I've been wanting to write a post for a while now about my frustration with TiVo and John Siracusa summed up most my thoughts and pet peeves perfectly in his recent episode of Hypercritical 58: No More Numbers/The Four Tuners. I really hope someone at TiVo was listening and takes his criticism to heart.
Don't get met wrong, I absolutely love my TiVos. I have two of them, one TiVo HD in my bedroom and another TiVo HDXL in my living room and I've been using the TiVo service since the early 2000s. After looking at other alternatives such as cable company DVRs, Satellite Dish DVRs U-Verse and even a few stand alone products I haven't seen a thing that even comes close to challenging TiVo. In addition to the hardware related rants that John mentioned on his show, I have a few more philosophical issues with the direction TiVo has taken of late:
1) They've failed to innovate. TiVo had the early lead in the DVR space and they have the patents to prove it. In fact a great amount of their income comes form their patent portfolio rather than sales and subscribers. The core functionality of my TiVo and the way it functions is nearly identical to when I started using the service more than 10 years ago. They've added some features through partners like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon but their interface certainly isn't innovate. Their hardware has continued to be overly expensive and underpowered. Poor management, failure of leadership, complacency? I don't know. But they've lost their mojo and I'm not sure they can get it back.
2) Their pricing scheme sucks. When I bought most of my TiVos you bought the box outright and then paid a reasonable monthly fee for the service. $12.95 for the first box, $6.95 for each additional box and they had options for lifetime service (lifetime of the box, not your lifetime) for a couple hundred bucks. Thankfully, I'm grandfathered into those pricing schemes as long as I keep my current TiVos operational. What you get for that monthly fee is programing. The TiVo connects to the TiVo servers and updates the programing guide regularly so the TiVo knows what's on and when and can schedule recordings accordingly. I get the fee - it makes sense, though even $12.95 seems a little high for what you get. $5 a month seems more realistic.
Now, TiVo has gone with the contract model that everyone *LOVES* with their cell phone carriers. The idea is that you buy the TiVo box for $99 but then pay $20 a month with a minimum one year contract for the service. I thought $12.95 was high for the programing data but $20 is really out there. Now of course it's so high because they subsidizing the initial purchase price of the box. After the first year, the subscription price only goes down to $14.99 per month, still higher than my original rate and the discount for each addition box only drops to $9.95 or $12.95 depending on your plan. (And why the heck are there extra plans.) Remember - after you've supposedly paid off the box. The last thing I and most other people want in their life is another monthly bill they have to budget. $20 a month is a noticeable amount of money for most people.
3) Lastly, Despite the monthly fee- TiVo refuses to bring some of their newer features to their older (though not that old) boxes like my TiVoHD which is perfectly capable from a technical standpoint of running the software. They instead are trying to force you into upgrading to a higher priced box on a higher priced plan. No thank you. My TiVo HDs suit me just fine and I will do everything I can including cracking open the boxes and replacing components to keep them going and my lower monthly service fees in place.
I write this rant not out of hate, but out of love. I love TiVo. And if my TiVo died tomorrow I would do everything I could to fix it or I would go right back out and buy another one. But I'm in the minority. TiVo subscriptions are now and unless and most people are just opting for poorer quality cable company DVRs out of convenience. Unless TiVo is content to just live off its patent royalties and be an IP company they need to make some changes. Please TiVo - get a clue. I want you to survive and I want to be proud of you again!