Tivo in Trouble?

TivoThere have been a number of challengers to Tivo’s share of the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) market.  But until now, Tivo always had a partnership with DirecTV to supplement its offerings in the “Stand Alone” market.  And, for months, there have been stories that the partnership may be in danger.

Last night, a more comprehensive story was published detailing DirecTV’s plans to release its own DVR device.  With that, DirecTV will continue to offer Tivo boxes, but only to customers who request them.  Some say this will be the end of Tivo.

But while DirecTV has been working to ostracize Tivo in order to better its bottom line, Tivo has been working on a deal with cable giant, Comcast.  This deal could mark a substantial foothold on a new and larger market for Tivo.  But several problems leave Tivo in jeopardy.

First of all, the DirecTV transition to its own of DVR is planned as early as October of 2005.  Tivo’s deal with Comcast is slated to take place near the end of 2006.

Secondly, Tivo has always struggled to support high-definition.  Currently Tivo offers one HD unit and it works only with DirecTV’s current satellites, not its newly launched birds.  The HD Tivo sold for over a year for $999.99 and has only recently dropped to around the $600 price range.  This prices it beyond the budget of the majority of customers.

Comcast and Tivo have plans to support HD as soon as they start distributing product in late 2006, but DirecTV plans to offer HD support on its DVR in  early 2006.  All of this could spell trouble for Tivo.  But, at the same time, Tivo has some things going for it.

Comcast currently offers its own brand of DVR.  And the reason that it has decided to partner with Tivo?  Comcast’s DVR is buggy and difficult to use.  On the other side, Tivo is renown for both its powerful features and its ease of use.  And since no one has yet seen the DirecTV offering, and given the fact that last nights story on usatoday.com clearly indicates that DirecTV is still “tweaking the software,” it seems they have yet to get the user experience right.

For my money, I will remain loyal to Tivo.  I am upset that DirecTV wants to abandon the platform, though I do look forward to seeing the feature set of the new devices.  Competition is never a bad thing for the consumer.

Why am I so loyal to Tivo?  A couple of reasons… First, I have used other offerings in the market and I have been unimpressed.  Secondly, I have used Tivo for years and am still constantly impressed with its features and ease of use.  And lastly, if my father and grandmother can become fluent in the operation of a Tivo in a matter of 2 hours, anyone can do it.  I think that goes a very long way in explaining Tivo’s ease of use… even though you don’t know my family.  :-)


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