo.

      I own a TiVo, and hate hate hate using Cox's DVR, which has horrible usability issues, even apart from the response times (over a second for basic operations).

      As a random example - if you view a list and press page-down, you're now at the TOP of the next page. Pressing page-down again brings you to the bottom of the page and another press to the top of the next page.

      TiVo practically always does exactly what I expect when I press a button, and the layout is so convenient that I never have to look at the remote.

      I would gladly buy TiVo's UI people a round of drinks, but could get violent if I ever met Cox's DVR's developers (it looks like they have no UI people and let the programmers do it).
      • Re:Very True (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Skater (41976)
        Yeah, the UI isn't the best. But I've been using mine for almost 2 years and it works okay, and it's slowly getting better (they make software updates to it - early on I was crashing the box on a regular basis).

        However, the price difference makes it worthwhile - for $10/month and no setup fee, no purchase, no contract, and two tuners, how can you go wrong? Plus, it's probably simpler than a Tivo in some respects: the Cox box is also your cable tuner, so you don't have to worry about setting two timers (o
        • Re:Very True (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lys1123 (461567)
          However, the price difference makes it worthwhile - for $10/month and no setup fee, no purchase, no contract, and two tuners, how can you go wrong? Plus, it's probably simpler than a Tivo in some respects: the Cox box is also your cable tuner, so you don't have to worry about setting two timers (one in Tivo, one in the cable box) and other such hassles.

          I have used both a Satellite (Non-TiVo) DVR and a TiVo (which I own). I was absolutely floored by how primitive the DVR was, and your comment about setti
  • by Anonymous Coward
    First, TechTV and now TiVo? Damn you, Comcast!
  • Not surprising (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tiburana (162897) <{tiburana} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:41PM (#11391163) Homepage
    In order for Tivo to survive against the snarly market forces of TV they would have had to promise even more invasive advertising to replace the ads we skip over. In two years Tivo would (will?) end up looking like a cheesy free web page with banner ads and annoying pop-ups. I'd rather live in the moment and go to the bathroom during ad breaks.
  • by stratjakt (596332) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:41PM (#11391167) Journal
    Ditch the service.

    Open the box, screw this DRM'ed TivoToGo crap. Just open an SMB service, or ftp, or some such.

    Sell the box at a profit. I'd pay up to 500 bucks for one, that just worked - always, regardless of whether TiVo is still in business. It's still cheaper than rolling my own with MythTV, and a whole lot less of a hassle.

    Since that's not what they're going to do, since TivoToGo turned out to be useless - need a custom app to burn to DVD? And it's not out yet? And I'm supposed to buy what is basically the same Prassi/Stomp/Veritas software that I already have three copies of again for another 50 bucks?

    Anyways. I like the TiVo interface. Good riddance to the rest of it.

    I've been playing with MythTV. As soon as I get it working to my liking, my series 2 TiVo goes up on eBay. I'm getting there, it's nothing but time and effort.

    I already know it'll blow TiVo away, it'll stream recorded content and live TV via VideoLan, which I can watch on satellite boxes, which I plan to be no more than some hacked XBoxes. It'll have (at least) two tuners. It'll record to DVD-R without jumping through hoops. It'll grab content from the 'net.

    So on an offtopic note, anyone have an idea how support for the Hauppage PVR150MCE and 500MCE is going under ivtv? I got an itch to order the 500MCE (mmm two tuners, two encoders.. all for roughly the price of the 250), becuase it looks like it will be supported soon.. But I don't want to be stuck with a dud.
    • mythTV has very good possibilities.
      Anyone got it working on a small motherboard with onboard everything so that it will fit in a tiny case like a Tivo or Comcast box? A whole computer next to my tv just doesn't look good...
    • What you're recommending Tivo to do is pretty much what Replay did. And it killed them.

      These are dangerous waters.
      • Replay was a me-too product, in the public's eyes. It was the Creative Nomad, whereas TiVo is the "iPod". TiVo is already in the popular lexicon. Brand name can keep them around.

