Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Television Media

RCA PVR Will Use Free Guide+ Program Guide 313

Mark Leighton Fisher writes "RCA has announced (among other CES goodies) a PVR/DVD player for this year that uses the free GUIDE Plus+ program guide rather than requiring an oncoming program guide contract. Once we bring the price down (yes, I work there) I may break down and get one, as I don't like the program guide fee required on current PVRs. (This may be the first no-program guide-fee commercial PVR.)"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

RCA PVR Will Use Free Guide+ Program Guide

Comments Filter:
  • No guide fee pvr (Score:3, Interesting)

    by missing000 ( 602285 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:17PM (#5060072)
    dishnetwork has em.
  • Fallout. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:19PM (#5060083) Homepage
    This could cause TiVo and ReplayTV to lower, or drop, the fees for their guide services. Eventually the manufacturing costs of TiVos and Replays will drop enough that they can sell in the $300.00 price range and make a profit. Maybe.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Tivo doesn't make their pvr. They designed it, but actually subsidize other mfr's to make them for sale.

      Tivo makes their money only on subscriptions.

      This *could* put Tivo out of business. I can only hope that this at least makes them rethink their position on selling, effectively, advertising space on their customer's pvrs. (I'm referring to Tivo's policy of taking money to record programs and push them on the customer, with the customer being unable to delete them for 7 days.)
      • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:34PM (#5060156)
        > (I'm referring to Tivo's policy of taking money to
        > record programs and push them on the customer, with
        > the customer being unable to delete them for 7
        > days.)

        Heh, you mean that star menu option at the very very bottom of the menu? The one with the big star next to it so you can see if its there and not even glance in its area to read it if so?

        Yes, those shows that only take up space on the root disk where it doesnt use a single bit from the volume the video is recorded to are so bad for me.

        I know, lets boycott!

        • those shows that only take up space on the root disk where it doesnt use a single bit from the volume the video is recorded to

          I have a refrigerator I'd like to sell you. It has a vertical divider in it, the left half is for your food and the right half is for my food.

          It's ok though. My food doesn't take up any of the space for your food so you you aren't losing anything.

    • Fallout? Not likely. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Fallout? I hardly think so. RCA is charging $600 for this device while TiVo charges $150 for a 60 hour Series 2 TiVo. I hardly think TiVo will stop charging their monthly fee just because someone comes out with a non-subscription model that costs 4 times as much.
      • At $600 it makes no sense, one could buy a TiVo and a "lifetime" subscription for less, and hope that the "lifetime" is more than a year or so. However, the monthly fee is certainly a reason that many including myself would not but a TiVo. Like others I hope that RCA will realize they have to drop the price of the PVR to be competitive, or that someone else like Apex will get into the market and undercut RCA. It's nice to see the subscription model broken, even if the product isn't reasonably priced yet.
        • Remember, ReplayTV used to use as a selling point that their devices required no seperate payment for their guide data. However, the price of a ReplayTV was roughly equal to the price of a Tivo plus lifetime service... it wasn't that the guide data was free, it was included with the cost of the purchase. However, they learned that model didn't work very well, so they've now converted to the TiVo pricing model of selling a loss-leader unit and making back the money on service.

          More or less, that's what this RCA device is setting up with too. Gemstar's Guide+ service isn't free as in speech. In fact it's not free at all. And when you look at the price tag, it's more or less going to line up right next to the Tivo with lifetime service. The only thing this device is trying to add to the mix is a DVD player... but do you think RCA is really going to let you copy that DVD to the HD? Nope, so there goes the only vaulable feature of a DVD and PVR in the same box.

          So RCA's thinking they can use a business model that ReplayTV has already tried and retreated from? This is a product failure in the making.
  • by Nanite ( 220404 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:21PM (#5060091)
    RCA is notorious for making crappy products. (My apologies to the poster.) I worked at radio shack and one of the first thing I noticed was how shoddy all of the RCA products were. A lot of returns on these items, especially the DVD players. Also, an RCA Lyra player I once had was a total piece of crap. I've learned my lesson about buying stuff from them.
    • Is RCA notorious for making crappy products or were they notorious for making crappy products? In your post you said, "worked", which I'm assuming is past tense. I'm no RCA proponent, however, I tend to think that one shouldn't overlook the fact that a company can change. It happens all the time as CEO's come and go. Hell, I think that RCA taking this path should be considered progress more than anything.

      Past performance is not an indicator or future results...

      To be fair though, I'm going to let others be the guinea pigs on this one, and I'll make my purchasing decision based on the subsequent fallout or lack thereof.

      • Still do make crappy products. I bought an RCA branded DSS dish (DirecTV) about six months ago, and man was it badly designed. Unlike the all-metal... I think Phillips... small dish that I started with, the RCA large dish was basically a giant piece of plastic.

        Unfortunately, they designed the thing to be attached to the metal back with stove bolts, which promptly gouged out the square bottoms of the holes (resulting in the heads just sitting there spinning) long before I could get the nuts tightened down. I would have to have tightened them down another -inch- before they would have been tight....

        I ended up sawing off the provided bolts with a hacksaw and replacing them with normal bolts, lock washers, and non-locking nuts just to get the thing put together.

        And then there is their assertion that you should set the tilt and never be able to adjust it again. That would be fine except that the various manufacturers can't even agree on how to measure angle of tilt. Had I followed RCA's directions, I would not have been able to get a signal from both satellites. I'm so glad I realized their cluelessness before I used any more of their stupid lock nuts....

        It took me less than thirty minutes to install my original Phillips dish, including aligning it. It took me three hours and almost $20 worth of additional parts and tools (hacksaw, etc.) to install my second.

        Let's just say that I'll buy another RCA dish when they rip the hacksaw from my cold, dead fingers, and leave it at that.
    • by Ryu2 ( 89645 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:42PM (#5060198) Homepage Journal
      RCA pretty much doesn't make their own stuff anymore... they just repackage generic stuff from OEMs in places like China and Korea. It's nothing more than just a marketing brand.
      • Korea is too expensive. Taiwan, maybe...China for sure. They don't even make microwaves in Korea any longer...that has all just been moved to China. Korea's labor and infrastructure costs are simply too high. My company is keeping R & D and marketing here, but everything else has gone or will go overseas.
    • I worked at radio shack and one of the first thing I noticed was how shoddy all of the RCA products were.

