2013-08-22

Co.Labs

The Total Cost Of TiVo's New DVRs Is Insane

While TV is quickly moving toward being more affordable, TiVo is still chasing a pipe dream with their product costs. All the reviews of the new TiVo are sidestepping the real issue of cost.



Remember when TiVo was the future of television, an example of disruptive technology at its finest? It made video watching different--it gave us all independence from broadcast schedules and advertising. Friends who had TiVo were cooler than we were.

But 1999, the year TiVo launched, might as well be a millennium ago. DVRs have become commodity products and streaming video over the Internet is taking over an ever-larger portion of the on-demand market. Nonetheless, the DVR, and TiVo in particular, remains a major force in video watching, which is why there are a lot of people and reviewers getting really excited about TiVo's newest Roamio DVRs.

The consensus: the ultimate in all-inclusive DVRs, really great if not quite perfect. But there's an asterisk: price.

TiVo remains the DVR leader in technology and user experience, but that's not the issue. It's hard to justify the purchase of a not-inexpensive Roamio and paying $15/month for TiVo service (which has always been TiVo's business model). Choosing to add all the other digital services to your TiVo, like Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, and Amazon, can add up to an impressive monthly bill.

Even for the low end Roamio model, which can get a user in the door for $199, the extra fees make the experience incredibly expensive.

(Entry level) TiVo Roamio

* TiVo DVR $199
* TiVo Service $14.99/month (x12)
* Netflix $7.99/month (x12)
* Spotify $9.99/month (x12)
* Amazon VOD $ undetermined
* Cable service ~$80-200/month

Total: ~$495.64/year minimum + $199 DVR

Moving up to the Roamio Plus adds another $200, and for those never leaving the vicinity of the television and getting the Roamio Pro, you’ll add an extra $400.

The price alone makes a TiVo investment seem absurd. Even worse, how obsolete will that Roamio seem when the Xbox One, Playstation 4, or some future, market-altering Apple living-room play come out? Even though new DVR boxes are marketed as several set-top boxes in one, unless it's the only box connected to your TV, the point seems moot.

TiVo has always been a premium product, but the problem it solves only exists because cable companies care so little about what customers want. Almost 15 years later, there are lots of less expensive and more convenient options to set-top boxes. You'd think TiVo would see this and find a way to "transition" their business model.

But honestly, I’m not exactly sure what options are available aside from charging more for the hardware, which is likely a non-starter. Continuing down the current path with the new Roamios, no matter how good the product, isn't going to end well with the old business model.