The Best Technology Doesn’t Always Win



If you've followed my blog then you know that I'm a BIG FAN of TiVo HD! I just LOVE the TiVo interface and I have a few of them in my home (ok more than a few). However, I got an email from a few buddies asking if I was going to upgrade to the NEW TiVo Premiere unit. Quite frankly I said "no". I had heard about the New TiVo Premiere and I had read some of the info, but there wasn't anything that jumped out at me as a must have. Now don't get me wrong. If I was in need of another unit for another room or if one suddenly died I'd be getting a Premiere in a heart beat. However, I didn't see anything that would justify the hassle of selling my old one, figuring out a way to transfer/keep the lifetime service and dealing with Comcast to come out and install the new one. 


TiVo posted a $10.2 million quarterly loss

Although TiVo has THE BEST product in the DVR category, they are still not winning. They just posted a $10.2 million quarterly loss. The way I see it is that TiVo suffers from two problems and neither of them has anything to do with the product. The first problem and probably the biggest one is that TiVo competes with the Cable Company's "good enough" DVR. Think about it. If you get Cable TV, your cable provider will happily bring a DVR to your home, install it for you and even spend a few moments showing you how it works. The DVR itself is functional and for most people that have never experienced a TiVo they will think the experience is fine. On the other hand If you go with a TiVo, you have to buy it (cash upfront), then have your cable company come out and install a CableCARD in it (a hit or miss process with most Cable installers ie. contractors), and then you still have to sign up for TiVo service and pay either a monthly, annual or one-time lifetime fee and you still won't have access to the cable company's pay-per-view content. The average consumer that doesn't know what TiVo is and they're going to take the easy route of going with the "free" or cheap (inferior) cable company DVR. 

The second problem is that TiVo doesn't market well. Here's why I say this. Every time I bring up TiVo to a friend, the first thing they ask me is what does TiVo offer that the Cable Company DVR doesn't. Once I rattle off:

  • I can set it to record over the internet
  • I can transfer shows from it to my computer to watch on the road
  • I can transfer shows from it to burn to a DVD or put on my iPod/iPhone
  • I can transfer shows from one TiVo in my house to another one via my Network
  • I can easily put it on WiFi in rooms that don't have internet
  • I can access Amazon on Demand content
  • I can access Netflix Streaming Content
  • The interface is a million times better

They usually say OH! The problem is it's not my job to tell the world why TiVo is better, it's their marketing departments job and I have yet to see much of any of these benefits advertised. 


The Bottom Line

As much as I LOVE TiVo DVRs, if they don't fix these two problems they will go the way of the Apple Newton. 


Hey TiVo: Just a thought, but you have this really cool comparison info on your site if people go to find it. How about turning this into an Ad campaign, TV commercials, etc.? Just a thought….




20 Replies to “The Best Technology Doesn’t Always Win”

  1. I definitely agree! I don’t know why they don’t advertise more. I wouldn’t think of having anything but a TIVo after I gave the free DVR from Direct TV a try. It was so terrible that I immediately went to and bought a Direct TV/Tivo receiver from them for full price.

    Now I have a stand alone Tivo with FIOS. it was a pain to get the cable card but once I did I’m thrilled with my Tivo HD and I even bought myself DVR expander so I can record everything in HD and not run out of room! I love TIVO – I hope they don’t go away!!

  2. Woot! ( has the Series 3 HD on sale today (while they last) for $174. I agree there’s nothing n the new units worth dumping my working unit for. If they had added Video on Demand from the cable company, I’d have considered it.

  3. Great ad for TiVo you should send it to them and let them use it free of Charge. It’s better than their marketing dept has ever done. I can’t remember the last time I ever saw an ad for TiVo.

  4. Hey Terry,

    maybe they are barking up the wrong tree. Tivo should get married to Fios or Cable companies. That way the providers would be the ones delivering, installing and explaining the TIVO Box Option to their customers.

    If you cant beat em….

  5. Could it be a case of providing extra features just because today’s technology allows it? A bit like all the fancy electronics in my wife’s car which offer no improvement over the slightly older technologies in mine, but cost up to 10X more when parts have to be replaced.
    Everyone’s needs are different, but for me the recording capabilities of a U-verse box are just fine, and the price is right.
    In any event, I still carry a negative vibe about Tivo – at one time they seemed to be all about initiating dubious litigation.
    (Maybe there’s a new category in there for the ‘Tech Profile’ – services you would never touch with a bargepole – as in AOL, Capital One etc etc.