      Did you only look at the RCA products? My impression is all of the products there are shoddy. My expectation is that they demand shoddy from the manufacturer, it's the only explanation I can come up with.

      And I'm not trolling here, I'm very serious about this.

    • If I ever worked at Radio Shack, I surely wouldn't admit it.

      You've got questions, we've got assholes. And quality Compaq PC's with MSN internet service.

      But seriously, I walked into radio shack asking for a product that allowed audio to be sent through the house via the already installed phone lines. Great if you live in an apt. and can't run cable. A coworker has this - he bought it at Radio Shaft. He runs audio out from his flat-imac to the line in on his stereo and it sounds fine. When I described it, they looked at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. After a pause and something that might have been a thought, the guy said, "We never made anything like that. If we did, I'm sure it would sound awful. Can I interest you in a Motorola cell phone?" Well, the other guy tried to sell me a mobile phone plan, but that doesn't really matter here. The important thing was that I had an onion tied around my belt, which was the style at the time.
  • by AtariDatacenter ( 31657 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:21PM (#5060095)
    "But if it is free, who do I sue if they get the wrong time for Will and Grace?"
    • GUIDE Plus+ is a product of Gemstar, the same nice people who print TV guide. Their guide data is not free, there's no server filled with standard XML that anybody can connect to.

      Basically, RCA pricing in a subscription that's roughly equal to TiVo's lifetime cost into the price of the unit itself.

      Sorry guys, no great "free software" advance here to report.
    • who do I sue if they get the wrong time for Will and Grace?

      Well, suing Grace would be pointless, her bank account is probably about $85.42. Actually it's probably more like $85.42 overdrawn.

      And as for suing Will, that's probably not a good idea. He's a lawyer. By the time the case is over you'll be paying him damages.

  • by wfmcwalter ( 124904 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:21PM (#5060096) Homepage
    If memory serves, isn't one of the reasons a full "on screen" TV guide presently costs $s is that the publishers of TV guide hold a US patent on all such EPGs ?

    Hell, if that isn't the most obvious of the many "put paper thing on computer" patents.

  • by Tony ( 765 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:23PM (#5060107) Journal
    Tivo charges for their guide because they are providing a service. They sell their PVR for almost no profit whatsoever; unlike RCA, they have no other source of income to keep their PVR afloat until the PVR market takes off.

    I don't mind supporting Tivo with a monthly charge, as long as I get service for my money. The program guide itself is worth the cost, and the convenience of Tivo is well worth the initial $200 outlay.

    All-in-all, I figure if I can spend $12/month to support my Earth And Beyond habit, I can shell out $10/month for Tivo.

    Just my $.02. Different people place different values on different things, so YMMV (your money may vary).
    • Everything I've seen so far suggested that the subscription was used to subsidize the cost of the device. You could bypass the monthly subsidy by just paying the flat "lifetime service fee".

      Replay did it this way first, then Tivo had to follow suit so their prices "looked" similar to Replay's time shifted prices.
    • "All-in-all, I figure if I can spend $12/month to support my Earth And Beyond habit, I can shell out $10/month for Tivo."

      That'll all come to a sudden stop if Tivo goes out of business. If Eisner has his way, you'll find one day that you're not paying $12 a month anymore, and you're not recording shows anymore.

      If TiVo goes dark, your PVR will too. For the price they want, that tends to scare some people off.
    • > Tivo charges for their guide because they are providing a service.

      Yes, the guide, which can also be had for free. I could provide to you for a monthly fee the service of allowing you to talk to me, which doesn't mean that you would find it a particularly good value either. They just wanted an on-going source of revenue from their customers, and charging for The Guide seemed as good as any. They might as well charge you a Protection Fee, or an Value Added Enjoyment Fee, and it would be the same. The argument that TiVo provides a very valuable "service" and so you don't mind paying the fee isn't particularly strong, either. If the government started taxing you for the air you breathe, would you feel the same way? After all, the air is also a pretty handy service. I have owned a TiVo since shortly after they came out, and I do very much enjoy its functionality, but that doesn't mean I don't feel charged redundantly, since I receive that same data from DirecTV also. And no, the DirecTiVo won't do, since I can't get network channels here.
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Saturday January 11, 2003 @12:19AM (#5060783) Homepage Journal
      Set top box swindle, news at 10! Wanna bet that this RCA service will use the guide channel to start advertising at you? Just as soon as enough people throw out their old VCRs and everyone has these little owned boxes on their TV, they will start feeding in advertisements to "support the guide service." Oh yeah, they WILL force you to watch the adverts before or even durring the program you wanted. Tivo will follow. It's just like the begining of cable TV - "Wow this new cable thing is cool, look at all the neat advert free programing here." Now look at it, $50/month for programing that's got more ads in it than network had in the 70s and the cool programing was squashed or moved to pay per view.

      Free TV guides just don't excite me somehow. Really free broadcasting, where anyone could put up their content and the user could chose anything anytime, that would be nice. That's what the internet was supposed to be.

      OK, I'm having a bad year.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have a Panasonic Showstopper, which is an OEM Replay, and there has never been, and never will be, a program guide fee.
    • Yes, but you also paid more than the person who bought the same-size TiVo back then. About $200 more, and TiVo just happened to be charging $200 for lifetime service back then.

      Just because the lifetime service fee didn't show up as a line item on you bill doesn't mean you didn't pay it somewhere else.
    • Amen. And since it is so easy to replace the hard drive on one, I will probably have a no-monthly-fee PVR as long as ReplayTV stays in business.

      Side note: I see no point to getting a new PVR until one exists that can handle HDTV. My PVR defines my viewing habits now... I am certainly not going to get HDTV gear just so I can drive home on NBC's schedule to watch some TV in HD.
      • Side note: I see no point to getting a new PVR until one exists that can handle HDTV. My PVR defines my viewing habits now... I am certainly not going to get HDTV gear just so I can drive home on NBC's schedule to watch some TV in HD.

