Saturday, October 22, 2005

New DirecTV DVR - What does this mean for us all?

A while back DirecTV announced they would be giving TiVo the proverbial boot, and coming out with a brand new and improved DVR, the R15 DirecTV Plus DVR (shown here). This shiny new beast will record up to 100 hours of DirecTV video. The service will cost $5.99 a month, same as what they charge now for TiVo service.

I just read today from one source (Multichannel News), that the new DirecTV DVR will be delayed. I have not yet been able to confirm that anywhere else, but I'll keep you posted if I find anything. Do post a comment and let me know if you have information about this.

Because DirecTiVo is now officially a lame duck, you can get one for almost nothing. Under $50 after your rebate is what I've seen. DirecTV's contract with TiVo doesn't run out until 2007, but they'll certainly be trying to get everyone switched over to the new DVR by that time. I'm not clear what will happen to TiVo subscribers at that point. Presumably the service will no longer be offered.

So what does this mean for TiVo (and for us)? Well, in the near term it means they're hurting. DirecTV accounts for a fairly sizable chunk of their revenue. But back in March, you may recall, they signed a deal with cable giant Comcast. I haven't heard much about it since then, but if TiVo can get themselves integrated with Comcast service, they'll be in pretty good shape for a while. The downside for the long term, however, is that satellite service has been steadily gaining on cable service for many years.

The other big threat for TiVo is Video on Demand, which Comcast already offers. The selection of programming is not yet huge, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3500 titles, but it's growing. If your cable/satellite provider gets to the point where it can let you watch anything you want, whenever you want, the whole DVR concept may become obsolete. Who needs a gigantic hard drive and video capture/encoder hardware when you can just stream down video on demand? Would certainly be cheaper for the providers, and probably even simpler to use for your average non-techy consumer type. No need to set up season passes, and so forth. Just turn on your TV and find what you want to watch.

The whole Video on Demand pie in the sky may be a while off, however. There will be massive legal hurdles. Providers will also have to figure out how to appease the networks, who of course rely on advertising to buy them bacon to take home to their hungry families. They hate DVRs, and would have no reason not to hate Video on Demand, unless of course you're not able to fast forward. And if you're not allowed to fast forward, that means the DVR crowd will probably keep their DVR's. I know I would.

So it's all up in the air now. I've rambled enough I suppose. Check back soon, I'm adding new stuff frequently!


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