        In theory.
  • by earthforce_1 (454968) <earthforce_1@@@yahoo...com> on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:44PM (#11391177) Journal
    and why I would never buy any piece of hardware that relies on a subscription. All the more if they offer a "lifetime" subscription where you pay up front. People have fallen into this trap with health clubs as well - what is the chance that the company behind the hardware will outlive me?
    • and why I would never buy any piece of hardware that relies on a subscription. All the more if they offer a "lifetime" subscription where you pay up front. People have fallen into this trap with health clubs as well - what is the chance that the company behind the hardware will outlive me?

      Well, in this case I think that because of how Tivo has been created (hardware and OS wise) and the fact that it has been relatively easy to hack Tivo units will continue to function in their current state for years to c
    • and why I would never buy any piece of hardware that relies on a subscription.

      Neither would I, but I did buy a TiVo. You don't have to pay a monthly fee -- you can get lifetime service for a flat fee. And it's the subscription that makes the product worth having, because the box uses the subscription to constantly dig up shows for you. Without it, the TiVo is just a glorified VCR.

      When I decided to get the box, my thought was, "A lifetime subscription costs less than two years of monthly subscription. O

      • I want a glorified VCR. I don't care if the box can go and find programs for me. I can pick which shows I want to record just fine on my own. All I want is a self-contained box that costs a couple hundred bucks, that will let me rewind and pause 'live' TV, and record shows at will without paying a subscription fee. Oh yeah, it should also replace my digital cable box (but I still don't want to pay a monthly rental/subscription fee for it.)
    • by rcastro0 (241450) on Monday January 17, 2005 @11:00PM (#11391652) Homepage
      and why I would never buy any piece of hardware that relies on a subscription

      You mean you don't have a cell-phone ?
      • by e40 (448424)
        There is some very strange disconnect going on here. The $4.95 I pay per month for my DirecTivo subscription is much MUCH less than I pay for my basic cell phone contract, and much less than my landline. That's probably the best $4.95 subscription I've EVER had. People, that's 2.5 Red Bulls. That's not even one movie.
    • and why I would never buy any piece of hardware that relies on a subscription. All the more if they offer a "lifetime" subscription where you pay up front. People have fallen into this trap with health clubs as well - what is the chance that the company behind the hardware will outlive me?

      Don't be dense. A lifetime subscription doesn't have to last forever to be worth it, it only has to last long enough to be cheaper than perpetual monthly fees. At this point, that's 23 months. If TiVo lasts 2 more years,

  • So it goes... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wcitechnologies (836709) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:45PM (#11391185)
    The law of the bottom dollar says that if people can provide a service for themselves for free, they will. Most of them anyway. HTPCs increasingly become easier to build and cheaper to buy. Its always irked me that TiVo would charge you to use a device that you purchased legally. It'd be like Microsoft trying to charge me per megabyte to use my own hard drive. (I probably shouldn't even SAY that...) Ask yourself: how many people in the world still have milk delivered to their front doors? How many people still have their gas pumped by an attendant? How many people in the world will continue to pay for TiVo?
    • Re:So it goes... (Score:2, Informative)

      by FlightTest (90079)

      How many people still have their gas pumped by an attendant?

      Apparently, everyone in New Jersey and Oregon [yahoo.com].

    • Re:So it goes... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by starman97 (29863) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:06PM (#11391312)
      I guess paying for DSS TV service must really bum you out, after all you bought the dish and reciever, the nerve of them expecting you to pay for the content. You pay for Internet Service, but you bought the firewall and your ethernet card...

      What Tivo owners are paying for is the directory service and database compilation that makes the search functions of the Tivo useful. If you want to use it as a simple PVR, yuo can buy a 1st generation box, they had enabled that feature.
      If you buy a Series2, you buy it knowing that it does not work without purchase of the Tivo Service. It says so on the Box. Tivo does not charge by the Gig, you can upgrade all models without incurring any extra charges.