        Then you'll be happy to get this news [], also from the CES front.

        As a longtime ReplayTV owner (Replay 2004 and Showstopper), I hope that SonicBlue gets their HD-capable device out alongside TiVo or I might have to move to that proverbial dark side...either that or finally set up a home theater PC with an HDTV card in it that will timeshift that programming for me (unfortunately, that doesn't help with satellite HD).

  • ... paying a fee for using something like a Tivo, (afterall, I do want them to stay in business), but it does irk me that the service you basically get is "it knows the stuff you can get on line for free, like what channel something is on..."

    Here's an idea, why not do something like Pay Per View, only the Tivo unit automatically captures it for you ready to play? (as opposed to having to catch it while it's on...)

    The other option is keep me interesting in upgrading the machines once in a while. I don't want to replace the whole box, but I'll always be interested in buying new hard drives etc. Wouldn't it be cool if they used something like Firewire so you could keep adding more units to increase the storage?

    This is interesting to me, at least. I'm the kind of guy who likes to watch shows from beginning to end. I'd watch Farscape, for example, if I could catch the first episode and reliably watch the rest of them in the order they were intended for. Problem is, that's a lot of storage if I'm mid-season.

    *Shrug* It's cool that they're offering that service, hopefully it'll get Tivo and Sonicblue to reeconsider what you're actually paying for.
    • ..."it does irk me that the service ... is ... the stuff you can get on line for free..."

      Great! Let me know where I can go to a website and see every Steve Martin movie that is coming up in the next two weeks, with specific channel numbers, dates, and times.

      And which website was it where I could go and click on MOVIES, and then type in "Steve Martin", and have it record all of those movies automatically?

      That is why I pay TiVo $4.95 a month.
      • Answer: Netflix []

        They've already got it recorded. They'll just ship it to you in the mail. And you can even select what order you want them in. No fussing with who is showing what this week.
  • ...but DirecTiVos already have no extra fees involved, and you can buy a $250 lifetime that eliminates all fees for standalone tivos as well. Older ReplayTVs also had no monthly program guide fee of any kind.

    The EyeTV, a USB MPEG-1 PVR for mac/windows also uses a free online guide, so this is not even close to the first PVR/DVR to do that. ReplayTV probably takes that honor, but many have followed since.
  • by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <<zib.acire> <ta> <acire>> on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:34PM (#5060160) Homepage Journal
    "I don't like the program guide fee required on current PVRs."

    You know, this subject comes up every time an article featuring the TiVo is posted, and every time someone gets "+5, Insightful" for whining about the TiVo monthly fee.

    My TiVo monthly fee is $4.95. Yes, less than five dollars a month. That's cheaper than the burrito I ate for lunch today! For everything that TiVo gives me, $5 is chump change. Plus, you can do yearly and/or lifetime subscriptions. It's also lumped in with my DirecTV bill, so I don't get a separate "TiVo bill" that I have to worry about paying. What is the big deal?

    I get 500+ channels plus HBO, local channels, and TiVo for less than $60 a month. Digital cable would give me the same thing without TiVo for $85/month. You want value? Buy a DirecTV+TiVo. But please, stop whining about the subscription. Every damn TiVo owner in the world will tell you that the $4.95 is money well-spent on a TiVo.

    The only people I hear complaining are people who think the TiVo is a glorified VCR. The TiVo is not a VCR with a monthly fee! It is a totally different way to watch TV. It frees you from cheesy "primetime" TV. I told my TiVo to tape every Steve Martin movie that was on, regardless of any channel it was on. Every once in a while I turn the TiVo on to find a Steve Martin movie recorded and waiting for me to watch! I can order and record Pay-Per-View with one click. I have completely foregone Blockbuster (and I say "Good Riddance!") Five dollars a month is worth it to watch every Steve Martin classic, get rid of video store late fees, and give up on crappy primetime TV. (Hmm, the Simpsons was on at 6PM... I think I'll just watch that at 9PM instead of whatever is on now!)

    I do not work at TiVo. I do not work at DirecTV. I am, however, a satisfied customer of both. (Oh, and has your cable company lowered your monthly cable bill this year? DirecTV lowered my monthly bill TWICE in 2002. What more can I ask for?)
    • by aftk2 ( 556992 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:55PM (#5060261) Homepage Journal
      I told my TiVo to tape every Steve Martin movie that was on, regardless of any channel it was on. Every once in a while I turn the TiVo on to find a Steve Martin movie recorded and waiting for me to watch!

      Five dollars a month is worth it to watch every Steve Martin classic

      I do not work at TiVo. I do not work at DirecTV

      Let me guess - you're Steve Martin.
    • The monthly fee for me is $12.95. How are you getting it for $4.95?
      • Tivo used to cost everybody $9.95 a month, but then Tivo got smart and rose the fee for people who are costing them more, and cust it for those costing less.

        See, stand-alone Tivos have to get their data over a nightly telephone call, which of course costs Tivo money. Their fees went up to $12.95.

        However, DirecTV users actually get most of the data over DirecTV's satellite system. They still need to call in for software updates once in a while, but their calls will always be shorter since they don't need a nightly update of the TV listings. So, Tivo cut their fees to $4.95/mo. In fact, though their partnership with DirecTV people who subscribe to the highest programming package (which is already $72/mo.) don't have to pay extra for Tivo at all. Also, users with multiple DirecTV/Tivo units only have to pay the fee once for all their devices on the same DirecTV account, users with the stand-alone boxes get no multiple unit discounts.

        Makes sense that since Tivo would rather people convert to the DirecTV combo units, they'd set the fees up to encurage that behavior.
    • "It's also lumped in with my DirecTV bill, so I don't get a separate "TiVo bill" that I have to worry about paying. What is the big deal?"

      The big deal is that they require the subscription. What if I don't want those features? What if I don't want to (or can't) hook the machine up to a phone line or even the internet?

