Friday, September 4, 2009

Are TiVo's Days Numbered?

I got a rather shocking email from my brother today, and he didn't waste any time getting to the point. The first sentence reads thusly:

"I once said that my TiVos were more important than my refrigerator and microwave.  I left the refrigerator and microwave plugged in and unplugged all my TiVos."

Many of you know from numerous previous blog posts that I'm a huge TiVo fan. I bought a Series 1 TiVo when I first saw it on a late night infomerical. I'm not sure I even knew how much it cost when I picked up the phone to order, I just knew I needed to have one. And at one point my brother was probably even a bigger TiVo fan than I was.

But, 10 years later, a helluva lot has changed, and it's all due to the Internet and increasingly ubiquitous high speed bandwidth. So now that we can get more TV than we can handle through Hulu, the TV network web sites, iTunes, Xbox, Netflix, and numerous other outlets, is TiVo still relevant?

Every month when I get my FiOS TV bill, I'm increasingly thinking no, painful as that is for me to say. TiVo changed the way we watch traditional TV, sure, but it hasn't kept up with the way we watch TV in the age with all the media sources we have at our fingertips. TiVo was born in the age of 56K modems, but other than the addition of things like YouTube, Rhapsody, and Netflix streaming, it still does the same thing it did 10 years ago, and I'm not sure these recent and rather paltry additions make it worth keeping.

Until TiVo itself isn't tied so much to cable, it's getting harder and harder to justify keeping it. I hope TiVo has a longer term gameplan like maybe morphing into an all-in-one box that lets me use Hulu, Joost, Netflix streaming (which I do like), etc. all from that famously easy-to-use TiVo interface, kind of like a hacked Apple TV without the hacked part. And TiVo if you haven't thought of that and like the idea, you can have that one for free. ;-)

I know as little as I watch TV these days, it would be cheaper for me to buy the shows I do want to watch, not to mention being able to watch most of them for free on Hulu and other places, so between cable fees and TiVo fees, and the fall of one of the last great defenders of TiVo (my brother), I'm starting to consider it more seriously.

Have any of you cut the cable and gone full Internet and other outlets for you TV watching needs? I'd be curious to hear some practical pros and cons from those of you who have, and if I get brave enough to make the switch I'll be sure and share how it goes.


webRat said...

Most of the shows on are closed captioned for the hearing impaired, but there's still a lot of websites that don't have the capabilities and don't seem to care. While I don't have my TiVO anymore, I do have a DirecTV which might as well be TiVO behind the scenes and we'll be keeping that for awhile since Wife2be wants TrueBlood.Case in point, Netflix offers video streaming on our XBox 360, except... none of it is subtitled. :|

Matthew Woodward said...

Good point--since subtitles aren't something I use I wasn't aware of the issues there.I also love a couple of shows on HBO and Showtime, but for the couple of shows I do like I can wait and buy them or get them on Netflix. Maybe this is part of getting older but I just don't have the need to see things when they're brand new anymore. I almost prefer waiting until a season of a show is over and then I can watch it in more rapid succession.

dskaggs said...

We seriously thought about doing that last year. The thing that keeps us (me) from going completely to online sources is sporting events. I'm a huge University of Kentucky basketball fan and have been known to take vacation days if they happen to be playing in the middle of the day (tournaments etc) so that I could watch the games. The last few years I've gotten more interested in NFL games as well. If ESPN would offer a reasonably-priced package to watch the games online in real time, I'd probably cancel my cable.

Anonymous said...

I guess it depends upon what you like to watch. Shows like This Old House, Good Eats, and Mythbusters have only limited availability online. Mostly just exceprts, and This Old House just put up a Youtube channel with two full seasons worth of shows, but those are 5 years old or so, and I have already seen all of those shows 2 or 3 times. We also watch Baseball, and you can subscribe to MLBtv for a pretty penny, but 1.) I don't want to watch baseball in my office or on my laptop, and 2.) I still would have to pay for fios for my other shows. I also like to archive episodes of shows I like, keeping them for home improvement ideas, etc. I am new to the whole dvr world, hobbling along with a fios hd-dvr for a year now. The expandability and sharing capabilities of a tivo or a moxi dvr are appealing to me.And I second the vote about captions.My guess is that we may be seeing the end of tivo, but not the end of the dvr in general. I think that my next move will be a new dedicated media server will an hd fios compatible tuner, and built in dvr capabilities. (I know there's some indescriptive nomenclature for that, like HTPC, whatever) I would call that everything I need in one box.

Anonymous said...

I cut the cable, got an HD Tivo and do over the air broadcast channels and netflix and am very happy with it. payback period was 6 months. Would love to get hulu on the tivo, but not holding my breath. Have a slingbox too to get my TV on the go.I agree that they haven't done a good job staying relevant, but they are still the independent underdog that I feel emotionally attached to. I will keep rooting for them for the foreseeable future.

Matthew Woodward said...

Good points about the limited availability of certain shows--I really need to investigate and consider what I watch, but I have a feeling between online stuff and an antenna, I'll be covered.And believe me I definitely get the emotional attachment part. I've been pulling for TiVo since day one, but it just doesn't have the draw it used to unfortunately. I suppose the TiVo stays semi-relevant if I use an antenna but we'll see.

Anonymous said...

depressing statement - 10 years later....I'd never given it that much thought. It does work but could be so much better with a few simple allowances - scan external drives and display the content in now playing. Let me connect my xbox to tivo and stream shows from the tivo. I have the content local, don't make me get it online. And if I get it online, let me play it.I'll pay you X per month to allow me to use the box the way I want and it isn't to rip off you. Please Tivo, wow us again!