      All but a very small minority of Tivo owners will continue to buy the serive as long as it is available at it's current pricing and features.
      What will kill them is if they disable commercial fast-forwards or jack the price or do some sort of pay per view for previously recorded shows. The second they do that they are dead.

      MythTV is free if you value your time. I dont have time to program or manually search for things to watch. I also dont have the interest to mess with building a linux box just to watch TV, for that, I'll buy a tivo and it's service and get on with working and playing with more interesting things.
    • Re:So it goes... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lucifuge31337 (529072) * <daryl AT introspect DOT net> on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:49PM (#11391584) Homepage
      Ask yourself: how many people in the world still have milk delivered to their front doors?
      If the service were availabe in my area at a reasonable price, I would.

      How many people still have their gas pumped by an attendant?
      Everyone getting gas in the state of New Jersey, and me, whenever I am getting gas while dressed well, when it's cold out, etc., etc.

      I just don't get your point....HTPC's blow for non-techies in their current state.

      Most overlooked points past shitty UIs and complicated setup: you need a remote control....oh yeah, that's right, every one availabe for PCs sucks ass. High quality SVIDEO output still isn't there at a reasonable price. And not-so-expensive PCs tend to be noisy. And hot. And not shaped like the rest of my stereo/tv components.

      I deal with IT all day. When I come home and want to watch TV, that's what I want to do. Preiod. Not screw with some HTPC, or ssh into my hacked TiVo because the cron job to grab the listings failed.
  • It isn't a huge supprise for me, as hard as the content providers and cable companies have been pushing on tivo. Add that to the price inceases a while back. Tivo was/is a concept, and a good one at that. Tivo started a tv revolution (basically), unfortunately, they couldn't keep up with it. They may die, they may not. They will always be remembered reguardless. They did the right things as far as community goes (being hack-friendly (are they still that?), fighting to keep control when dealing with content
    • They are not hack-friendly. The TivoToGo content is locked down via DRM. To burn to DVD-R you have to buy another burning app (essentially a kludged version of the same prassi RecordNow burning software everybody rebrands as their own).

      The new 40 hour Series 2.5's (the nightlight models) are locked down so the kernel is cryptographically signed, so you can't do anything with it.

      No commercial skip. No nothing.

      They're as far from hack-friendly as you can get.
  • This [reuters.com] will probably arrive far too late to save them if it ever makes it market anyway, at this point.

    Even if it does, they still would have the problem of selling it in any meaningful volume. They'd basically have the same problems marketing something with the cable tuner thrown in as they have now without it.

    Oh well, back to getting a MythTV box together.

    Since they're screwed anyway, I wonder if they'll just say fuggit and let you move whatever you want to onto and off of the Tivo box while they're

  • by mveloso (325617) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:51PM (#11391227)
    TiVo really has only two things going for it:

    * the program guide
    * the interface

    The program guide is really great, and the interface is incredibly easy to use.

    The problem seems to be TiVo spends a lot of its money on the boxes. Hardware costs for the TiVo boxes totalled $68,056,000 for the last nine months of the last fiscal year. That's a lot of hardware.

    They're also selling that hardware at a loss. HW Revenues were $60,823,000, with $29,508,000 in rebates. Ouch.

    There's not a lot that TiVo can do, financially.

    The TiVo service only cost $25,069,000 to run for those 9 months, while TiVo pulled in $81,311,000 in revenue. That means if they stopped selling TiVo boxes, they'd make money (though it's unclear from the revenue numbers if the tech revenues include partner hardware).

    That won't expand their customer base, though.

    Maybe they could spin off their guide business and license it to other box manufacturers? I'm sure TV Guide would love to buy it from them. It would free the guide to provide services to all the manufacturers, though they obviously have someone doing it already (who knows?).

    Maybe they could contract to get the hardware built more cheaply?

    The hardware is really killing them. Sure, they can't do a Microsoft (not at less than $1/subscriber/month for licensees). But they don't have to have high-end hardware either.
    • The TiVo service only cost $25,069,000 to run for those 9 months, while TiVo pulled in $81,311,000 in revenue.