      I almost bought a TiVo a year or two ago, but couldn't because I didn't have a landline in my apartment. Things are different today, but now I'm worried that Tivo will a.) Go out of business or b.) Get sued to the point that their service is restricted, and that $200-$400 lump of metal and plastic I bought is suddenly worthless.

      I understand that it's worth $5. I'm not complaining about spending the money, but I am worried about Eisner having his way.
      • What if I don't want those features?

        Then don't pay. You TiVo will still work to record live stuff, pause live stuff, etc... without the subscription.

        You'll just end up with a list of dates, and that's it... And have to start playine each to know what it is. But hey, you didn't want to pay for the subscription to the guide, right? You don't want the extra features, right?

        Once you've used one, you'll understand why it's worth it. Give a TiVo user the choice between a 34" HDTV, 200 channels and never the option to use a TiVo; OR... TiVo, just half the channels, and a smaller 27" normal TV. I'll bet over 70% (or more) would take the TiVo option.

        Follow for a minute if you will, a computer is cool. Pull the hard drive out, and it's still fast... You can spend tons of money on it, and have a kick ass system. Save yourself $100 by not putting in a hard drive, and what do you have, money for a faster system or bigger monitor?

        Now, you can boot from CD or floppy, you can save files on floppy, you can even burn CD's and open files. You can run a web browser or all your programs, all you have to do is switch disks every time you want to use something else. You can surf the net for hours never needing to use the hard drive.... But, do you REALLY want to live without a hard drive?

        A home entertainment center without a TiVo is like a computer without a hard drive. If you haven't used one ever, only floppies and CDs (or video tapes), then you really just don't know what your missing....

        • Then don't pay. You TiVo will still work to record live stuff, pause live stuff, etc... without the subscription.

          If this is in a contract that Tivo never changes, it'd be great. I dont trust them to not send a kill down the line and render a Tivo useless.

          What I want is a simple and easy way to take the shows I recorded and place them on CD as VCDs.

          • I dont trust them to not send a kill down the line and render a Tivo useless.

            How could they if you don't plug it into a phone and you don't want the subscription? Assuming your parinoid enough to buy the stand alone tivo not the directv one (the directv one is useless for anything else anyway, because it doesn't have an encoder, since directv is broadcast in digital. But I would much rather have the DirecTiVo anyday over a stand alone [] even if it doesn't have an encoder.

            Or, if you are worried and do subscribe anyway, just use Tiger's TiVo tools and make a backup image and save it on your PC or on a CD or something.

            If your not subscribed, the worst part is that you will have a lot of emails/messages that say "need programming data, dial in soon" that you have to delete. Probably the result of a cron job...

        • "Then don't pay. You TiVo will still work to record live stuff, pause live stuff, etc... without the subscription."

          Is that your experience? Do you have one? I'm not challenging you nor accusing you of spreading falsehoods, I'm asking you because when I went shopping for one I was informed that I had to have a landline.

          If you're credibly telling me that's not true then I withdraw my complaint. (I apologize in advance, I didn't know a more tactful way to say that.)
      • I agree with ya. People don't seem to realize that what Tivo does pisses some other people off. If they do get sued/put of business then what?

        Oh sure Tivo fans all say it's still a viable box but I'm doubtful.

    • Every DirecTV receiver, with or without Tivo, already has this programming data in it. But only on the DirecTivo do you pay $4.95 extra for it.

      I own a DirecTivo myself, and I agree that it's the best deal in TV. But I find Tivo's explanations of their pricing sadly dishonest. It does not cost near $5/month on the DirecTivo or $13/month on the standalone to provide the programming info. The true story is that they sell a $350 machine for $100 and take the $250 in fees over the years instead.

      So my complaint is not about the money but about the phony explanations. And whether you agree with that or not, it does in fact scare away a lot of customers who perceive it as sneaky.
    • You spend more than 5.00 USD on a Burrito? Are you insane or do you enjoy wasting money?
    • You know, this subject comes up every time an article featuring the TiVo is posted, and every time someone gets "+5, Insightful" for whining about the TiVo monthly fee.

      Yeah, and the same amount or TiVo lovers try to downplay or put down every other PVR as if they are threatened by them personally or afraid to admit the the technology is getting more common and the earlier TiVo's might someday be made obsolete by a newer product.

      You start your post with "whining about the TiVo monthly fee" and "That's cheaper than the burrito I ate for lunch" as if cost means nothing to you and then follow it up with three paragraphs of money figures talking about how much money you save with the your current setup as if money does matter to you?

      Oh yeah, every advantage you gave about the TiVo can be had with ANY PVR, maybe even ones from RCA with no monthly fee..

      Mod me away as everyone knows that the non bandwagon followers always seem to be marked as trolls..
    • by uradu ( 10768 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:25PM (#5060369)
      > My TiVo monthly fee is $4.95

      First, mine is $12.95. That's several burritos in your currency. I wish I could make do with DirecTivo, but I can't until I get network over DirecTV.

      Second, any one single service that you pay a monthly fee for isn't much by itself, and might very well be worth it. What is a big problem is that the TiVo fee is very endemic of the direction marketing seems to be moving. Everyone wants a piece of your monthly budget. Not a one-time lump sum, because once they have that and have given you their product, that's the last they're likely to get from you. No, they want to have an intimate relationship with your wallet, so that--amongst other things--they can readjust periodically how much their product is worth to you, AFTER they've tied you in. First you pay a monthly fee for the phone. Then the cell phone. Then the cable/satellite. Then the ISP. Then the TiVo. Then the NetFlix. Soon the music you listen to, then the software you use, then the washing machine/dryer/oven/coffee maker/fridge/handshake-from-the-friendly-neighborh ood-hand-shaker. Everyone would like to get out of the retail business and into the SERVICE business. Just look at IBM: if it were for some of their decision makers, they'd throw the entire hardware business (which after all too often results in one-time sales) out the window and switch entirely over to "services" that they can bill you regularly for.

