Living Without MRV and SDV

July 29, 2008 by

For a few months I have been doing other things besides thinking about TiVo and the digital video revolution in general. I still watch TV, and whenever I am where my TiVoes are, I watch through them like the old days. Well, actually the very old days its getting to be…😦

You see I live in a world where all digital cable channels except broadcast are copy never. That was not so bad when my cableCARDs always mysteriously tuned channels that were digital simulcast to their analog versions, but now my cableCARDs have been brought into the spirit of the modern digital cable era.  Thus all my nice series off SciFi and whatever else can not be MRV’d. This is especially acute since my recorded content heavily shifted to digital cable due to the writers strike.

As my poor TiVoes are being thrown back to the era before MRV and my home network grows increasingly useless, is TiVo doing anything about this? Is anyone? Copy Flag rules were written to the extreme detriment of the consumer, and even the content provider who does not seem to have control over their content’s transfer rights. The cable companies are in complete control. Few noticed much perhaps because there was no significant force to complain. I exist amongst a handful of TiVo users that this affects and apparently TiVo didn’t see the problem or has been too busy fighting and compromising on other fronts and couldn’t forestall this clamp down of one of their major differentiating features.

My next beef is SDV. Where is the thingy? I bet it is no where to be seen. Now I get to record/watch far less of the content I pay for from the cable company than before; of course my rates have gone up to compensate the cable co for all those wonderful additional channels they provide which my TiVoes can’t pick up. I am very close to the point of asking for a rate reduction based on SDV and cableCARD use. SDV is a wonderful technology which the cable cos should be deploying for the benefit of customers in general, however individual customers that can not get the content should not be charged for it. That is only fair, and should be factored into the business decisions of the cable cos. (There are so few cableCARD users, that it won’t change anything.) This will be an individual battle though, because there are so few of us. Maybe if a few tens of thousands of complaints are raised with the cable cos and FCC some general policy will issue.

This article reflects that I haven’t followed what has been happening for about three months, and maybe I’ll poke around and see something significant has happended to make these complaints unimportant.

What´s Happening

April 24, 2008 by

Worried about the OTA digital TV transition in Feb. 2009? Maybe you shouldn´t be: this blogger seems pretty happy right now.

TiVo´s CMO is gone already, just 9 months after his arrival. I am not sure if he stayed longer than the CFO (the last “permanent” CFO,) but it seems things are going so well ( :p ) at TiVo, Inc. that people just can´t wait to leave. Richardson made a couple minor changes to the subscription plans that I approved of, but this indicates things are going poorly over at TiVo, Inc. While I had reservations about him, and frankly don´t know if it was him or TiVo, I put my money down on the side of Richardson running screaming from the loony bin. Can´t (don´t want to) imagine what this means for the progress of CableSoft or international efforts, let alone the SA business. Let´s just say if there was some meat to be had off the bone, he probably would not have left after just 9 months. 😉

Multichannel News has a statement from TiVo:

In a statement, TiVo said, “Clent’s departure from TiVo was an amicable one, and we have a strong team in place to implement the firm’s marketing initiatives.”

Amicable as in they didn´t kill each other? :p Well, we all know just how STRONG TiVo´s marketing team is, don´t we…

Last month, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers said the DVR company will “maintain our more limited spend on marketing while we assess the speed with which consumers recognize the value and importance of broadband distribution of digital video.”

So, there you go. Actually, I suspect Richardson just might have been the adult in the room that pulled the plug on last year´s disasterous marketing campaign and spend. So what happens next? Sugar Mountain is open for business again?

Confusion in DVR Patent Land

April 24, 2008 by

With the injunction placed on DISH over their DVRs comes a great deal of confusion over what is really about to happen.

First, certain DISH DVRs found to infringe on certain of TiVo´s patents are the subject of an Injunction which orders that those models no longer be put into service and that the DVR functionality on the ones already in service be disabled no more than 30 days after the injunction takes effect. Initially DISH was found to infringe on both hardware and software claims, but an Appeals Court ruling eliminated the hardware claims for now, leaving only software infringement.

During the appeals process, the injunction had been stayed by the Appeals Court, but that stay is over and the injunction is now in effect. One point of confusion is whether the 30 days ran during the stay. DISH´s actions at this point imply they believe the 30 days did not run, and thus DISH has so far only taken steps to stop the deployment of the subject DVRs, but has not yet disabled the DVR functions in active units. I tend to agree with this because for the 30 days to have run would have undermined the authority of the Appeals Court; that Court stayed the injunction in whole, not in part; the 30 day clock is a part of the injunction itself.

