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Tivo Premiere – Is It Worth It?

TivoI miss my Tivo.  It has been 6 years since we parted ways, but I still expect to hear the “boo-bop” sound effect whenever I change channels.  I sold my Series 2 Tivo (w/ Lifetime Subscription) when I got my HDTV since Tivo didn’t yet have HD support and Time Warner’s DVR seemed good enough.  Good enough turned out to be relative; Time Warner’s DVR mostly worked, but the interface was designed with little thought and certainly paled in comparison to Tivo’s.

Now with the launch of the new Tivo Premiere I ponder diving back into the Tivo World.  The features and functionality certainly look impressive and far beyond what I had 6 years ago.  I know that I would be quite happy with the Tivo Premiere, but unfortunately my desires and my wallet don’t always agree.

Three things are holding me back from “adding to cart:” Cost, Missing Features and Hassle.

1. Cost: Owning a Tivo means that you purchased the Tivo box and either are paying a monthly subscription fee or purchased a lifetime subscription.  I hate monthly fees, so let’s assume you have the lifetime subscription.  You will also need to rent cable-cards from your cable provider (used by Tivo to decode the channels).  If you rent your cable company’s DVR, you’ll be paying a monthly fee.  Let’s do a quick cost comparison:

Tivo Premiere: $299

Lifetime Subscription: $299 (listed as $399, but $100 off coupons are available on the internet)

Renting of Cable-Card: $5 a month

Total Cost to Own a Tivo: $598 + $60 a year

Now compare this to renting the HD DVR from your cable company: $17 a month or $204 a year.  So how long before it makes financial sense to own a Tivo?  You will break even after about four years and begin saving $144 a year after that.  Four years is a long time, especially considering that you own the hardware; if the hardware breaks you’ll need to pay for the fixes and if the hardware becomes outdated (think 3D HDTV), well, too bad.  The cable company will replace or upgrade your DVR at anytime – for free.

2. Missing Features: Tivo via the Cable-Card can’t support cable’s “On-Demand” programming – the ability to rent movies with a click of a button.  Since Tivo allows you to rent movies and TV episodes via Amazon On-Demand (pay), Netflix or Blockbuster, the cable company’s “On-Demand” pay feature might not be missed.  However, I’ve been using Time Warner’s free “On-Demand” for NBC, A&E, TNT and CBS which contain recent episodes.  This would be gone with Tivo.

3. Hassle: Getting a Cable-Card setup is a hassle.  Just search the web on the hours people have spent on back-and-forth sessions with their cable company.  Furthermore, people have written that the cable-card has below average support and questionable stability.

I want a Tivo!  However, the cost, missing features and hassle makes it hard to justify the purchase; the cost obviously being the major obstacle.  Perhaps if Tivo were to reduce the cost by adding advertising into their business model my dreams of “adding to cart” would be realized.

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About Geoffrey Bourne

CTO at Ladders

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