Quick personal DVR history (here’s a good one for generic PVR history)…
- 1999: Bought my first 14-hour TiVo in 1999. Rough cost $400ish if memory serves.
- 2000: Sold it, upgraded to a 30-hour unit. About the same price.
- 2002: Switched services to DirecTV, got 2 30-hour combo units. With promos, ended up spending either $50 or $100 each.
- 1999 – 2005: Sold literally dozens of TiVos to friends, coworkers, relatives, etc.
- 2005: Signed up for HDTV services through Comcast, got dual-tuner HD DVR. No upfront costs, added $5/month to cable bill.
While it’s very true the Comcast DVR experience (as delivered via my Motorola DCT 6412 III) is nowhere near as satisfying as the TiVo experience was, it’s now been almost a year and I really don’t look back anymore. The first few weeks were painful, but, like all things, the pain turns to a dull ache, and then something you barely notice. I miss the sound effects still, and completely acknowledge that the TiVo GUI is substantially better, but I don’t think it matters.
So when the news leaked yesterday that TiVo Series3 units (S3) are in testing/production, I just wasn’t all that wowed (I might be one of the only ones). First, Dave Zatz asks the exact right question “how much will it cost?”
See, that’s really all that matters. Sure, it’s great that S3 supports CableCard and HD and all that (read Sean Alexander’s post on the matter for good CableCard insight). But right now, the feature set only barely matters. PVR Wire did a survey of their own readers (a.k.a. PVR Enthusiasts – the ones who will set the tone for the rest of the market) and there was very little interest in even upgrading to a dual-tuner TiVo. Furthermore, according to TiVo’s own (public) sales figures, their net sales of new units in the first quarter was about 51,000 units. For reference, in the third quarter of 2005 was almost 400,000 units.
TiVo, while a great brand and a great product, is fighting a massively uphill battle. I pay a net of $60 per year for my (again) dual-tuner HD DVR. I paid nothing up-front, and in fact some guy showed up at my house to do the installation for free, and while I had to sit around for a few hours, it was still free.
While there’s no official number yet, Zatz is predicting $800 per unit. Personally, I’d guess higher, probably $999 as a starting point. Furthermore, if you need installation help, you are probably going to have to pay the Geek Squad somewhere between $100 and $300 for the install.
The worst part is the past 2-3 years showed a bit of a dropoff on the TiVoMania effect. Frustrated customers began doing the same move I did (although again, I was not frustrated by the company in any way) and switching to the freebies. I applaud TiVo for making great products. I sincerely hope the rumored Comcast-TiVo DVR is available in my area one of these days, as I’d probably make the switch. As long as it’s free, that is.