  6. BTW, if you are loyal TiVo subscriber (like Terry and me) and are considering a new DVR, call them up – they will definitely make you a deal!

    TiVo is the best, I tried the Comcast DVR when getting an HD tv and thought slitting my wrists would be more fun.

  7. Hi Terry,\n\nJust a heads up that your tech website is running slow to connect and I am using the latest edition of Snow Leopard and the OS is 10.6.2. It has been this way for several weeks.\n\nRegards, Jim Talbot

  8. Hey Terry,

    Looks like they listened! I just went to Tivo’s site and lo and behold, it looks just like this page! Great Job! BTW, I’ve had a Tivo for several years now as well as the Cable DVR; I don’t know that I ever use the cable DVR.
    Take care!

  9. I also would like to join in the Tivo is greatness group! WE came to a point where we were going to have to make a change and my wife declared, “I’m not giving up my Tivo!” So after a few phone calls, it seems that things are once again grand in the household! We still have a DVR from the DirectTV/Tivo fling!

  10. Really good write up Terry. I love my TiVO but the biggest problem like you said was the cable card installations. It was an act of God to get them to install the cable card correctly. I got lucky and managed to get someone on the phone to do it. Then the Tivo died! Got the 2nd one and it was a nightmare again with the cable card. Comcast is awful anyway. They had 3 technicians in my house at the same time. I think the average person doesn’t want to deal let alone understand the cable card installation. It’s worth it when it’s done but a real pain in the arse to get one put in.

  11. Terry,

    I am glad that you are tackling this issue. I have long said that TiVo must have the worsts worst marketing team. Long before any cable company had DVR, TiVo was making it happen. Like you pointed out, TiVo is still the leader here, yet everyone favors DVR… They need to pull it together, or else the world will wait to be amused and impressed with what their cable companies off (things they will steal from TiVo, and no one will ever know.)

  12. You forgot one other issue with Tivo. With the cost of Satellite, Cable or U-Verse being what it is (far from cheap for the quality of the program that you get, not picture quality, but the shows available) by the time you pay for your service convincing people to add another couple of hundred for a Tivo and then on top of that the month or yearly or one time cost of the Tivo service it just isn’t worth it to most people.\n\nFrankly I just moved to U-Verse and while the service is ok, the reason I did it was because for the same programming I was getting with Dishnetwork I am now saving about $60 a month. The TV channels and what’s on those channels is so poor these days that it just isn’t worth the money to buy a Tivo let alone pay for the Tivo service.\n\nI am quite frankly tired of all of the crappy shows on TV, all of the crap the channels popup over the program before and after a commerical break. The number and length of commercial breaks, the squishing or high speed fly-by of the credits usually with more ads, the bleeping of what they consider bad words, yet are easy enough to get by reading their lips and on and on and on.\n\nTelevision is in the toilet and I see no reason to spend more on it. This is perhaps the biggest problem. If more people really felt that TV was a good value and cared about what was on. Maybe they would be willing to pay more for something like Tivo.\n\nThe other issue is that Tivo really doesn’t do anything that I think “My god I have to have that. I must, must, must” It is simply a device to record TV and given that most TV is shit why pay to record it?

  13. I had TiVo and loved it, I also had Directtv. When I went to HD, TiVo HD DRV wouldn’t work with Directtv. I have a fiery hatred for Comcast, which outweighs my love for the TiVo. Directtv wouldn’t give me HDDVRs after five years of never paying late, so I switched to Dish for the free HDDVR. It’s terrible! I mean it functions and it’s in HD, but it’s not TiVo. The only good thing about the Dish HDDVR is that I can start a program in one room and finish it in another, but I miss the sounds and the menus of TiVo. Why, oh why, does TiVo HD DVRs not work with Satellite? Is there a solution in sight?

  14. I’m with you Terry. TiVO rocks! I currently own a series 2 and picked up a series 3 as soon as it came out. To my surprise, some of the features I had come to know and love (like transferring shows between boxes) was not immediately available. I know it wasn’t TiVO’s fault as they had to contend with DRM issues, and a hamstrung version is now supported but it still left a sour taste in my mouth. In addition, the cable card issues that plagued the series 3 compounded the issues making me feel as though with all the technological challenges and hurdles they were facing that perhaps the unit was not ready for prime time. In any event, hope the new units are better than the previous right from the get-go. A new box should feel like an upgrade.

  15. Exactly you are right and i hope day by day it will be proved in the future. So we need to be understand the reality about this invention.

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