      How the heck can providing TV listings cost ~$3MM/month? I'm not questioning, I'm just wondering.

    • by Razzak (253908)
      Having used Dish Network's PVR, it's a POS. PLEASE Tivo, license your software and do what you do best, making a good UI. Don't try to control the game, you've already lost.
  • regardless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zontroll (714448)
    Even if they go bankrupt, look at replaytv...they were a startup and they went broke (people were buying tivo instead because of the much lower price because replaytv baked their lifetime price into the cost of the device)... sonicblue bought them and changed the model to match tivo but went bankrupt due to all the lawsuits over auto-commercial skip ... dnna bought the replay division from bankruptcy and is doing everything right: not investing too much in new features until the market makes it worthwhile w
  • No TiVo for me.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:00PM (#11391285) Homepage
    I have Adelphia Digital Cable, and for a while I was tempted to get a TiVo. The cost was a little high, but I work odd hours and miss some of my favorite shows. I was tempted to get a TiVo until Adelphia offered a nice little DVR box for 9.99/mo with no up front payment.

    Adelphia isn't alone in offering these nice little DVRs, either. TiVo had a great idea, and now that everybody and their aunt Jan can offer a DVR for a low low price, I just can't see TiVo moving millions of units.
    • For me the only good thing about working late nights is not having a chance to see any prime time TV.

      Some days I will have a day off or return early, and will torn on the TV around 8 pm and will be completely shocked at the awfullness of the shows. Or the fact that now commercials are actually inserted in the programming.

      But when I watch at night i can always get a seinfeld, simpsons or that 70s show rerun. So I get go to sleep without witnessing the next stage of commercialization of popular culture -- t
  • DirecTiVo / CES (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deviator (92787) <`bdp' `at' `amnesia.org'> on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:06PM (#11391314) Homepage
    I was at CES. DirecTV is dropping TiVo for their own new custom-built upcoming DVRs. From what I understand DirecTV currently provides some life support for TiVo in the form of a rather inexpensive licensing/subscription fee for each user--but that will go away.

    The interface is incredible; the remote is the best I've ever used for anything; the programming guide is extremely good... but anyone and their Mom can hack together a DVR at this point (not that it'll be as good as TiVo).

  • SA should buy out Tivo and incorporate their technology into their cable boxes. Tivo would then live on and SA would then actually have the ability to make a good box.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    /FCC/Fritz septfecta succeeded/will succeed in killing Tivo.

    Anything beyond the control of the cable and media cartels will be killed at any cost. We have the FCC killing any dsl beyond the baby bells, by allowing the baby bells to let their copper die through neglect (which has been paid for by consumers many times over through tax deductions on infrastructure during and after deregulation) while they install fiber through the same consumer paid-for-through-tax-deductions infrastructure, while preventi
  • Good thing I didnt purchase the lifetime sub.

    I dont think Tivo will die. They will probably suck for a while, they need to get their cablecard system out this summer instead of next year. It really frustrates me that they annouce a product like TivoToGo and then take a year to deploy it because the FCC wont stand up for fair use and tell the MPAA to fuck off.
  • by WalletBoy (555942) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:20PM (#11391408)
    I think most people miss the point of TiVo especially when they say things like "I can just build a MythTV box or I can do this on a computer..."

    What makesTiVo really great isn't the box, or the interface, or any of the generic PVR features, it's the TiVo service that makes it great and you lose that with everything else. It's the service that's worth it for me and what I don't mind paying for it. All these other PVRs are just hard-drive based VCRs with a GUI. Even a TiVo box is just a hard-drive VCR with a GUI without the TiVo service.

    Sure you can get other PVR solutions to download TV-listings and they probably have something like TiVo's season pass where it can follow shows you have season passes to and tape them whenever they air (even if they are pre-empted). The one thing I don't know if anyone else has is the TiVo suggestions. I have my TiVo so well trained I don't have to use the TV listings anymore. My TiVo picks out most of what I watch for me. It's like hiring a personal secretary who knows your tastes.