DISH claims they have newer software which does not infringe which has already been loaded onto the boxes. Thus DISH will try to claim the injunction is no longer necessary because the hardware claims are no longer applicable and the software no longer infringes – how can you enjoin the use of something that doesn´t infringe in any way? The fact that the scope of infringement has significantly changed since the Appeallate ruling could well be a factor in arguing for a modification of the injunction. I think it is likely that DISH will have to demonstrate its software does not infringe for the Judge to lift the injunction in whole or in part, however there may be some delays granted by the Court and reasonable opportunities for DISH to do so before the DVR functions are required to be shut down. There may also be an Appeals process over this which could further stay the DVR shutoff.

The next question is can the DVR functionality be disabled without turning the entire box off; ie. can the box be turned into a STB and honor the injunction? I believe it is very likely this can be done. Thus rumors of complete catastrophy for DISH are exaggerated. A lot of chest thumping about massive fines and contempt of court is likely just that at this point.

As it stands, the Court has ordered a status conference for May 30th, giving TiVo until May 16th to lay out its position and DISH May 23rd to repsond. I don´t think anything serious is going to happen to DISH in the interim in terms of fines, but subscribers might lose their DVR functionality. The next 3 weeks will reveal a lot about the parties´strategies and positions as we see motions, etal.

In the News

April 21, 2008 by

MediaWeek undertaking serious series on DVR viewer behavior:

How Do You TiVo?

Eight short years ago, when TiVo and ReplayTV came to market, both Madison Avenue and “Joe Consumer” needed the value proposition explained to them and proved. Today, while the industry still works to get the value out of the proposition, consumers are clearly onboard and enthusiastic.

 

An article titled after my own heart:

Revision3 Shows: Soon to be Seen by Hardly Anyone On Multiple Platforms

Revision3San Francisco-based Revision3 which produces more than a dozen Web video series has inked multiple distribution deals in the past two weeks including deals with Joost, TiVo and Hulu according to a story on MediaWeek.

 

 COVER STORY: Girl Power!

SIDEBAR: Co-Viewing: No More Fights Over the Remote

With a full 20% of homes now owning a digital-video recorder, a strange thing is happening in the living room: More couples are watching TV together, and fewer are fighting over the remote control. Nielsen senior VP of planning policy and analysis Pat McDonough suggested that co-viewing may be gradually reversing a long-running fragmentation trend.

“It’s like appointment TV; when people play back later, they’re together,” she said. McDonough added that if she’s watching her favorite shows, like Desperate Housewives, live, she’s much more likely to be watching them alone.

TiVo’s Todd Juenger, VP of audience research, backed up the argument that co-viewing is on the rise as a result of time shifting. “In the halls here, we joke about how many marriages TiVo has saved … You used to have to fight over what to watch. You still have to choose who watches first, but you don’t have to go into a separate room. It is a great compromising vehicle.”

Duane Varan, a well-known TV researcher at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, oversees a living room fashioned as a laboratory that receives thousands of TV viewers who act as guinea pigs. Varan’s work involves measuring responses to TV shows or commercials through such methods as galvanic skin response (or how much a person sweats) or a viewer’s eye movements and heart rate.

“Our research shows that new technology actually helps to accommodate the gender difference,” Varan said. “It’s good news for the battle of the sexes.” The television can be paused momentarily while discussions are finished, and other distractions don’t have to wait until commercial breaks, he suggested.

 

Was CableCARD Ever a Good Idea?

April 19, 2008 by

A long time ago some geniuses in government managed to pass a law with the idea of creating a competitive consumer electronics industry in the niche of the cable STB.

Lower prices, innovation, features, technology, consumer benefits …

The only benefits to come out of all this mucking around in all these years is the ability to save around $5/mo on a CC vs an STB, and the idea of recording TV shows. While the first is a benefit, I would not call it a significant benefit because it comes at the cost of several “services” cable STBs offer. As for the second, well, lets not sneeze at it, but come on, no other ideas than that in all these years?

It is probably the case that there never was much to be had out of opening cable networks. The only real technological problem cableCARD has ever solved is the ability to record HD – HD component and HDMI recording only just now becoming practical. The only real application to opening a video network seems to be the abilty to capture the video.

Heck, DVRs could have captured compressed digital streams off firewire outputs from cable STBs years ago, without all the hassle.

We are left only with the dual (multi) tuner issue. For many years I have controlled multiple TiVoes in a single room; all that´s ever needed to be done is require cable cos to provide STBs with IR codes, or better yet a multi-tuner STB with multiple (or muxed) digital outputs. All that could have been done years ago with far less hassle and headache.

