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Forced Subscriptions

I know that I'm going to have to work a lot harder to build a PC-PVR, than what it would cost me to buy a TIVO (even with the lifetime subscription). 

I just can't bring myself to give money to that company, because that's saying that I think it's OK to force people into a subscription to use the hardware to it's full potential.  Furthermore, I just know they're taking advantage of all those eyeballs by advertising while I'm flipping thru the on-screen channel listing (even though I pay them $12.95/mo already or whatever).

This is one of my life challenges though,.  I know I should just relax, try to ignore it and go with the flow...but I can't.  I get so mad when I feel forced into some kind of subscription that I know that I don't need to pay for (technically speaking). 

It's like trial subscriptions that you *have to* cancel or else they roll over on you automatically.  I just hate always feeling like I'm getting screwed somehow.  I see it everywhere...ya know what I mean?

Wayne
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Well, I have no clue what you're feeling.  You seem to have a lot of anger built up. All I see is that the Tivo is expensive for me, and so I don't have one.  As soon as the value proposition makes sense, I'll go for it.

You may think it's unfair to both pay and watch advertisements.  Then again, the advertisers think it's unfair for you to watch while skipping ads.  Then the networks get pissy if you piss off the advertisers.  So really, the ads are just an enabler of the content.

Hmm, and if you know trial subscriptions are going to roll over, and that upsets you, why do you keep doing it?

Ankur
Sunday, December 21, 2003

I don't use Tivo because I am not very big on TV.

If I *was* big on TV, I would want to get a dvr like Tivo but I would not because of the privacy issue. I don't like to watch any nasty things I'd be ashamed of, I just simply can not stand the idea of any company monitoring my activities inside my own house without paying ME a hefty fee for the privledge.

Now all that said, I don't have a problem with the subscription thing since you have to use a phone line to call up and get the listings and it costs them money to maintain the modems and compile the tv listings and so forth. If people didn't pay the subscription, the model wouldn't be sustainable because there would be no income to pay for costs. BUT I do think that the price they are charging per month is way too much since that's half of what a bare bones cable connection costs and also how much some ISPs charge for full blown dialup service.

I think a better system would be for them to open up the machine to an ethernet connection and then we could have the choice of which provider to buy our tv listings from -- for example, TV guide might set up a secure site for their print subscribers so they could get tivo listings as a free bonus.  Or non subscribers could pay $2/month or something for listings without print.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 21, 2003

You see, the problem is, that TiVo is not just showing you a guide. The data is sliced and diced for a number of reasons. For starters, it can guess at things you might like and record them for you, based on your past recordings. It's pretty hard to do that kind of thing without extensive meta-data to back it up. (I don't personally use that feature, but I know others who do and love it.)

Also, the monthly fee for TiVo is MUCH lower with DirecTiVo, because the listing data comes down from satellite. The only thing the modem does is get software updates (and, of course, report any Pay Per View usage, just like any normal satellite box). It's much more efficient, and thus, costs a lot less money to the end user.

Personally, TV without TiVo is... well, not quite unwatchable, but getting there. It's easily akin to the life changing effects of the microwave.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Just a small reply to a point raised in the first post...

You say that you're annoyed that they're showing you advertising (and therefore making money) even though you've paid them 12.95/mo? Why does this disgust you? It's just a simple subisy of your viewing. It would simply be more expensive if they didn't.

They haven't given you a choice, certainly. But neither did they claim that if you paid them, you'd never see any ads.

Andrew Cherry
Sunday, December 21, 2003

And, I'm not sure what ads the OP is referring to.

TiVo doesn't force any ads on me, ever. Some things that are pushed are available from the main menu (I regularly watch the movie trailers, for instance), but I'm never _forced_ to watch anything.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Just get a TiVo with a lifetime subscription.  Consider the subscription a part of the cost of purchasing the unit. 

The $200 price for a basic TiVo doesn't even begin to cover manufacturing costs -- the company is selling the hardware at a loss, but makes up the difference through the subscription fees and advertising.  (A variation on the old business model of "give away the razor and sell the blades.")  If you think of it as $500 for the hardware plus an unlimited subscription, it might seem like a better bargain.

I agree that the advertising is pretty minimal.  The TiVo usually has one advertising link in the main menu.  If you select it, it will show a commercial (often a movie trailer.)  I dislike this "spam," but it's not particularly intrusive.

One caveat: a "lifetime" subscription is for the lifetime of that particular unit, and usually isn't transferable to another machine if the original croaks after the warranty period or if you upgrade to a newer model.

Robert Jacobson
Sunday, December 21, 2003

The comment above is not neccesarily correct.  When I upgraded from my series 1 to series 2, I was able to move the lifetime subscription over to the new box.  This did however disable the subscription on the old box.  So If I sold it, the new owner would need to establish a new subscription.

As for advertisement, you are absolutely never forced to watch any ads whatsoever.  The placement of the menu selection for ads in the main menu is at the very bottom and easily ignorable.  It also says exactly what the ad is for which is nice because it is occasionally something that peaks my interest.  For instance they had trailers last year for the Two Towers that came to Tivo's before it was being advertised on TV.  This was pretty cool and was happy to have it there.  Some of the BMW ads they had from various famous directors were pretty cool as well.

The philosophy for ads is the same as for TV.  You watch them when *you* want to watch them.

Oren Miller
Sunday, December 21, 2003

The Series1->Series2 subscription transfer was a temporary thing which isn't guaranteed to happen again.  Any box you buy now, be prepared to be stuck with it because you can't count on that happening in the future.

"The philosophy for ads is the same as for TV.  You watch them when *you* want to watch them."

No, with TV you are essentially forced to watch ads. Not at gunpoint, but whether you watch it or not you have to wait while your show is interrupted.