      That is what I hate about the TiVo business model. It's funny how large numbers are made up of many little numbers.
    • The only people I hear complaining are people who think the TiVo is a glorified VCR. I've tried to tell people too... That's TiVo's biggest downfall, everyone that has used one loves it, everyone that hasn't used one doesn't understand what it really is and does. The best analogy I can come up with is;

      A TiVo is as much a VCR as a spreadsheet is a calculator. Sure they both do calculations, but they are WORLDS apart in how they work.

      No analogy is perfect, and the best I can play this one out is... The TiVo will do sooo much more than a VCR, but won't do long term storage (Spreadsheets do way more than a calculator, but require a computer to use them). It sort of falls apart there, but at least people understand "recording" is to "calculating" and just getting the answer doesn't always mean my $5 generic one is as good as your fancy high tech thingie...

    • things to ask for (Score:3, Informative)

      by caveat ( 26803 )
      DirecTV lowered my monthly bill TWICE in 2002. What more can I ask for?
      tv that stays on when it rains?
      seriously - i had directv for two years, the dish was mounted on a 6x6 pine post sunk 4ft onto concrete (barn beam), with all the mounting bolts tightened till the metal was distorted, and the reciever would still lose the satellite lock if the winds were gusting more than 30kts. i live on the ocean, so that's a bigger problem than it sounds. dense cloud cover, that made for some interesting jaggies...and fugeddaboutit in the rain. this with a signal booster on ~75ft of cable no less! i'm happy with digital cable - i get almost as many channels as dTV, really everything except the sports package, the same image and sound quality, and my tv stays on 24x7! even in the rain!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:37PM (#5060175)
    Lets see. On one hand I have a brand name product with a reputation of not putting out the greatest quality product (RCA) on the other I have the leader of the PVR pack (TiVo).

    RCA expects an MSRP of $600 for this product.

    TiVo charges $150 for a 60 hour unit right now (see

    RCA doesn't charge a fee for guide info.

    TiVo charges $13/mo, or you can get a lifetime subscription for $250.

    With that price difference it would take 3 years before you broke even on the RCA purchase. And if you bought the TiVo lifetime subscription you'd have $200 with which to buy TiVo's new Media Center software as well as a nice region free DVD player.

    Or you could just buy the Toshiba DVD/TiVo device that was also announced at CES.

    Sorry, but RCA sucks and you can have my TiVo when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.
    • > TiVo charges $150 for a 60 hour unit right now (see

      That's for a refurbished model without a DVD player. A new 60 hour model is $299. Add the life-time subscription and you have $549. Add $100 for a DVD player and you have $649. And that's without tight DVD/PVR integration. At least compare apples to apples, and don't tell me you already have a DVD player either.
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      and you can have my TiVo when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.

      Well, that's a sacrifice that the Content Cartel is willing to make.

      When PVRs are outlawed, only outlaws will have PVRs...

  • by SuperDuperMan ( 257229 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:39PM (#5060183)
    If you use the TiVo to record your favorite show on channel X and it moves to a new time or there is a new showing this week or it's an extra long episode this week you change NOTHING on the TiVo. It's all automatic. With the Guide Plus you will have to manage and monitor these changes yourself. I pay a bit each month to have someone else worry about this. I can't believe that people complain about paying less than the price of going out to eat for a guide and features that save you so much hassle and time.
  • by slithytove ( 73811 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:40PM (#5060187) Homepage
    and I'd just like to provide some info for others thinking about getting one themselves. I haven't personally used a Tivo or Replay so I can't really say whats best first hand, but I read lots of reviews before deciding on the RCA Scenium.
    I mostly chose it for two reasons. It is a DVD player in addition to a PVR, which is great if you don't already have one as with me. I have no complaints about its DVD playing functionality whatsoever.
    The other reason is, as the article points out, that it doesnt require a channel guide subscription. I didn't want to add another monthly bill to my family's life, nor pay a lifetime (of the unit) fee when the companies' lives may be even shorter than the average electronic appliance. My family pays the local cable service about ten bucks a month to have nice reception of local stations plus TNT, CSPAN and the other junk they throw in. Thus our situation as far as channels go, may be unusual, but it is an issue. The guide is flaky! When told we don't have cable it gets quite a few broadcast stations that we dont receive and associates some of the ones we do with the incorrect channels. When told we have cable it only gets the listings for TNT and the Food network consistently correct, though there was one day, since christmas that the listings seemed pretty complete across the board. I havent put a whole lot of time into figuring it out since you only get the new listing after leaving the unit off overnight, but I'm pretty sure we're hosed as far as the guide goes. That sucks, but it would be OK if the thing were reliable for doing scheduled recordings ala a vcr. No such luck! Instead of recording the scheduled show it sometimes (maybe 30%) goes to the menu and says "an error has occured". Maybe these are simple software problems that will go away with the next revision, but guess what!? the firmware is not updatable.
  • by SiliconEntity ( 448450 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:40PM (#5060188)
    The RCA PVR is $599 according to the article, and you can already get a TiVo or a Replay box with a lifetime-of-the-unit pre-paid program guide subscription for that kind of money. The RCA box only provides 40 hours of recording time, which isn't all that great either. You can get a 60 hour TiVo with lifetime guide subscription for $550.

    The new feature is that the RCA box is also a DVD recorder, which may justify the extra cost for some buyers. But making a 40 hr PVR for $600 up front with no per-month free is nothing new.
  • Not the first (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:41PM (#5060195) Homepage Journal
    This may be the first no-program guide-fee commercial PVR.
    The first several generations of ReplayTV boxes didn't (and still don't) require a paid subscription, though their currently offered models do. Thus RCA definitely isn't the first to do that.

    (I was the third employee of Replay, which was originally Pacific Digital Media and has since been acquired by Sonic Blue.)

  • by nautical9 ( 469723 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:42PM (#5060199) Homepage
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but FreeGuide uses XMLTV [] to scrape its listings from various internet sites (Zap2It [] for North America). The problem is that Zap2It is very aware of this package, and although they've been a little forgiving of it so far, their stance is very much that it's a problem they're going to have to deal with (either legally or technically, such as constantly changing the HTML format to make scraping that much harder). I've had discussions about this with Jay Brodsky, their Director of Technology, since I was using XMLTV to redistribute my local listings on the web.