I am wondering if anyone can chime in with some sort of idea that offers a more optomistic outlook on the open cable landscape. Surely we will get something more for all this than a video recorder with a different UI and less access to cable services than with a cable provided box?

Where´s the GD Tuning Resolver?

April 16, 2008 by

Reference is made to a post on TCF which refers to this HD Guru article so I don´t have to reinvent the wheel…

 

I received a response a short time ago from Mike Schwartz at CableLabs in regard to a series of questions I emailed him asking for details and results of the interop testing done last week. In essence, he says they are treating the event as private and suggest I contact the vendors…though he does not say who was there, which was one of my questions.  :D  I bet TiVo was there. 😉

He goes on to say…

What I can say is that we stand ready to conduct compliance testing on tuning adaptors
and UDCPs that implement the interface, once suppliers wish to submit.

 

which does not sound to me like Q2 availability. 😉

Subject: Tuning Resolver Status

Dear Mr. Schwartz,

I am an analyst/blogger in the digital video field who writes under the pen name
HDTiVo (hdtivo.wordpress.com)

I am researching the status of the tuning resolver for UDCPs to access SDV channels,
and understand interoperability testing was done last week at CableLabs. What can
you tell me publicly about the status of the TR´s development and expected availability
date to either cable companies or actual end users?

The testing done last week, was that with final production versions of the TR that
cable cos. will be purchasing or with prototypes? Was the testing merely for 3rd
party UDCPs with final TRs?

How would you characterize the results? Were there more or less problems than expected?
Will projected availabilty dates be changed?

What companies brought their UDCPs and what types were they, to the extent you can
reveal?

I am especially interested in as much info about

TiVo´s Series 3 Platform units
as you can provide.

Many thanks in advance for taking the time to respond,

Regards,

HDTiVo

 

I would keep an eye on zatznotfunny for more news from Mari Sibley.

Announcing: HDTiVo Blog Remains Completely Unchanged

April 5, 2008 by

For those of you my age and over who have trouble keeping up with all the latest stuff, HDTiVo Blog announces that it remains completely unchanged – literally for the last 3 months.

Unlike certain “competing” blogs who change their formats, HDTiVo Blog is completely committed to its current format. Rest assured, you will never see a video, photo or graphic. Our devotion is to black and white text that´s unfortunately not read all over.

Strict Teletype compatiblity will be maintained indefinitely. Always take the latest news home on punch tape that fits in your shirt pocket – even when writing implements are sharing space therein.

Unfortunately due to vendor requirements, CRT support is no longer available; we are now LCD only.  OK, just kidding; chill.

Our commitment is to write articles less frequently to allow all our readers to keep pace. Once everyone has had a chance to read and comment on the latest article, we will begin working on the next. We hope this will give folks the chance to also absorb the comments before being burdened with a new topic.

Your feedback on retaining the old format is welcome. We did no testing to see if this was the right thing to do, in accordance with our strict no testing of anything ever policy.

Best wishes for the second quarter of 2008, and as always, thanks for being troubled enough to read this,

HDTiVo

Say Goodbye To CableCARD DVRs

January 5, 2008 by

Imagine if you could record anything you want from any source. Imagine if you could install your DVR as easily as a TiVo Series2.

 That’s a long way from what cableCARD allows with its SDV limits, no PPV or VOD, copy flags, etc.

This new device records component HD and has not one but two HDMI inputs. It apparently records in mpeg4 format, has an SD slot for additional storage (portability?) and may cost $999 to start.

SlingMedia is introducting a box (PRO-HD) which records component HD for $399.

The day has finally come when you will never again here it costs too much to record analog HD for a consumer device.

Such devices can record from any source – cable, satellite, etc. You are no longer subject to cableCARD or proprietary standards.

Moron TiVo’s Q3

November 30, 2007 by

TiVo is giving a presentation on Dec 3, so maybe I’ll save my energy for after that.

This was not a bad QTR in that it showed the THD could be a well accepted product under the right conditions. TiVo probably sold 2.5-3X as many THDs as S3s last year, even with the bad pricing/terms for “service.” TiVo has changed its offer to new subscribers for Q4 back to what it was in 3Q07. This should benefit sales to new customers. However, MSD subs were sited as ticking up for THD and TiVo has reduced the desirability to the MSD price. I am concerned about that drag.

