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DirecTV To Promote Own DVR Over TiVo Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 October 2005
Satellite provider DirecTV is launching a campaign to promote its own digital video recorder (DVR) to new and existing customers, says a recent article in the New York Times. DirecTV will still support the TiVo service and has priced its own service, which was developed by a company owned by News Corporation (the parent of DirecTV), at the same fee of $5.95 per month. The article alludes to a savings of $1 per month per subscriber, which should be highly impactful, considering DirecTV’s vast subscriber base. TiVo quickly achieved an impressive mainstream branding, which some say is as widespread as that of Kleenex, Band-Aid or Xerox. Television enthusiasts “TiVo” programs despite the fact that major cable providers and Echostar (parent of Disc Network) don’t offer TiVo units. Sony, which once made many popular DVRs with TiVo for DirecTV, no longer makes TiVo recorders. Now TiVo’s biggest supporter looks like it is going to bail after their deal runs out in 2007.

As HDTV booms, consumers are forced to change their equipment to receive and record the new higher-resolution signal. Card-based TVs can take HD feeds from various satellite and cable providers, but those systems don’t provide for recording options that come with a DVR. This leads most HDTV enthusiasts to be forced to invest in expensive hardware to receive and record HDTV.

For DirecTV subscribers who want an “HD TiVo,” the only equipment option is the Hughes HD10-250 DVR with TiVo. This unit was highly touted and tremendously back-ordered at its launch, despite its whopping price of $1,000 per unit (today they sell for about $650). The most desperate enthusiasts were paying over sticker price for the HD 10-250 when it first was introduced, as if it were a Toyota Prius or a hot-selling new Mercedes. The problem is the HD10-250 is no Mercedes or Prius. Reports of equipment failures are still common with few significant software upgrades to the original TiVo service or software.

The Next Wave of DVRs
With DirecTV launching two new satellites in the coming months to provide for more HDTV content, there is a lot of excitement from subscribers who are starving for more content in 720p and 1080i. But all is not perfect, considering that the compression used for the new system is MPEG4, rather than the current MPEG2 that is found in expensive “legacy”’ receivers like the Sony HD100, HD-200, HD-300 and the Hughes HD10-250. What will consumers do with $500 to $1,000 HDTV “boat anchors”? If DirecTV isn’t careful, they will convert them to digital cable boxes, because digital cable providers tend to rent their hardware. Considering how quickly equipment changes (HDMI outputs, new software and bigger hard drives), it might make sense for DirecTV to take a page from Dish Network and get their early adopters the latest and greatest equipment at low or no cost. Considering the price of earning client loyalty and getting their equipment installed and up and running, this could be a very smart move for DirecTV.

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