    After I come home for work and eat dinner, I usually have enough shows on my TiVo that TiVo picked for me to keep me entertained until I go to bed a couple of hours later. I don't have to surf channels, I don't even have to look at any listing to see if it's something I might like to watch and tell my PVR to tape it. It's gotten to the point where sometimes I don't even know what's on TV anymore and I don't care because I have more than enough shows I like to watch waiting for me each evening. I don't have to spend 20 minutes each day scrolling through a program listing of 500 channels to find the one program I might like to watch tomorrow and tell my PVR to tape it. For me I don't mind paying $12.95 a month if it means saving me 20 minutes a day in front of a computer or on a TV menu doing "prep-work" for my evening's TV watching. I will sorely miss this if TiVo were to go away.

  • ... is some halfway decent PVR software that does what TiVo does. Price it at, say, fiddy bux. Modern hardware's good enough to work it on the fly- all it has to do is be smart enough to recognize various sources of audio and video input, basic tuning faccilities, etc. and be EASY. TO. USE. None of this homebrew shit that causes your mom to lose interest.

    Oh, and make the software cross platform. From the number of people spunking their pants over OMFG MAC MINI SET TOP BAWX!!!!!!!!!11111 SQUIRT!, fuck-
  • I've never had a problem with the Tivo hardware. I really like it. I've almost bought one a few times.... But, as with a lot of the other people posting here, I had a problem with paying $12/month (I think that's it) for the electronic equiv. of TV Guide. This has always kept me from getting one. Well, that and one more thing....

    What REALLY burned me though, was the stories of overnight "downgrades" and the EULA with crap about how "Company reserves the right to alter the user experience at will..blah
  • by jamienk (62492) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:27PM (#11391450)
    Sell a quiet, stylish set-top computer with TV and stereo out, remote control, and wireless. This could be sort of like the MiniMac with Myth front end or a modded xBox, but this model should have lots of CPU and RAM. Build in DVD writer. Rather than emphasizing the recording TV side (this could be a Firewire add-on), emphasize the ability to easily play any format, however acquired. Quiet, cute external hard-drives could be added and daisy-chained.

    Also sell cheap, stylish dumb terminals with bootable network card, and set-top box ready to serve. These could look like the new iMac, nice monitor, nice keyboard, nice mouse, but with low CPU, no HD, little RAM, etc. This way you can get away with charging a lot for the set-top, as much as or more than a good computer: it doubles as your server ... just add dumb terminals, up to 10 or 20.

    This is the winning combo of 2005. The MiniMac and Xbox2 are light on power, skimpy on playable formats, and not ready to serve as dumb-terminals. They discourage bigger drives, don't burn CDs/DVDs, and don't come with wireless.
    • This is the winning combo of 2005. The MiniMac and Xbox2 are light on power, skimpy on playable formats, and not ready to serve as dumb-terminals. They discourage bigger drives, don't burnCDs/DVDs, and don't come with wireless.

      Of course, Mac Mini does allow you to connect Firewire and USB hard disks, and even chain them ('Quiet, cute external hard-drives could be added and daisy-chained.'.), burn CD's and DVD's and comes with 802.11g and BlueTooth if desired and supports all the formats you could reasonab
  • I pay $5 a month for the Tivo software and get my listings from DirecTV as usual.

    I get all the normal TiVo functionality plus dual tuner support (all the good TV is on at the same time, it's called competition) and it's all without all the encoding, decoding and reincoding with standalone TiVos.

    I'm guessing DirecTV's replacement for TiVo isn't going to have the same functinality. It will probably be worse.
  • Right on schedule? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Monoman (8745) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:33PM (#11391487) Homepage
    It seems like we get a Tivo doomsday article every 3-4 months.

    http://slashdot.org/search.pl?query=tivo [slashdot.org]
  • Is there anyone out there who honestly believes that these non-networked (or barely network-capable) digital PVR's are the end-game anyway?