The metrics used to judge TiVo’s business improved – obvious evidence that the THD is an easier product to sell at $299 than what TiVo has had recently.  SAC comparisons improved YOY, GAs declined less on a percentage basis and SAC effiency didn’t look as bad. Make no mistake, everything was still negative, but not as negative.

TiVo now has a product people want to buy. So the marketing remains a problem.

The changes implemented for Q4 are positive signs for the future. TiVo will at the very least see great benefits from the parts they improved and that should help them realize they have to head further down that path.

Lifetime is extremely popular. I wonder that I misjudge its effect even at $399, but $399 is pretty stiff. There is probably a lot of pent up demand for it, but TiVo should lower that price later and make it universally available asap.

On other fronts, the resolution to the SDV problem is coming along in the time frame I thought it would when I said this summer that it was safe to jump into the water again. An OCAP box will be possible if/when it eventually becomes important to make one.

TiVo is making a little bit of progress on ad and measurement businesses, but nothing to get excited about.

TiVo seems to have a couple paying ComTiVo customers now. The whole thing is going to be buried into what was the DTV line, so figuring out CableSoftTiVo, Mexcio, DTV… will be tough. The rollout looks as slow and bumpy as you’d reasonably expect and there’s no sign yet of the effect/quality of marketing.

There is going to be a PC TiVo via Nero software (is it really pronounced Nay-Rho?) Not enough info there to make any judgement about that business yet.

I am encouraged by the indication of lower marketing spend for Q4. That and the change in plans indicate some adults have climbed Sugar Mountain and are exterting some influence.

Basically, Q3 shows moderate improvement at TiVo, particularly with regard to product offering. There is some hope for more improvement in Q4 and beyond.

Notes from call.

TiVo: Its time to say a little UNCLE

Mr. Rogers Presents

TiVo @ Maxim Group Growth Conference

Strategic Positioning – In Front of Your …

Current TiVo Pricing

Comments on TiVo Results Soon

November 28, 2007 by

I know I haven’t made any comments lately here, though I have written some on TCF …

I’ll comment on the QTR results and other issues in the next couple of days.

 Thanks and appologies to the loyal readers who have clicked in vain.

Buffalo RAID on the Way!

October 29, 2007 by

The other day I ordered a 1TB Buffalo Drivestation Quattro for $465 to use as a RAID 5 system (750GB net). I’m hoping to upgrade it with some larger drives I already own and have the included 250GB drives available for other uses.

The product has an eSata interface and USB 2.0. My first use of the Drivestation will be to see if I can run a TiVo HD off it – single HDD attached to the eSata port (eSata-int. MBD port). Success there would provide awesome and easy opportunities for massive storage on TiVo HDs.

The Drivestation will probably end up replacing mirrored USB 2.0 drives (300GB net) for more storage of videos on my PC server.

Its on the FedEx truck for drop off now. Unfortunately I am leaving town today, so I may not have results until Thursday.

Upgrade from ST to DT TiVo Free??

October 29, 2007 by

Mega has been talking about the Amazon DT Free offer (Fantastic deal – TiVo Series2DT with $100 gift card – for $99!) for a while now. I just looked at it and it seems like you can replace an existing unit which is month to month “free” without incuring any new contractual term/obligation.

What that means for someone like me that has single tuner TiVoes is that I can upgrade to a more capable box virtually free. It would be kind of a slum dunk, no?

I’m still checking into the details to be sure, as you can see from my comment on Mega’s article.

Update:

The details do say new service plan activation. If that is enforced, here is how I might play it:

I am still within 30 days on my newest TiVo HD. I could use the service credit on that and sub in the DT for a 240 unit. Yes, I incur a 3 year contract on the HD, but I will have to anyway since I am not subbing the HD for a 240 anyway.

I plan on another HD soon, so perhaps I’ll do 2 Amazon offers now, before they go away and use the card when the time comes.

🙂

Hulu Taking Beta Orders

October 29, 2007 by

Hulu is taking Beta orders. Just go to http://www.hulu.com/ and enter your email address to get yet another proprietary way of watching a bunch of content – NBC and Fox shows this time.

Hulu says it will ‘call’ when they are ready for you. They called me back in a couple minutes, but it was just to let me know I’m on the list.

Wider Beta for ComTiVo?

October 12, 2007 by

The AP and Reuters put out stories yesterday that the first non-employees of Comcast had begun receiving ComTiVoes. The information may have come from an agency that handles media relations for TiVo. The stories go on to say the rollout will occur over the next several months.

So far there is nothing to indicate this is anything more than a wider Beta test of ComTiVo. So is this a commercial rollout?

With no pricing info and frankly nothing more than the statement to the AP from Whit Clay, it looks more like its non-commercial.

