Surprising TiVo Uptake is Unsurprising

Tivo ImageThe Weekend Herald has pointed out the blindingly obvious: TiVo uptake in New Zealand is horrendous. I pointed out last year that TiVo worldwide was experiencing a serious nose dive, just as New Zealanders were expected to buy in droves.

I seriously wonder at the decision making behind releasing something like TiVo, let alone TVNZ investing millions into it. It’s a fringe device at best, hobbled by ISP exclusivity, and with no point of difference other than the brand name. A back of the envelope calculation should be enough to pin that as a losing proposition from the outset. Sky subscriptions are nearing saturation point (hell, they had 750k subscriptions in 2008), so where is the market for a premium DVR?

In the USA, TiVo is a reasonably nice DVR that sits on top of your existing cable service. Imagine if you could use any DVR on Sky in New Zealand, and you start to get the full picture. There would be a healthy ecosystem of competing DVRs, and TiVo would probably do fairly well. But this isn’t the case. In New Zealand you get MySky or nothing. There is no other DVR alternative for Sky (ignoring decoding hacks and analogue connections with IR blasters).

TiVo by comparison, is a Freeview DVR with an on-demand download service locked to one ISP. By all accounts, the on-demand portion is bordering on pathetic. Little choice beyond in-store DVDs, and waits of at least 30 minutes before you’re able to view anything.

The lack of uptake is entirely unsurprising.


  1. I did the calc, but at the end of the day, I wanted Freeview, EPG, multi-tuners and something that would wireless stream from my pc. ok so its not actual streaming, but the solution ended up suiting us very well. Its not my perfect solution (which would be home built HTPC) but is fine for what I need and keeps Mrs very happy for daily soaps etc using season pass

  2. I just had a look at the Tivo website. You need telecom broadband to get the programme guide it seems. Are there any DVRs out there that can utilise the Freeview guide to record programmes? You know, one touch stuff?

  3. No the programme guide is available through any internet connection. However all other internet services (on-demand content) is exclusive to Telecom Broadband connections.

    Personally I thought the service was pretty much doomed as soon as the price point and exclusive Telecom deal was announced. Before that I thought it was borderline given it’s inability to support Sky TV.

    There are things that TiVo does that my MySky box doesn’t (most notable being networking) but the price, Telecom tie-in, limited channels and poor on-demand offering rule the TiVo well out of contention.

  4. @James Robertson Yeah I’m sure the calculation works for selected individuals. I was thinking more about the overall calculation as a business proposition. I just can’t see it ever getting enough sales to pay back the investment.

  5. I did the calculations and they were crap.

    Went with a MySky package instead and its honestly been one of the best things I’ve ever brought

  6. Seems stupid they choose to restrict by ISP to get the content. Guess its all that regional crap that broadcasters do so that people are driven to piracy as the working alternative happening.

    Also I have seen the quality of the streaming stuff. Real bad. Worse than a lousy 350 meg sub SD divx which is the format of shows I normally get since the scene is stuck in retro-codec land for non HD stuff.

  7. Richard :

    Worse than a lousy 350 meg sub SD divx which is the format of shows I normally get since the scene is stuck in retro-codec land for non HD stuff.

    Yeah goddamn lazy pirates. I always laugh when I find myself berating the quality of … er… someones shared home movies … when I’m watching them.

  8. Ben :
    Yeah goddamn lazy pirates. I always laugh when I find myself berating the quality of … er… someones shared home movies … when I’m watching them.

    Oh, I get the HD ones for shows that are worth it. I guess the restof the world doesnt have the problems we have with traffic counting to a artificial limit so choose the old codec for compatibility. 180-200 of h.264 seems better, but is rare and is often transcodes for “ipod” etc so look worse than the 350 meg one.

    Still no excuse for the poor quality of stuff from caspa on the tivo.

  9. As well as the unhelpful retail setting, I wonder if the word of mouth has been a problem. TiVo does things most of the other devices in the market don’t — streaming to other devices, for example — but they’re not the things consumers most want. MySky’s functionality is tightly circumscribed, but it’s also very simple. I gather I’m not the only one to have found TiVo’s “award-winning” UI irritating in comparison.

  10. beyond the already mentioned restrictions, the distribution channel and channel partner was wrong from the outset. Who trusts Telecom? even prior to the X failure, it took over two weeks of serious contemplation prior to moving to telecom. Notice the box box retailers are selling an alternative called Magicbox or magicstar or something like that… This is where Tivo should have gone. to the retailers selling the TVs. I have Tivo, but do not use the CASPA service, to cumbersome, slow, plus costly. I had sky, but chose to give it up for Tivo, as in the end I simply wanted freeview with recording capabilities. Ok it cost a lot, but no ingoing subscription fees to contend with.

  11. Seems Tivo just posted a big loss too.

    For the quarter ended Jan. 31, TiVo posted a loss of $10.2 million, or 9 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $3.6 million, or 4 cents a share.

  12. I just got TIVo yesterday when the local telecom shop offered it to me at $10 PM on my telecom account when i was upgrading my mobile. i thought it would be handy for the recording side of things and having what amounts to another harddrive in the kitchen but……………i can;t get channel 3, 4 C4 alternative, and the list goes on. The channels work perfectly on my new TV (2 weeks old) plus the other 2 two tv’s in the home but not through TIVO. Plus the ariel connection does not fit a std wall plug?? WTH? The ariel provided has a special screw into the back of the TIVO unit and then the fitting is too big for a std wall socket. So to get it to work i have been told to get a new ariel that needs to take their fitting plus a smaller wall socket (a special custom make i believe) and i need a new ariel . i don’t think so

  13. Craig. All you need is an adaptor plug for your aerial cable, which will cost you no more than $5. You can get them at Dick Smith Electronics. It’s not that complicated and once you get your TiVo working, you will find that it really does “change the way that you watch television”. And no, I’m not getting paid to write this!. Cheers, Jimmy

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