    Don't get me wrong, I love my TiVo (although HD would be nice), but don't we all really want access to what's on everyone *else's* TiVo -- streamed instantly across a P2P network.

    Just wait until broadcasters join the chorus of RIAA whiners...

    • Just wait until broadcasters join the chorus of RIAA whiners...

      I'm betting that's already starting. I get a lot of my TV shows off from bit-torrent, and lately there's been all sorts of problems with sites like tvtorrents.tv (was net), tonight there's a problem with btefnet. Luckily someone is staying ahead of whatever is causing the problems, but it's getting kind of silly having to log into irc to find out what site you need to go to each night for a torrent.

  • Wins and Losses. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bort27 (261557) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:39PM (#11391526)
    I've had my TiVo for over 4 years now. I love it to death. I think that TiVo did a hell of a lot of things right. Some quick examples:

    1. Unlike, say, Microsoft, they never discouraged their users from hacking their boxes. As a result, a huge community of TiVo hackers emerged (see http://www.tivocommunity.com/ [tivocommunity.com]). I upgraded my TiVo's 30 gig hard drive to two 120's, and installed a cachecard/network card combo from 9th Tee, which means I can do fun tricks like scheduling shows and season passes from the road, or watching shows in my bedroom on my XBOX.

    2. Really great support. I've only had to call TiVo a couple of times, both for channel lineup issues, but they were always extremely friendly and helpful over the phone. For example, after I moved into my new house, I realized that Adelphia had just upgraded the cable in my area, and TiVo didn't have the lineup yet. So I called support, and the next day, TiVo called me back to tell me that my lineup was added. Simply awesome.

    3. Choosing Linux. When I telnet into my TiVo, I get a bash shell. I've installed an ftp server, web server (TiVoWeb), and even installed cron. How cool is that? Plus, this excellent decision has led to new software being developed exclusively for the TiVo (such as a caller id display that uses the TiVo's built-in modem, so you can see who's calling without getting up off the couch). Simply brilliant.

    4. The interface. They obviously put a ton of work into it, and it really shows. It just kicks so much ass.

    Now obviously, they dropped the ball in a couple of areas. The Comcast merger was just a more recent one. I think these are the two biggies:

    1. I think that their biggest problem has always been slow adoption; as long as I've had the thing, I've been seeing ads pop up on TiVo Central giving me hot deals on new TiVo units, which I'm supposed to share with my friends and family. Great, I can save Dad $50 on his new unit. But if they really expect me to convince Dad that he can't live without a season pass on those Seinfeld reruns he loves so much, then they should be giving me the 50 smackers. I'd probably have 10 people signed up under me right now if I got some sort of compensation for it. (By the way, click here [freeminimacs.com] to get a free Mini Mac!) :-)

    2. Too expensive. The hardware and service together really do cost too much, unless you got in early like I did (back when lifetime service was $200). They should do what my damn cell phone company does: Knock the hardware down to like $99, and make me pay a very affordable $9.95 a month. If I try to cancel before 2 years are up, hit me with some obscene early termination fee. Yes, I hate it when cell phone companies do this, but that's how they stay in business. Besides, it's not like I'd be foolish enough to cancel my TiVo service anyway. TiVo is heroin. So far, I've paid $499 for TiVo and lifetime service, so TiVo won't make any more money off of me. If they were using my above plan, I would have paid in $589 so far, with more coming in every month.

    I would really hate to see TiVo go. I hope they don't. But I suspect that even if the service dies, thanks to the openness of their hardware platform, someone (maybe me) will figure out how to write a script to pull show data off of Yahoo! TV or something. And with Microsoft and MythTV and several others entering the PVR market, there's no question that TiVo's invention is here to stay.

    bort.
  • Just out of curiosity I've checked Yahoo! finance and AFAICT TiVo was profitable this year and has almost a 100 million in cash. Can someone explain to me where the "half billion" in net losses is coming from?
    • by Dun Malg (230075) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @01:04AM (#11392338) Homepage
      Just out of curiosity I've checked Yahoo! finance and AFAICT TiVo was profitable this year and has almost a 100 million in cash. Can someone explain to me where the "half billion" in net losses is coming from?