If a commercial rollout had occured a couple of days before as indicated, Tom Rogers’ statements at the Nataxis conference would not have been accurate. That is another factor to consider.

Language is typically slippery. The stories can be read to mean that the commercial rollout will be occuring in the future (over the next several months) perhaps starting in November as has been the expectation recently.

We’ll see.

TiVo: Its time to say a little UNCLE

October 10, 2007 by

TiVo:

You’ve got some things going for you, but your “service” pricing will continue to cripple the potential.

Its time to say ‘OK we were wrong’ and go back to no commitment and Lifetime sales.

Look, you’re dealing with subsidized S2s. Now the writedowns are there, but leave them out for now if you must.

Make the product of your future a success. TiVo HDs are on average subsidized little enough to offer them with no contract. Sell Lifetime again at $299 or less. You’ve got other revenue streams you are trying to build, which will accelerate if you get Gross Adds going again.

Make your move starting with Q4. Grab much bigger holiday sales. See how you can reverse the slide and start putting up decent and profitable GAs again.

Mr. Rogers Presents

October 9, 2007 by

Tom Rogers presented today at Natixis Bleichroder, whoever they are.

The format was refreshingly different in that Rogers was asked questions rather than being allowed to get up there and simply drone out his usual tired, sad story.

Unfortunately, basically everything that came out was still just as tired and sad.

I just want to hit what is newish…

CableTiVo

Cox remains 6 months behind Comcast, thus there are Cox delays equivalent in time to Comcast’s. Roger’s says very soon for ComcasTiVO. I figure the first non-Comast employee will get it in November.

Regardless of this two month delay, the big picture in regards to time is the slow roll out which is necessary because there will be glitches along the way as the Comcast systems grow the sub base (unless the sub base grows so slowly that the glitches don’t show up.) 😉

Remember also that this is low revenue/profit per sub. I expect to model around $1.10-$1.40/mo/sub, but that’s not based on very solid info yet.

Rogers responded to questions on price and sub projections by saying Comcast will announce price and he does not have Comcast’s projections. Does he have his own? He skirted that part. If he’s not crowing about potential numbers, I sure won’t. 😉

E* Lit

Nada. 4-6 months typical time to decision.

TiVo HD

Hey, Tom, you’ve got a box that could sell, unlike the S3, what’s up?

Of course Rogers had to say yet again that TiVo and some others were caught by surprise…  Which others? The other losers? The rest of the others have been making hay while the sun’s been shinning.

By now Rogers should be able to give some color on actual TiVo HD sales but he is silent. He mentions only that the box was out early (I say too early based on bugs, but OK that got fixed in 1 month…) retailers love the price, and are focused on it with a new level of support. Just look at the displays he said.

I haven’t been out much lately, but if what I saw at Best Buy Sunday when I went in to replace a busted Netgear router is any indication, apparently a dark, hard to find aisle with no display or demo is the new level of retail support. I need to get out more I guess.

Continuing to avoid any real answer related to actual sales, he babbled about the “service” being important in selling the boxes, which of course it is not; its features and price/terms in a different way than he perceives “service.”

There was some chatter about TiVo as the Internet gateway to accessing all kinds of media. Rogers talked about unifying media access and search…the fact is Rogers has the lingo down, but the strategy is flawed and it is all going very slowly.

“Service” as a business

This is where it continues to get more and more surreal and I get to wondering if Rogers is in touch with reality at all.

Rogers continues to insist that somehow spending more on marketing – particularly the marketing (mediocre) they are doing – could lead to a financially successful SA business! That somehow SAC is going to be reduced, etc!!! NO WAY!

Shelf Offering

Which was raised last month to $100M. TiVo has no thoughts about using it at this time. That sounds like more than the usual no info before actual announcement, so maybe they really won’t go to the well for another year or so.

But the bizarre part is the statement that the cash expended on the SA business is being reduced. Well, how the heck ya gonna do that, Tom? You are ramping up that marketing expense which is all money straight out the window. You already sell hardly any S2s anymore – which create HW SAC. I guess if you sell hi def units and “written down” S2s that does it (heck the S2 inventories and parts have already been written off by $13M+, so no big trick there going forward.) So its probably all in the accounting, but accounting won’t put money in the bank.

Speaking of selling S2s, I want to personally thank Tom for not mentioning the analog cable market as an opportunity for TiVo, the only analog option, yet again. 🙂

DTV

This is nothing more than hope. I predict that only if CableTiVo does well will DTV start to care. Rogers’ comment that DTV will be watching is just that, watching.

