The good news is that Tivo is releasing a new DVR. It looks awesome. I have been a Tivo customer for many years, in fact, Tivo is perhaps my favorite product of all time.
The bad news is that Tivo is a perpetual money loser, and lost 730,000 subscribers last year.
For many years I’ve had a DVR provided by Time-Warner hooked up to the second TV. It is the worst product I use on a regular basis. The interface is terrible, the remote is ungainly, and the performance of the device is pathetic. But what we’ve learned over time is that people are not willing to pay the premium for the Tivo experience — the cable company DVRs are good enough for most people. I doubt that many people even know that the Tivo is so much better.
One big problem Tivo faces is that it’s a lot easier for a cable company to ship a DVR that you just plug in and start using than it is for Tivo to do the same. In addition to the Tivo, we have two cable cards that enable it to tune in digital channels, and a tuning adapter that the Tivo needs to tune in SDV channels. Getting the CableCards to work was incredibly painful and required several visits from the cable guy and many phone calls with tech support, and the tuning adapter required for SDV crashes frequently and sometimes takes the Tivo down with it. The miserable piece of crap that is the cable company DVR just works.
I’ve always wished that a cable company would license Tivo’s software and use it in their own DVRs, but it has never happened. That’s a pity, because I continue to worry about Tivo’s viability as an independent concern.