      They're half a billion in debt, but are currently making a profit. Frankly, the link to the "half billion" figure is to some jackass "Business 2.0" staff writer's personal weblog. This "Om Malik" guy doesn't really impress me [gigaom.com]. He's a lower-tier writer with questionable opinions. Frankly, anyone who looks only at debt while ignoring profits is a dunce. The /. article lapping it up is the typical misunderstanding of the world of finance. Nobody seems to understand the difference between "defecit" and "debt".

  • If you were to RTFA, you'd see that TiVo was going to get less than $1/sub out of Comcast.

    If they can get the CableCard unit to market soon, then they're in a much better position. They'll have a better product, for about the same monthly cost, with the same level of integration as the DirecTiVo boxes.

    And they'll get 10x the revenue per sub.

    I'd guess that the Comcast deal had some non-competes that put a serious crimp in the CableCard boxes' chance of seeing daylight.

    So maybe this wasn't the wrong decis
  • by swb (14022) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:52PM (#11391601)
    Tivo needs (needed?) to not view its hardware as a mere commodity to be given away, but instead as a platform for innovation in and of itself. I'd consider buying a new Tivo if they did something else more interesting, such as allow for storage expansion via Firewire, DVD burners via Firewire, fast ethernet connectivity, etc.

    That there has been no compelling reason for a geek to buy new Tivo hardware since I bought my standalone S2 in 2002 is pretty shameful (I don't have DirecTV, so HDDirecTivo isn't an option). It's super shameful that they won't have a CableCard HDTivo until 2006.

    Dunno if a hardware move would help now, but hurrying along the CableCard-enabled HD Tivo would sure help.

    Tivo also needs to keep their software moving forward; why not an IMDB tie-in (and hence, Amazon) to the details of a show on now playing? Leverage IMDB & broadband to provide me more show info. Use Amazon to generate DVD sales and comissions. This might sound too commercial, but it could be done at least as tastefully as the ads on the main menu.

    And add a "geek" mode where we can have access to greater preferences and more recorder control (logical and/or searhces, 'don't ever record', on and on...)

    Tivo spends too much time BSing around with features not core to the experience (Tivo2Go, HMO).
  • by fm6 (162816) on Monday January 17, 2005 @11:00PM (#11391654) Homepage Journal
    TiVo should just get out of the hardware business completely. They've never done very well at it -- their product isn't terribly reliable, and they've never been able to figure out a way to sell it for more than it costs to make it.

    Besides, it isn't the hardware that makes people loyal TiVo users. I mean, anybody can slap together a digital video recorder. What gets people excited is the clever stuff the software. Not the obvious stuff, like "record every episode of Days of Our Lives" -- that's only slightly more sophisticated than what a VCR does. It's the really clever stuff. Like "they keep watching nature shows, so I'm going to record them without being told, if I have the spare disk space."

    You license that software to other PVR makers. And you let anybody willing to pay $10/month subscribe to the data stream. Fewer expenses, just as much money. And no stupid cable/satellite companies saying "take out that feature or we won't pay you a pittance to resell your boxes."

  • by nontrivial (222436) on Monday January 17, 2005 @11:43PM (#11391919) Homepage
    When Tivo first came out I wanted one, but being a hacker I decided to build my own. I played around with my own stuff (glorified cron), MythTV, etc for three years. Then ReplayTV went TU and I got one cheap with a lifetime subscription. I haven't paid a penny since I bought it. It's the best money I ever spent. The service is awesome, the interface even my parents can figure out. At first it was a bit flaky, but I haven't had it crap out on me in over a year. I don't watch broadcast television anymore, having to sit through a commercial drives me insane, and there is always something good to watch whenever I want. I don't have to rush home or plan my life around when something is on, and I get to watch a lot of good stuff I wouldn't have otherwise because it comes on in the middle of the night. Plus, it is so awesome to be able to pause something when nature calls or the telephone rings. Besides the interface, which is simpler but not quite as powerful as Tivo's, is it's connectivity. It comes with a telephone and LAN connection, and the protocols have been reverse engineered so that it is simple to store, view, or serve video on a networked computer or computers. Both Tivo and ReplayTV allows you to convert to and from thier formats, but unlike Tivo it is an extremely simple, point and click, all commercials removed, burn directly to DVD affair.