E*/Sling

There was some general talk about the E*/Sling deal and how the price was so high compared to TiVo’s valuation. Well, Sling’s price reflects a company with vision and an interesting future. Get it?😉

Then Rogers goes into marketing type fluff about how Tivoes work with Slings and all. 🙄

+++++++++++++++

There were no Q’s from the audience. Who was in the physical audience? Are they not interested?

Around the Horn with TiVo

September 25, 2007 by

Maybe October is the new November? ;)

Updating New TiVo Software Being Distributed (9.1),I think its very likely everything (incl. TTG/MRV  and eSata) is in there, waiting to be found ;)or turned on. They are not going to send out another upgrade to the entire installed base in another 6 weeks. If you think about it, by the time this one gets to everybody it will be almost November – and TiVo usually considers something released after everyone has gotten it.

I hope they release by account, because folks with multiple S2s will be temporarily inconvenienced by the MRV incompatibility otherwise.

While TiVo is offering a $50 S2DT80, (Get an 80-hour S2DT for $49.99) no matter what TiVo does on price, short of giving away lots of money with each box, subscription additions will not be good as long as the ridiculous subscription options remain in place. This comment extends to the hi def TiVoes. TiVo HD will sell somewhat better than S3 did, but TiVo’s growth is at an end after this year unless they change.

I made a rare stumble into the Showcasesarea and was impressed by how many items were in there (but Product Watch is still highly dead.) Showcases has previews from CBS and ABC, including the use of Thumbs Up and one click SPs (one click for SPs to all shows too.)  The free Unbox downloads lack Thumbs/SP options (as well any any promotional content about the series.) Between Unbox and Showcases, Networks are well representedon TiVo for promoting this Fall’s shows.

I think ComCastTiVo is a while from coming.  As I alluded to last week,

TiVo says software development is done and any delays are due to funky infrastructure issues at Comcast. Is it semantics? (Credibility)  Who cares; it ain’t rolling out and there was no statement that it is coming in X weeks unlike on the earnings call. (TiVo @ Maxim Group Growth Conference)

the roll out is going to be slow, quite a bit longer than what most people had thought a month or so ago, and subscriber acquisition will obviously be delayed as well.

Away from TiVo, Echostar is buying SlingMedia. I don’t know whether or not to cry. I don’t know what to think yet.

Strategic Positioning – In Front of Your …

September 24, 2007 by

Nobody wants to watch TV on their PC. Its not TV until its on TV.

You’ve heard those statements plenty in recent months in reference to the belief that the PC viewing experience is inadequate and people really want to watch TV on their TVs – fancy or not.

So why are so many people watching things on their PCs? Well, the fact is people are in front of their PCs quite a bit these days. Once you are already in front of the computer, watching something is not that big a stretch.

Another reason is the robbing the bank reason…that’s where the content is. Much of what people are watching via DOD is only available on a PC.

I want to extend the already in front of it concept a bit. People are already in front of their TVs quite a bit already as well.  So DOD content to the TV is a logical winner as well. But who has the strategic advantage?

Xbox has downloads, even in HD. There are other choices now and coming on stream. But, you really are not in front of your xbox that much. Sure you play it alot, but watching TV on it involves actively switching from a video source to the xbox and then going into the video mode, which is not your primary use of the xbox and not an ingrained habit at this point.

I would argue that at this point only one choice really has its people in front of it quite a bit. That’s TiVo. When you watch TV, if you have a TiVo, you are always in front of your TiVo. TiVo’s primary use is watching TV; its a habit – even an addiction – for its users.

This is a physical/ergonomic type argument for strategic advantage. It is limited, because so many other factors go into whether TiVo actually translates this advantage into a real business advantage. Thus far TiVo has done a horrendous job, putting itself at strategic disadvantages in most other aspects of this battle for the DOD business (and the rest of its “business.”)

A new CEO, sweeping clean much of the organization, with a proper strategic vision for grabbing the opportunity could transform TiVo from a dwindling presence into a vibrant grower. Will the Board take action? It is a shame to see TiVo throw away its potential.

New TiVo Software Being Distributed (9.1)

September 21, 2007 by

New software is just beginning to be distributed to TiVoes – Series 2s and 3s. Its at the stage where a few get it while TiVo assesses whether there are problems. If all goes well a rollout over a few weeks proceeds. A priority list will also be set up eventually.

I hope for more eSata support and most especially a fix for 1FF problems on the S3 and HD. It is football season afterall.

Also, I’m looking for some TTG/MRV progress. That will be huge for TiVo.