T. Norman
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Just to get back to wayne's original rant a bit....

I'm with you wayne! I haven't gotten a tivo yet bc I consider them too expensive at $500 (i just consider the "lifetime subscription" as required).

I just get the feeling with them that the mbas were like "we need a recurring revenue stream", and so they invented one... even though their product doesn't _inherently_ have any recurring costs for them (c'mon, they could just have the tivo get its listings from any number of free Internet providers).

It'd be like if Joel made citydesk $50 plus $9.95/mo... just because he thought it'd be nice if he just had a steady revenue stream. I think this is what microsoft etc are trying to get into with their new licenses and "on demand" comput¤

josh
Sunday, December 21, 2003

My video card came with software that will display a list of TV shows (downloads them once a week or so), and when I click on one, it'll record.

Get one of those Shuttle computers + Video card and we're not looking at much money or a big footprint. The TV itself can be the display, and it comes with a remote control.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, December 21, 2003

"c'mon, they could just have the tivo get its listings from any number of free Internet providers"

This is perhaps the most naive opinion in this thread. You assume that every TiVo owner not only have an Internet connection, but that it's always available, and conveniently located to their TiVo to boot?

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Tivo's problem is that they don't make money on the boxes, they make money on the subscriptions.  So their subscription prices have to be unusually high to sustain their revenue stream.

If their primary income was the boxes, they would design them in a way that they could make use of free program sources as much as possible, and encourage users to do so.

T. Norman
Monday, December 22, 2003

"This is perhaps the most naive opinion in this thread."

I don't think so.  I think what he's saying is, it's possible so it should be optional.

Wayne
Monday, December 22, 2003

I am in Canada, and the free feed (GuidePlus+) from the ATI All-In-Wonder TV+Gaming card has been going for a while now. It's not the easiest thing to use, and sometimes inaccurate, and more importantly I am not sure how long it will stay free). But I have been bit about 50% of the times now trying to record something one week ahead. The problem I wanted to record is not there! So I am thinking about your comment here and thinking maybe what we have to do is do manual programming with a real tv guide.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, December 22, 2003

Shuttle cases aren't cheap and they aren't small. And worst of all, they are not quiet and with the wrong fan solutions and DVD drives, it'll be quite loud. What you might be after is a regular pc (save yourself USD$100) and a cabinet to contain the box in. Buy a fast processor and underclock it. Pad the inside of your case with sound proofing pads (old thin carpets from dollar stores work better than the $40/sq ft solutions.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, December 22, 2003

Some random thoughts...

First, the subscription fee is technically optional.  If you choose not to subscribe, you can manually set recordings like a VCR -- by entering the day, time and channel of the show you want to record.  However, this defeats many of the benefits of having a TiVo.  (Getting "season passes" to certain shows, having TiVo record recommended shows, etc.)

Second, it's theoretically possible that TiVo could be hacked so that it could accept program listings from another (free) source.  There's a fairly active TiVo hacking community, but it adheres to a strongly-held principle of "don't bite the hand that feeds you."  Any discussion of methods to circumvent the subscription-fee model is generally prohibited.

Third, there are some DVD recorders that come included with a hard drive and a free, "basic" verson of TiVo.  E.g.,

http://www.pioneerburner.com/

The "basic" version of TiVo has limited functionality (e.g., three day's worth of stored program listings, instead of the normal two weeks' worth) but doesn't require a subscription fee.  You can upgrade these machines to "plus" service (regular TiVo service) by paying the subscription fee.

Robert Jacobson
Monday, December 22, 2003

I've read many horror stories about what Tivo does to your box if you don't subscribe, so I'm definitely turned off by that.

I know you can hack it, but you're right nobody has come up with a way for the Tivo to use a free service like xmlTV or something, because of the "unwritten law" of Tivo hackers that you mentioned.

Besides, I don't even have a phone in my house because I don't need one (I have a cell, a cable modem, that's enough communication for me).  I think you need a phone for the Tivo to dial up and download it's guide/updates/etc.

Wayne
Monday, December 22, 2003

Yes, you normally need a phone for the "daily call" to download the program guide. However, you can install an ethernet adapter and then use your broadband connection to make the daily call.  (Plus do other cool things, like download shows from the TiVo to your PC, get a Web browser interface to your TiVo, turn your TiVo into an MP3 player, etc.)  I cut my landline about six months ago, and this solution works like a charm.

If you have an older TiVo, like mine, you have to crack open the case and install a third-party ethernet board (called TurboNet.)  With the newer Series 2 models, though, you can just connect through an external USB ethernet adapter -- wired or WiFi.

Robert Jacobson
Monday, December 22, 2003

Hmm, maybe I should get a Series 2 before they start encrypting the video files (I heard they're doing that in the next version).

Thanks for the info Robert.

Wayne
Monday, December 22, 2003

No problem.  FYI, the video files aren't pure MPEG files --  you need to install one of several third-party utilities (freeware/OS) to transfer video files to your PC and then convert them to MPEGs.  (Google for "tivo video extraction.")

Unfortunately, when I last checked (six months ago), the several utilities I tried had rather geeky UI's, and required some comfort with using the Linux command-line.  (When I meekly suggested on a discussion board that the authors try to make them more user-friendly, I was jeered down -- an apt example of Joel's recent comments about the two different cultures.  It seemed particularly ironic in this circumstance, since TiVo has a remarkably elegant and user-friendly interface.)

I haven't heard anything about the file format becoming encrypted, but it's possible -- the TiVo company is trying to play nicey-nice with Hollywood to avoid the litigation that ReplayTV went through.  Even if you buy a current player, however, there's nothing to stop TiVo from upgrading the software and automatically installing it.  (It automatically downloads patches/upgrades through the "daily call.")

Robert Jacobson
Monday, December 22, 2003

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