    So I repeat, ReplayTV soooooo kicks Tivo's ass.
  • by stuartkahler (569400) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @12:58AM (#11392308)
    [DirecTivo subscriber]
    My impression has been that the TIVO boxes are rather poorly constructed. I've had intermitten color problems (screen goes to black and white) with all three of my DirecTivo units, and one completely died in the year since I first jumped onto the TIVO bandwagon. I've heard alot about overheating problems and modem issues from other users as well. I imagine if they're selling the boxes at a loss of over $100 each. The service plans run $80 at Best Buy, which is a dumb buy relative to the price of the box. So almost every unit that breaks down means that they eat a fat loss when the customer buys a replacement unit. The dumbest part is that the warranty is only 90 days labor, 1 year parts. The labor is by far the most expensive portion ($90 minimum, plus shipping costs each way), so the customer is disinclined to even try to get the unit repaired after the first 3 months.

    It's not the comcast deal that kills them, it's the money spent on replacing shoddy equipment.
  • by popo (107611) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:48AM (#11392782) Homepage
    There's another little talked about reason why TiVO is losing users fast: "The VOIP effect".

    In a nutshell: TiVO's internal modem doesn't work with most VOIP services.

    Recently I switched over to Vonage. About a week after my Vonage service began I started getting messages on my TiVO telling me I needed to make my "daily call" because my program data had not been updated for a while.

    I checked on the TiVO forums and sure enough there is a problem using TiVO's internal modem with most VOIP services. There are dozens of supposed workarounds but the success rate for these workarounds is apparently grim.

    Series I TiVO users are truly screwed. Series II TiVO users can wire an Ethernet cable to the back of their TiVO to get listings via IP. But even TiVO acknowleges that most TiVO users probably don't have Ethernet cables in their living rooms.

    There are also many hardware fixes I'm looking into. (But soldering a modem to my TiVO motherboard hardly seems like a fix that most people are going to want to deal with).

    The bottom line is this: As VOIP sweeps the nation, its also sweeping TiVO away.

  • by netringer (319831) <maaddr-slashdot&yahoo,com> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:42AM (#11394785) Journal
    Today's little "It's time to Rethink TV" email message from DirecTV seems to hint that the new "100 hour DirecTV DVR" is not going to be a TiVo. Too bad.
    ...From a new state-of-the-art DVR, to award-winning customer satisfaction, to unique customer programs designed to enhance your overall experience, DIRECTV's spirit of innovation is all about rethinking the possibilities and rethinking what's next.


    New 100-hour DVR with more interactive capabilities, available mid-2005
    I know the "new features" like the new 6 in 1 mix channels will not be worth giving up the TiVo user interface.

    Note to DirecTV: I only subscribe to DirecTV FOR TIVO. If you dump Tivo, I'll dump DirecTV. Probably like Best Buy you figured in losing the "small amount" of geek business and you don't care. You should figure in how much business we brought by word of mouth and being tech mentors to our friends (yes, we DO have friends). We'll take THOSE with us, too.

    If you subscribe to DirecTV join me and tell DirecTV [directv.com] not to dump TiVo.

    If DirecTV screws it up, we'll get into the TiVo saving and Myth TV setup business.

    Let's hope the new TiVo CEO sucks in his pride a makes a deal with Comcast and DirecTV to make the "new" DVRs TiVo DVRs.

    Otherwise, it won't be the first time that a superior product disappeared due to market, business, and political pressures, - see BetaMax, CP/M 86, Word Perfect, Lotus 1-2-3, ....

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