    Their problem is that they spend a lot of money to consolidate the tv schedules - and they offer it free on their site using the advertising model. When people scrape it for their own use, they're subverting the ads, and zap2it loses money instead of making it (bandwidth, servers, staff, syndication). It's a much larger problem because of the way XMLTV scrapes - hundreds, if not thousands of pages must be retrieved and parsed to get the complete schedule.

    Now before you all scream anti-corporate statements, realize that if enough people "steal" their content, they'll simply shut it down, as no company (and no one) wants to lose money.

    For an interesting previous thread on this very topic, check here [].

    • by CaptainSuperBoy ( 17170 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:01PM (#5060282) Homepage Journal
      RCA's Guide Plus has nothing to do with XMLTV, it's a service they've been offering for years. I believe it's exclusive to RCA and it pulls TV guide data off the air. I'm not sure of the quality of the listings or the service's reliability.

      About XMLTV: Zap2it makes their listings freely accessible. As far as I'm concerned there's no contract where I agreed to view their ads as well as their content. They're free to implement technical measures to prevent people from scraping their listings, but until then I see nothing wrong with it. The one thing that concerns me is the bandwidth, I wasn't aware that the XMLTV grabber gets hundreds of pages. I might not want to put that much load on their servers.

      Let's not get it in our heads that this is stealing, though. Anti-leech has the same philosophy, they consider it theft if you block a site's popups, view a site's HTML, or copy a site's download links. The same applies here, I never agreed to make sure that my browser functions a certain way or that I wouldn't do certain legal things with the information I found on a web page.
      • Regardless of whether or not it's stealing legally (I believe it's not) or ethically (Probably not), it is identical to stealing as far as Zap2it's business model is concerned. This doesn't mean you're going to get busted for scraping it without looking at the ads, nor does it mean that you should feel bad about it. All it means is Zap2it becomes more likely to go out of business every time you go around its ads. This is all the parent was saying (on this point, anyway). Don't expect Zap2it to last forever if you use it without seeing its ads.

        Maybe the solution is to make the scraper fake a click-through on the ads every once in a while, so that the advertisers still pay them...'course, then you're screwing the advertisers, but there are more of them, and they probably have more money.
    • RCA doesn't use FreeGuide, it uses the free GuidePlus+. GuidePlus is great, it does have ads on the side, but they are not obtrusive at all, you dont automatically go to them or anything like that, they're just there. I have it on my RCA tv and my parents got an RCA tv just for that feature. Its good stuff.

      And I don't think there's any reason to expect this not to be a long term solution.

      Hurray for RCA!
  • Guide+ (Score:5, Informative)

    by Danielle Gatton ( 534290 ) <dgatton45@hotmail.3.1415926com minus pi> on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:44PM (#5060212)
    I have an RCA television with "Guide Plus". I don't have cable,so the TV apparently downloads listings from local broadcasters at night, for a few days at a time. There are small ads on the left sides of the listings, and many times there will be gaps in the listings. The whole system is a little clunky; it takes a while to actually bring up the menu, a while to scroll ahead, and sometimes it'll "crash", causing the TV to suddenly turn off, and all the listings to be lost. The whole thing reminds a little of using Gnome a couple years ago.

    This television was only bought a couple months ago, but hopefully RCA will improve the software before they bring this PVR to market. It's not such a big deal that the software's buggy in my case, because the TV itself is fine; I just don't use the Guide Plus function much. With a PVR, it'd be a much bigger problem, I think.
    • With a PVR, it'd be a much bigger problem, I think.

      Not just "bigger." I don't think it would be hyperbole to change the word to "devastating." Simply put, if the guide ain't workin' then the PVR's 'cool' factor goes right out the window and it becomes a glorified VCR. There are [relatively infrequent] times when Tribune (the company providing listings to ReplayTV and TiVo) will have listings that are either incomplete or just dead wrong and, to me at least, it grinds everything to a halt if that information relates to a show you want.

      For example, I decided to enjoy some Drew Carey reruns recently that play at 11:30 p.m. on a local station. Obviously, being a ReplayTV owner, I set the thing up and let it go it's merry way. After one week, much to my chagrin, I noticed that I had missed two days of the show. I looked at the guide and it showed "To Be Announced" in the spot that Drew Carey had occupied previously - since I had not requested the box to record "To Be Announced" I lost out on those days of the program (which I found, after I *did* set up to record TBA, was still Drew Carey). This situation, again, comes up relatively infrequently but it is still a big annoyance.

      I can only imagine that with a free service (mine is free but it's the same data that others with new Replay units are paying for) the error rate would go up for the simple fact that they wouldn't feel the urgency of satisfying customers who are paying good money for the service.

      If they don't make the service work properly, the word will get out and they'll have a lot of unsold boxes sitting around waiting for a software update or waiting to be dismantled so that their components can be put in something useful (more likely, they would simply drop the price like a stone and focus on the DVD recording ability).

      Personally, I would avoid RCA unless the product they offered was so compelling and/or cheap that it blows other products out of the water. For example, had they announced the same product with the same timeline but with HDTV, that might be compelling enough to buy. As it is, other companies have better, time-tested products already on the market, either cheaper or similarly priced.

  • by Burdell ( 228580 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:45PM (#5060216)
    AFAIK, the extended programming information that makes TiVo wish-lists and the "record first-runs only" so nice and useful (data like leading actors, guest stars, director(s), producer(s), original air date) is not available as part of the Guide+(TM) data. There would also be no suggestions except maybe for advertiser sponsored "suggestions".

    My father has an RCA TV with Guide+, and the data is not very complete (there are quite a few channels on his cable that they don't list). It seems to be more focused on ads. Without more complete data, using Guide+ for a PVR will be frustrating (I've got one channel that Tribune and TiVo don't have full data for and that is highly annoying; not having any data for a number of channels would be a show-stopper for me).

    Guide+ is something that RCA has pushed but pretty much everyone else seems to have ignored.

    It sounds like RCA is going to make something competitive to an original TiVo series 1 with the original software; nice, but three years out-of-date.

