As I’ve written before: TiVo sucks. In that first article I lamented the lack of innovation and features for this premium product. The worse thing I can say is that now, over a year later, every single one of my issues still exist. In fact there hasn’t been a single truly significant upgrade. Nothing that screams, “you can only get this here!” The service today is, for all intents, the same service I challenged as not advanced enough for premium pricing then. Hell, it’s been two years and they still haven’t completed the HD interface.
Now that my contract has ended I’m considering dropping Tivo and reverting to the stock offering from Comcast. I went to the Tivo site to allow it to convince me not to. I got the following “10 reasons you’ll love Tivo”.
Reason 1: “Get the best of TV and the web in one amazing box.”
Tivo does do a fine job of combining your television/cable channels and many (but not all) popular web media applications (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Youtube, etc) into a single box. But is a single box all that important? A $60 Roku will provide better levels of web application support with no monthly service fee as will most Blu-ray players and game systems. In fact these web applications are built directly into most newer TVs. Is not switching to another device really worth the premium price?
In my case I’ve got a PS3, an Xbox 360 and a capable Blu-ray player. Within a few weeks I’ll also have an Ouya, an Android, based game and media system that may likely replace the PS3 as our primary media center. A game system like the PS3 is both more capable (being able to, for example, play video from my DLNA server) and significantly faster/smoother than Tivo. In the two years we’ve had it the benefits of “all on one box” just never materialized.
Reason 2: “Up to 300 hours of HD. Go ahead, record it all.”
This is true. You can get up to 300 hours of HD… on the $400 Tivo Premier. The other two available options (at $150 and $250) provide about 75 hours of recording which seems to match up with most cable-company offerings. (All of these prices are, of course, only with a contract.) If you have the money then this is a good deal but most cable company systems (mine included) allow you to add cheap external storage while also lessening the need for it with massive on-demand libraries.
Reason 3: “Your favorite actors, directors and subjects. Presto.”
This is actually one of Tivo’s strong points: a combined contextual search platform. Search for an actor and related shows/movies pop-up. Search for a movie and see the stars. The real issue is that I almost never used it. While the feature is nice searching via the remote is painful and this made it all but useless tome. Tivo does provide access to search on their tablet/smartphone app (see below) but on those devices you can get much richer results by directly accessing tv.com or imdb.com.
Yes, you could buy the special TiVo remote with a built-in keyboard (for a ridiculous $80) but then you would need to manage multiple remotes. Anybody willing to spend a premium on Tivo has likely already invested in a quality universal remote. For my part you can pull my Harmony 880 from my cold dead hand or not at all.
Reason 4: “Record four shows at once, and everyone’s happy.”
Tivo’s two higher-end offerings (at $250 and $400) both feature four tuners and this is definitely something worth crowing about. Many cable and satellite companies are doing the same thing however making it less a marquee feature. Dish’s “Hopper”, for example, allows recordings of up to six shows at once. Comcast, for its part, still relies heavily on two tuner devices but offset the need for more with rich on-demand libraries with day-after-air availability of popular shows.
Reason 5: “Take your shows anywhere life takes you.”
Tivo now offers, for $130, a small network connected box called “Tivo Stream” that will let you watch your recorded shows on your IOS devices (only, PCs and Android are not compatible). As we’re a house of four PCs, three Android tablets and three Android phones this holds no interest for me.
Comcast provides access to a massive on-demand library and live streaming of many channels on all of my devices. Several premium channels (HBO, Cinemax, etc) provide online access to their content similarly. Premium services like Hulu and Netflix do the same. While it might be nice to transfer recorded shows directly there’s really very little difference since, via these services, we can watch them all the same.
Reason 6: “Schedule a recording from virtually anywhere.”
Tivo offers a decent smart/phone tablet app (both IOS and Android this time) that let’s you access their search and remotely program your device. It’s decent. It’s also something that Comcast (and pretty much every other cable company) also offers at this point so why pay the premium?
Reason 7: “Browse for Oscar or Emmy winners in our Collections.”
Another feature that I never used or wanted. I can see the value in it tho’ (despite the fact that this information is widely available freely) and this may be a selling point for those more interested in award winners.
Reason 8: “Enjoy your TiVo all over the house.”
The “Tivo Mini” is a $100 (per TV) box that will let you access content from the higher-end (four tuner) Tivo boxes on another TV. It’s a neat idea but limited and pricey. The unit doesn’t support any kind of wireless access: you’ll need to run Ethernet to each TV that you want to use (and the unit will not function at all if the base Tivo unit is itself connected wirelessly). Also it’s an extender, not a stand alone unit: if somebody is using it that means that one of the tuners on your main DVR is being used and can’t record other shows.
Comcast’s “Any Room” package, for example, offers a similar feature set for up to four rooms included in the base cost. Dish’s “Hopper” service offers comparable features even more cheaply. Tivo’s solution is, as usual, comparable to others but more expensive.
Reason 9: “TiVo recommends shows based on what you like.”
This is another highly touted feature that I personally found useless. Tivo has no way to determine who’s using the system so just smooshes together the opinions of the whole family with anything that’s popular. No, Tivo, I really (really) don’t want to watch “Glee” or “Hannah Montana” and it annoys me that you’re spending so much time and energy trying to convince me to.
Four or five years ago I think this feature was more valuable but it hasn’t evolved with the times. It has been superseded by social media; something Tivo has all but completely ignored. The Comcast offering, on the other hand, offers several hooks into Facebook and is clearly advancing more in that direction. Shows or movies that I “like” on Facebook are automatically added to my online queue and viewing selections can result in automated posts.
Reason 10: “TiVo helps TV live up to its promise.”
This isn’t a reason at all. It’s just a link to a YouTube video where Tim Tebow woodenly tells me how great Tivo is. It’s really very sad and one of the most unconvincing sales pitches I’ve ever heard.
All told it seems that they would have been better off sticking with, say, five reasons?