Apparently some more advanced Wishlist functionality is available.

More to come.

NBC DOD – Is Your Head Spinning?

September 21, 2007 by

So much is happening and changing so fast in the Download on Demand (DOD) area its hard to keep up with what’s going on. NBC’s cancelled relationship with iTunes, jump to UnBox and now NBC Direct (plus Hulu) has my head reeling.

Networks and others are trying several things at once to see what sticks. The message to take away is that Internet delivery is proceeding in earnest and here to stay.

NBC Direct (7 day download rental with commercials for free) now conflicts with $1.99 sales on Unbox; or does it? You can own through Unbox or just watch for free via Direct. The real question is if Unbox will “rent” the 7 day content; that would be a major breakthrough in the business – just call up current or past episodes for free anytime (especially via your TiVoes.)

Unbox would get paid by NBC to deliver the files to PCs, TiVoes, etc.

Would it be a big deal to replace the rental download files at Unbox with new ones with different commercials every few days? Nah.  Eventually, individualized commercials could be provided in the files dynamically. Talk about CPM!

TiVo @ Maxim Group Growth Conference

September 20, 2007 by

http://investor.tivo.com/index.cfm

TiVo (Rogers) presented today at the Maxim Group Growth Conference.

When the first comment out of the CEO’s mouth is BS, you pretty much know its going to be the same old rock bottom story. TiVo is NOT riding the DVR growth curve which Rogers described. TiVo is losing subscribers and is totally off the racetrack.

I continue to believe strongly that Tom Rogers’ lack of credibility is a serious negative for TiVo. The company’s performance has been terrible under this CEO and reality relative to the connotations of his statements is consistently distant.

TiVoHD is being sold online direct at no subsidy. Retail sales have some subsidy. Given that, its time for TiVo to stop doing subscription plans for the TiVoHD and Series3s. TiVo needs to offer $X/$6.95 no commitment subscriptions, where X is less than $12.95. TiVoHD/S3 should sell for $549/$679 w/ Lifetime or free with $X,Y,Z/mo for 1,2,3 year commits. That’s the All Upfront and No Upfront that Rogers promised two years ago.

TiVo thinks retailers are enthusiastic about having the TiVoHD to sell with their HDTVs. Retailers are always happy to have something to sell, and we’ll see just how long that lasts when they realize unit sales are being restricted to pathetic levels by TiVo’s sub plans.

TiVo’s strategy (since first mentioning the lower priced HD unit) has been to closely link sales of the TVs with the TiVoHD. TiVo wants to be one of those select devices the salespeople push. So how much is that going to cost in soft marketing $? Plenty. Rogers obfuscates whether TiVo is actually in that game with any of the retailers. I suspect not. Credibility.

Rogers mentions Costco and Sears as new on board with the TiVoHD. Not true. Costco has had TiVoes for a long time. Credibility.

CableTiVo: No new info. I expect $1.10-$1.40/mo/sub to TiVo with enhanced ads etal. vs. under $1.00 from DTiVo. Included in the lack of new info is that ComcastTiVo has not rolled out. TiVo says software development is done and any delays are due to funky infrastructure issues at Comcast. Is it semantics? (Credibility)  Who cares; it ain’t rolling out and there was no statement that it is coming in X weeks unlike on the earnings call.

Comcast is paying for the bulk of the marketing and will be targeting DTiVoes. Ooooops, do I hear the cannibals? Marketing will be delayed until Comcast has the rollout in a large portion of the NE region. So don’t expect much in 2007 or FY2008 for TiVo.

Of course, this leads to the subject of DTV doing more with TiVo. Rogers teases the interest of DTV in further work with TiVo that apparently was expressed in some DTV press release or comments. Credibility.

Rogers’ comment about DTV reminded me of the line I heard in the Geek Squad 60 Minutes report recently: Three types of customers – The do it yourselfers; the do it for me’s; the I thought I could do it myselfers.🙂

OK, I think DTV will re-up with TiVo on a new unit or software for their units, but its a long way from getting to the customer, and remember for all the success of that product line, DTiVo never came close to offsetting TiVo’s other financial issues. Don’t foret that in conjunction with CableSoftTiVo either.

Nothing of substance was said about the litigation. I think there could be an Appeals decision at the end of 2007, but maybe early 2008.

Rogers addressed Unbox, USS, Ads and Ad measurement without anything of substance. TiVo ought to be saying something more about the Ad & Ad measurement business along the lines of it producing something noticeable by now. Credibility.

