Finally, finally, finally, Tivo!

This is an exciting day. Tivo is coming to Australia in 2008. There is even a local website. And who do we need to thank; none other than Channel 7. From the looks of it, it is a Series 3 which means that we will likely have HD recording. It also will network in the house, likely have a ‘to go’ option and will stream video from the Internet.

What does Tivo mean for consumers? I am in a rare household that has both a Tivo and a Foxtel IQ. The Tivo is an old one but allows you to record FTA and cable. It is far superior to IQ. Why? It is the little things that matter. Tivo is easier to program (you can even do it while watching TV), has a more intuitive and sensible way of fast forwarding and can even find programs based on your viewing tastes. IQ is positively clunky and only has the benefit of two tuners (something new Tivos sport). Both can be programmed remotely but for IQ not if you want to watch Seven or Ten. Indeed, for those IQ is useless. Tivo is the superior product by far.

From the press release it looks like you wont be able to (officially) record cable TV. So that is a real point of distinction with the US product. But it is the real opportunity for Seven.

You might have thought that Seven were crazy promoting a product that would skip their own ads. However, those products are out there and are being taken up rapidly. Given that inevitability, what better insurance than to take a stake in the product most likely to lead the market.

What is more, without cable, it is a direct threat to cable. If you have Tivo and you can’t record Foxtel, you will likely not buy or continue to buy Foxtel. Why? Tivo let’s you watch better quality programs from FTA and that will fill your time. No need for cable. So my prediction is that a sensible Foxtel will come to the negotiating table with Seven sooner rather than later.

And there is a final thing. Seven will have some of the best viewing data in the business. It will know which ads watched and which are skipped. It will know this for all free to air stations. If information is power, Seven is going to grab it.

And the beauty of all this game playing is that the consumer will be the winner.

[Update: I was quoted on this issue in the Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Times on 31st May]

8 thoughts on “Finally, finally, finally, Tivo!”

  1. Fantastic news, thanks for pointing it out. I also have a Tivo it must be one of the greatest inventions ever. I watch less tv with it because I can watch stuff when I want and skip all the rubbish (ads, half-time analysis, etc).

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  2. I own a Topfield PVR and used to have Foxtel. The Topfield only records digital FTA broadcasts, and I couldn’t live without it (and its 30-second-skip button). Because I couldn’t record Foxtel, I basically stopped watching it and ended up cancelling the subscription. I can also see why Channel 31 is so desperate to get a digital licence.

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  3. I also have a Topfield and am a little unclear on why a FTA-only Tivo is so exciting. Topfields have twin tuners and are already available in Australia, well supported by a local internet community (and some better resourced ones overseas, especially the UK and Germany.) Most importantly, Topfields are programmable (at least in the SDTV version), so users aren’t at the mercy of the lousy firmware programmers.

    The Topfield has two disadvantages: (1) That it can only record FTA (and digital FTA at that.) (2) That it isn’t supported by a local TV company and, indeed, Channel 9 is trying to shut down an independent company supplying TV guide info.

    The Tivo will presumably allow analogue FTA recording (for what that’s worth) and probably will have TV guide support from Channel 7 (who Channel 9 are obliged to supply their proprietary guide to.) But the downside is that Tivos will most likely come with a degree of DRM (like the IQ) and won’t allow much flexibility on ad skipping (i.e. 30 second skip only, unlike the fully programmable Topfield skipping feature.)

    You are spot-on, though, about the advantage that PVRs give to FTA. I also ‘used to have Foxtel’ but have had absolutely no regrets giving it up. When you’re not at the mercy of lousy FTA programming-time decisions, there’s very little reason to fork out $60 a month for Foxtel. There’s just too much on. As Homer (Simpson) said, “When will the networks ever give me peace?”

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  4. According to the SMH article, the Tivo will only record digital and there are legal doubts about Seven’s access to Nine’s guide (but there is nevertheless talk of making an industry-wide guide available.) I wonder if Seven’s guide will only be available to Tivo users (and, if so, what the ACCC will think of that.)

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  5. Please help! I have been offered a Tivo Series 1.I don’t know much about these things but it sounds great.My concern is..when Ch 7 hooks up with Tivo what will happen to people with existing sets?
    Thanks.

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