    • The other thing that slows GUIDE Plus+ adoption is that it's proprietary to the gills. Yeah, that's right, this guide data is coming through the PBS station in most cities, but it's not in plaintext and you can't legally buid a decoder of your own.

      That's the real reason why cable systems and DirecTV work so hard at pushing hteir own guide data streams.
  • Monthly fee (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LazyBoy ( 128384 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:49PM (#5060236)
    I don't like the program guide fee required on current PVRs.
    I hate recurring fees too. That's why I bought a lifetime subscription and considered it part of the price of the box. Simple, yes?

    And the total is probably about the same or less than the price of the RCA box.

    • Pretty simple. Of course, you're hoping that TiVo (or whoever) will be around for your lifetime (or at least the lifetime of the hardware) and that's a BIG BIG "if".

      I will only buy a PVR if and when it lets me choose a provider for the data. It's OK if some of the provider charge money - I might even pay for it (although $1 or 2 per month, preferable as a yearly fee format - is more of my taste). I want a choice, and I want competition. Until then, no TiVo for me!

      But I respect your choice/opinion.
      • Pretty simple. Of course, you're hoping that TiVo (or whoever) will be around for your lifetime (or at least the lifetime of the hardware) and that's a BIG BIG "if".

        This is the same argument that people have been using against TiVo and ReplayTV since their inception. And since that time, people have had their units and even bought replacement/multiple units and the services are still there.

        I've had my Showstopper (Panasonic-brand ReplayTV) for years now (I'm bad with time, but it has been since the month Panasonic put them out) and I'm still going strong. Assuming I paid an extra $150 for the unit (with its "free" service), I've paid less than $5 a month for that service and it keeps going down every month I have the box.

        It's all about the interpretation you put on the word "lifetime." For a PVR you look at it several ways:

        1. You can expect the service to exist for the next 40-50 years so that you can really get your money's worth. This is an unrealistic, and frankly stupid, expectation.

        2. You can expect it to last the lifetime of the unit - say 10 years at the outside (probably with at least one new hard drive), barring replacement because of cooler tech. This is more reasonable and, unless the Supreme Court really goes crazy, it's realistic.

        3. You can simply amortize the lifetime payment in your head and decide that if you get at least two years worth of service, you've saved money over the monthly fees. This is the route I took, meaning I'm very satisfied with what I've gotten so far.

        4. You could buy a used ReplayTV/Showstopper (no fees) cheap and avoid the whole service fee issue.

        5. You can just decide that PVRs have no chance, that the services are going away within the next year, and just avoid the whole thing. This is pure pessimism, IMO.

        I haven't seen any indications that either TiVo or SonicBlue is going out of business, so this argument just continues to get weaker and weaker. If you're cheap, that's cool...lots of people are. Just admit it and move on. If you just don't have the interest in or need for a PVR, that's also fine. But bringing up what seems - more and more as time goes on - like FUD is just pitiful.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:55PM (#5060259)
    Since the Guide+ service is available in Canada, and the Tivo and Replay services aren't. (Unless you get satellite tv.)
  • Not quite the first (Score:2, Informative)

    by sully67 ( 550574 )
    "(This may be the first no-program guide-fee commercial PVR.)"
    Not really.
    Pace Twin Tuner Digital PVR []
    They are running a little bit late with production though.
  • by core plexus ( 599119 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:24PM (#5060364) Homepage
    I must be missing something. All this hoopla over a few TV shows? I've had cable and satellite, and what I learned was that I was paying for more crap, not better crap. I was intrigued at first by the Tivo, et. al., but then I realized there's only a couple of hours of decent programming per week, and new movies I can rent on DVD for $1.00 at a place just a few blocks from my house, and hey, I work on a computer all day, and when I get off it's better for me to go outside and run around with the dogs, or go out on a date.

    I also realize that everyone buying these are bringing the cost down, but as long as there are 150 channels of crap like "Just Shoot Me" available, I don't want it if it's $1.00

    Personal Strap-On Aircraft for Auction on eBay []

    • by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Saturday January 11, 2003 @02:31AM (#5061196) Homepage Journal
      I work on a computer all day, and when I get off it's better for me to go outside and run around with the dogs, or go out on a date

      I call bullshit. Your post was made at 9:24 EDT. Because of your mention of 'Just Shoot Me', I'm assuming you are in North America. Given that you were interested in Tivo, that means you are in the US. Worst case scenario is that it's about 5:30 when you post this. So, you ain't datin' shit.

      If you are on the East Coast, you are in the prime dating hours, but you're still on your computer. If you are on the West Coast, maybe, maybe you're still at work.

      Sorry, if you're trying to look like a cool, slashdot hipster with no TV *and* dating potential, you're going to have to cover your tracks a bit better next time.
  • by Viewsonic ( 584922 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:33PM (#5060396)
    I have Guide Plus+ for my ATI TV Tuner card, and simply put, it sucks. A *lot*. Compared to my Tivo, this guide data is so off, it isn't funny. Doesn't have nearly any descriptions or anything.

    You get what you pay for. Want to record that Simpsons episode and get half of Jerry Springer instead? Guide Plus+ will make it happen!

    No joke.

    • Tivo tries harder than Guide Plus+ does, but in the end Guide Plus+ gets its data from Gemstar, the same people behind TV Guide. When the TV stations make a last-minute change, there's really not much they can do to change the data system.

      Another cause of problems is the fact that the ATI software downloads its data a whole week in advance, while TiVo calls in for the latest information nightly.

      BTW... Guide Plus+ isn't free as in anything. It's just that Gemstar is willing to make a blanket license for a line of products, and willing to provide its data over an open Internet server. So let's not let the FSF folks too excited over this one...
  • Guide Plus+ problems (Score:4, Informative)

    by Otto ( 17870 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:40PM (#5060424) Homepage Journal
    I too once thought Guide Plus+ would be a reasonably good way of doing things.. But there's problems with Guide Plus+:

    1. It's only 48-72 hours worth of data (varies per channel). So forget about changing something for anytime far in advance.

