HD will kill the paid DVR market

I was reading Jim Louderback’s review of the Hughes DirecTV DVR on Extremetech and got to thinking…

You’ve got to be crazy to spend upwards of $1000 for a DVR. I know the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000HD system I have is far from perfect, but

  • It’s integrated with my cable service and
  • the box is free!

I know I’ve ranted previously about the marketing mistakes made my TiVO, but now it’s really coming to a rapid end. TiVO2Go is coming sure and will let you watch via key system on your PC, but the damn things are limited in what they can really do for all that cash. Even if you have a DVD based system, it seems you can only playback on the same system – ouch. Soon enough TiVO will automatically upgrade your box so that you can only save an on-demand program for a limited time. This is actually better than the cable system which completely prevents recording of this same programming, but the effect is the same in the end. You have no control over your video content from TV, and with HD just like DVD it gets even tougher to move around.

It won’t matter that you’ve paid for the box, or that I did not. Neither of us will be able to digitally archive in full resolution without a crack and some legal scrapes. It’s unfortunate that for now the way it works on the Sat side is that you have to buy a bunch of stuff – seems the best deal and most channels for HD are on Voom. On my cable system I get quite a few HD channels (HBO, SHO, CBS, TNTHD, NBC, FOX, ABC, PBS and DiscoveryHD Theater). HBO, SHO, TNTHD, PBS and Discovery are all HD all the time. The networks play an interesting shell game with what programs are actually HD vs simply an enhanced SD signal.

As Jim noted in his review of the Hughes box, it’s been crippled on a few fronts. The video outs are limited to a single source at a time and the HDMI connect blocks access to component connections when active. This last bit is not surprising given that my SA box does not support simultaneous use of the video outs either… I won’t be able to test when the DVI gets activated as I don’t have a capable HD set. The closest anyone will get to sharing on a home network will be with the Explorer 8300 series and these will allow (in theory as they are being tested now in some markets) watching and continuing in a another room. Your video content will continue to be locked down as it is now and only capable of being extracted by first passing through an A-D and back again process.

You see we are all apparently thieves…

There’s no way to archive on a network today to clear space on a DVR drive for more current programming. While the box is on the network, it’s not accessible to any of us. The new HD DVR box no longer even has the FireWire port which would have had to have been turned on per the FCC mandate as of April 1, 2004. Removing the FW port was a not so subtle move around compliance and stunts consumer access because without it, there’s no reason for people to call to gain access to their content.

Back to the main reason I started writing this… Why the hell would I pay money to knowingly get blocked? Once the broadcast flag gets activated, we will lose what limited access to video material we have today outside of public airwave material, though if it’s in HD there won’t be any easy way to store it for any great length of time (I have no way or desire to use a terrestrial antenna). The HD TiVOs will all comply as they have already begun to do. This will make promoting TiVO as a premium service even more difficult as these changes come into effect. Scientific Atlanta’s business is booming right now thanks to the marketing efforts of cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner. The more aware consumers become of the opportunity for advanced (yes though limited even if they don’t care or know) TiVO will struggle.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually like TiVO. Seriously… I do. I purchased a Series 1 box a few years back but left it to gather dust for integrated 2 tuner cable guide service and now HD. It’s just way to difficult to justify the cost and potential service on a box when I just swap out the one I have now if and when something better comes along or if something goes wrong.

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