Nothing much on international. He did say from AUS TiVo gets sub fees ($$??) and development costs are paid by the partner.

In running down the financials, Rogers talked about reducing SAC, HW subsidy through more ad spending. In effect he says ads will raise GAs enough to offset the spend and reduce overall SAC. Come on; exactly the opposite has and will happen. Credibility.

TiVo still wants to waste resources finding a way to go after the analog market. 50% of new subs still are analog, so don’t run away, but get real – there is no opportunity there. Sell the S2s in the warehouse or dump ’em on the Mexicans. Of course with $11.2M in writedowns (on top of $2.5M (?) ) TiVo will show some decent looking financials. Credibility.

Rogers mentioned rising ARPU, but it didn’t look to me like it rose much. Credibility. That may become less of a theme, and TiVo should go the other way anyway.

On SA marketing, TiVo still wants to go after analog customers. TiVo has found that there is a perception that TiVo costs $25-30/mo; someone is smoking something. TiVo wants to change that impression. TiVo wants to present the message that it is cheaper than cable; well, for many $6.95 MSDers the TiVoHD is, but that’s it for now. Credibility.

TiVo also wants to improve the understanding of broadband content offerings. Rogers mentioned 3M songs on demand and Unbox. OK, but the value may not be large and the cost of educating may be. I don’t know about the songs, but you pay extra for most Unbox titles and its still all SD, so that value is limited.

So nothing to lift our spirits. TiVo is still going to hurl money out the window uselessly for now. I still owe more analysis on the 2nd QTR and some suggestions on strategy, but its so hard to get down to it.

Current TiVo Pricing

September 20, 2007 by

As most readers already know, TiVo has a $200 rebate on the Series 3. You can pay a net $599 at the TiVo Store or $399 via Amazon. As usual, there is absolutely no point to ordering from TiVo.com. The web special offer is equally unappetizing.

TiVoHDs are going for less than $266 from Amazon, a decent drop after the short time the unit is on the market. There is no rebate, of course.

Series 2DTs are still stiffly priced at around $80, but the old single tuner 540 can be had for $-20 at TCS.

The good news about what TiVo is doing is that they are continuing to offer MSD pricing for their own web site and retail purchases. Better return policies at TiVo.com may make paying a few extra $s for the TiVoHD worthwhile, but maybe not $34.

I expect very few will prefer to pay an extra $100-130+ for the Series 3, but not having much experience yet with the TiVoHD, I am not entirely confident that the Series 3 isn’t more superior to the HD than I realize. (I’m still trying to get two working cableCARDs out of the monopolist.) 😉

For MSD eligible subscribers, the TiVoHD is not a bad deal compared to many cable offerings (which have seen increased pricing lately,) provided you are very confident you’ll stay almost all of the three years. This is a big improvement compared to the Series 3, but don’t expect TiVo’s sales to suddenly go wild from this limited advantage.

Build Your Own

September 20, 2007 by

VeohTV is allowing users to “build” their own reels of NCAA Football highlights.

You can choose a variety of categories, teams, play types, players…

An interesting novelty; I’d get a better impression of its value with NFL and MLB content.

Is it 65 or 100? (M$)

September 19, 2007 by

Reuters says 65, DJ says 100. I don’t care enough to look it up (yet).

TiVo filed to raise additional capital yet again. The company is uselessly hurling money out the window so fast that a year after raising a similarly large sum they are at it again.

Nothing meaningful will change for TiVo until they reform their sales/marketing/pricing/terms. I admit I have not gotten to that subject yet, but there is so much else to do, and TiVo is so much less important than it used to be.

As long as they can keep sucking in fresh capital, TiVo can go on hurling that money out the window. The machinations such as Mexico, DVB-T down under, etal. are all about spinning a yarn of hope to suck in the dough.

The only meaningful thing TiVo has going for it is the TiVoHD product which will only make hay with those alluded to reforms.

TiVo HD with External Drive Only

September 15, 2007 by

Some adventurous person has managed to get a TiVo HD to run with only an external drive connected to the eSata port…

I swapped the SATA cables inside the TivoHD making the external connection the primary and only connection, and used WinMFS to restore a previously saved truncated backup of the original internal drive to the eSata drive, hooked it up to the TivoHD as the only drive using eSata connector and powered up.

The TivoHD worked fine. Went back to the PC and did a MFSCopy to the eSata drive to recover my recordings, put the eSata drive back on the TivoHD as the only drive, and it worked, and my recordings were there and the TivoHD saw the extra space.

http://mfslive.org/forums/posting.php?mode=quote&p=1765

Any takers for an S3?