    2. For my TV at least, the Guide Plus+ data is often wrong. If the TV show is right, the description is inaccurate or incomplete.

    3. AFAICT, the data doesn't contain anything more than title + description. So forget that Stanley Kubrick wishlist..

    4. Finally, Guide Plus doesn't seem to make it outside of my digital cable box. So how is this PVR going to get the data?
  • Dish Network does have a per-receiver fee (just like DirecTV), but there's no difference in the monthly charges between the Dish301 "plain-jane" receiver, the DishPVR 501 (35 hours), and the DishPVR 508 (80 hours). The DishPVR 721 [] does carry an extra fee, but that's only because it contains two receivers, not one.
  • Replay had free EPG service, too, just not "Free GUIDE Plus+ (TM)" service. Judging by the level of interest "Free GUIDE Plus+" is drawing compared to "Replay with a one time fee", hard drive vendors would do well to call their $1/gigabyte offers "Dollar GIGABYTE Plus+" deals instead of "Hard drives down to a dollar a gigabyte".

  • PVR History (Score:2, Informative)

    by hhawk ( 26580 )
    ReplayTV was the "First" to have "no fee;" it was built into the price, just like the RCA.

    Then since Tivo sells cheaper (with a monthly fee or life time free seperate), Replay now plays the same way. The Units are "cheaper" but you either have to pay the fee or get the life time contract.

    Either way they all cost about the same $400+ (that is with the unit and a year or two of service).

  • by heroine ( 1220 )
    Anyone every actually succeed in compiling XMLTV with perl 5.6.0?
  • Guide+ I remember that, that's why I bought the TiVo.

    I was going to buy an RCA tv with it, but before I did so I made a trek to my parents house and messed with it on their big screen, it totally sucked.

    The guide data was unfixably out of whack all the time, it's channel list was screwed even after I set it up and messed with it for hours, far too much work.

    So I bought a TiVo, then I bought one for my mom. I entered my zip code, the type of connection and that was it. The guide data is consistantly correct, as long as the network change is more than a day away. It has not screwed up except a few times when the change was made on the day of the program airing, and then it usually catches this on it's early am phone home.

    The best thing isn't that it tells you what time something's on, it's that it carries enormous amounts of info on each show, a small plot summery, the main actors, the director, and various other goodies that let you know what you're watching before you watch.

    The guide+ system sucked for it's content and reliability with data. I don't believe the problems I saw had anything to do with actual implementation in the set, just that the data that was being sent was not accurate.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday January 11, 2003 @12:17AM (#5060782)
    Tivo and Replay do not charge montly fees for guide data. Once upon a time they did, but any new units become boat anchors without either the lifetime or montly payments. The reason they have additional fees is pure marketing and it works two ways:

    1) Paying only half price up front is easier for consumers to stomach.
    2) Cost of inventory is signficantly reduced for merchants who carry the products.

    #2 is the more significant reason - it was prohibitively expensive for merchants to stock ReplayTV's so they stopped until Replay figured out that halving the inventory cost made it feasible to get themselves sold at retail again. It is only with the 4500 and the 5000 where Replay changed this policy that they were able to get BestBuy and CircuitCity to start carrying their product again. The fact that the 4000 was direct-purchase (and later drop-shipped from Amazon) wasn't because Replay wanted to be "elite" they just couldn't convince any of the b&m merchants to carry the inventory.
  • by Ancil ( 622971 )
    I don't want to pay ten bucks a month for the TV listings. That's not whining. It's me wanting to save ten bucks a month.

    Notice to TiVo fanatics: Comparing prices between competing models isn't "whining". It's "capitalism".

    I want to find something that offers the features of a TiVo, but I don't have to pay for every month. That doesn't make me "cheap", it just makes me a smart consumer.
  • The discussion on this thread seems to have already nailed what's going on - RCA has cut a deal with Gemstar for data access equivalent to the Tivo or Replay "lifetime" subscriptions.

    I have a couple of ATI All-In-Wonder cards of various vintage and they've always included a PC-client version of Guide Plus with no monthly fee as well. Works very nicely - you do a once-a-week download of program info, tailored to your local service. There's an app that lets you scroll through this info, similar to what you see at, but better actually since it's local data - you can very quickly scroll through times and days in the 1 week range.

    The All-In-Wonder includes PVR functionality, although I must admit that even with generic installation, it seems to work quite poorly for me. The GuidePlus+ app works very nicely - if you want to tell the PVR to record something, you just select it in the TV grid and you're happening.

    There are also include a number of other interesting functions that fall out of doing this on a computer. The TV view overlays the program title as you scroll through the channels - nice to be able to tell which Tremors movie you're seeing when you flip to the Tremors Channel - oops, Sci-Fi Channel. :-) It also does some interesting non-GuidePlus+ like capturing the close caption info into a window or file on the fly, etc. Geek stuff, you know.

    ATI even includes this free GuidePlus+ functionality in their standalone TV Wonder tuner cards. These cards only run $50, so it's clearly a steal.

    I do a lot of videotaping and have a couple of Sony VCRs that include GuidePlus+ and it's a really good thing - a huge leap in friendliness over VCRPlus+. Had I realized that this feature would disappear from all VCRs (along with all quality VCRs going away!), I would have bought more of them. On these VCRs (Sony SLV-M20HF), the GuidePlus info is also provided for free and is delivered to the VCR when it's turned off in the blanking interval of some channel.

  • by MoFoQ ( 584566 ) on Saturday January 11, 2003 @09:54AM (#5061970)
    There have been nice PVR's in Japan for a while now (at least a year) that also interface with your computer via USB1.1/2.0 (I'm sure there's a firewire version too and maybe a networked one) so you can copy and backup recorded shows as well as program it from your computer (not just on the TV). You can "explore" the contents of the PVR as you would your hard drive and copy, cut, paste, delete, rename at pretty much, will.

    Maybe it's 'cuz of the DMCA, which doesn't exist elsewhere. (And they wonder why OUR economy is in the sh!ts)

    "You can't get blood from a turnip" - My dad back when I was a kid asking him for money.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.