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TiVo May Be a Buyout Target 149

Moose writes "Ars Technica has a piece up about the takeover rumors surrounding TiVo, now that it has a lawsuit win to boost its chances in the marketplace. From the article: 'It appears that TiVo is at a major crossroads, with brilliant technology under what now appears to be enforceable patents and a rapidly growing subscriber base, but with larger players in the TV market lurking just out of sight, possibly with pen to checkbook already. The DVR innovator seems to have little control over its own destiny now, and future success may rest in the hands of the legal system. Godspeed, TiVo.'"
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TiVo May Be a Buyout Target

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  • by Fubar411 ( 562908 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:47AM (#15147932)
    I bought my TiVo series 2 the week it was released. I think it was about $300, plus activation at $250. (Also added a huge, at the time, 100GB second drive) At first, I was amazed at this little box. But as Echostar has shown, there is no pixie dust that can't be duplicated and there have been some missteps by TiVo. I'll list a few - The large popup ads that took up the screen and wouldn't go away - Misplaced copy protection - Routinely taking away the 30 second skip - The double button press in v7.2 that only now seems close to being fixed - The recent removal of lifetime subscription options I like how easy to use the TiVo is, but others are catching up. I've used other PVRs and they're not half bad. The only huge advantage I see w/ my TiVo is I can transfer recordings to my desktop.
    • you do know you can re-enable the 30 second skip at any time right? it's an undocumented feature that goes away if the tivo is restarted. while playing a pre-recorded item, simply press select-play-select-3-0-select

      you will hear a happy confirmation tone.
    • Had a Tivo for about two year no problems, great extras. Went HD with comcast DVR, 1 returned box, frezzes, sound cut outs.
    • by Khammurabi ( 962376 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:15AM (#15148114)
      Yes, most of its sales used to come from the hardware, but last year, subscription payments for the TiVo service brought in almost twice as many sales dollars as the hardware ($167 million to $72 million). And TiVo is quite happy giving up hardware sales, as they sell their boxes at a loss--it cost $84 million to produce the hardware that was sold.
      I've said it before:
      Tivo's greatest asset is its brand and unique UI, not its DVR. Tivo should give up its DVR sales and instead license its brand and UI to other DVR makers. This would give Tivo a more predictable income and allow the company to expand into other areas. The reason Tivo is a buyout target is because any CEO with half a brain has thought of this and sees the company as piggy bank just waiting to be cracked open.

      If Tivo isn't willing to follow the lucrative business model sitting in front of them, a bigger company will gladly come along and "guide them" in the right direction.
      • Tivo should give up its DVR sales and instead license its brand and UI to other DVR makers.

        Isn't this exactly what they're doing with their Comcast deal? I'm pretty sure they'll continue going down this road. There's nothing saying that they can't make their own DVRs while licensing the technology to other companies.
      • Tivo should give up its DVR sales and instead license its brand and UI to other DVR makers.
        That's kinda what they've been trying to do. It makes it real hard when everyone is violating your patent and thinks they can just create their own.
      • That's their current business model.
        Everybody keeps rolling their own instead of paying the license fees.
  •, 1 or 2 or 5 articles already speculating this?

    In the past month?
  • I am a cablevision subscriber. For $10/month I get their dvr service. Sure, their program guide is terrible. But I can cancel the service at any time. The recorder has dual tuners. I would love to switch to tivo, but it's not worth the extra money and (more importantly) loss of features to do so.
    • If you use a Tivo for a week, you'll see what how bad other DVR's are in comparison. I'd gladly pay more for the Tivo...
      • by DarthBart ( 640519 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:09AM (#15148077)
        You're telling me. I have HD+DVR service from comcast and the Motorola 6412 DVR/Dual tuner box SUCKS ASS. It routinely wanders off requiring a reboot (which flushes all program guide information and it takes 3-4 days to get it all back). It also pulls this crap where it decides to ignore commands from the remote for a while and then execute them all at once, especially while fast-forwarding or rewinding through a show.

        Whenever TiVo decides to release their cable compatible HD set, I'm taking this 6412 and inserting it into a Comcast Employee's ass.
        • I have a Motorola DCT6412 DVR from Insight Communications, and it's amazing what a firmware update will do. It used to be extremely bad . It was clunky, hard to use, and very buggy. The software was horrible. Then they did an unannounced firmware update to the box, and instantly, it was awesome. They changed the interface, (much "prettier" now) fixed the bugs. (and I mean all of them, including the ones you mentioned above) The menus were updated, and little things to make it more user-friendly were added.
        • Whenever TiVo decides to release their cable compatible HD set, I'm taking this 6412 and inserting it into a Comcast Employee's ass.

          Don't hold your breath, but Comcast is supposedly working with TiVo to bring the Tivo software to the Comcast (Motorola) boxes. I'm not sure if the model 6412 is the same box as the PR releases but that's the story.

          I'm sure Comcast will use this agreement to try to stay out of the patent lawsuit fire, now that TiVo has won against EchoStar (DiSH).

    • Subscribe to Directv. You can get a dual-tuner Tivo for essentially nothing, and the DVR fee is like $5 a month for as many as you have. You'll have to agree to maintain service for 2 years, but the cost to get out is something like $150 prorated.
  • Tivo rules! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ragnarr ( 555058 ) <mads0100&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:51AM (#15147957) Homepage
    For those of you who haven't tried it, Tivo really changes how you watch TV. I have a difficulty watching "live" tv since getting mine about 6 months ago, and it's mainly due to the fact that during your recordings you can "30-second" skip through the commercials. Also, you can watch shows whenever you want. For instance, I was gone for the last 2 weeks on business. I didn't have time to catch the shows on TV where I was. When I got back, there they were! The other thing, the user interface is amazing! It's simple, intuitive, and works as you expect it to. I've tried MythTV, and for all the work you put into it, it's still just a beta system that will fail you when you least expect it. Some people talk about the Cable provider's DVRs; they can't touch the usability of Tivo. Tivo just works, and it works well. Oh, and for you portable fans out there, there is software to download your tivo shows to your PSP/Palm/Cell/whatever. It works well, doesn't take up a ton of space, and can even be automated. Now that's a cool feature! As for cost, Tivo used to have a $299 lifetime (for the life of the hardware) user fee. I was lucky enough to sign up for this when I bought my box. Unfortunately, that was recently taken away in favor of providing "free" hardware to the consumer. Would I pay 15-18 bucks a month for a Tivo? I'll cross that road when I come to it. Oh, and for you "hax0rs" out there, you can even upgrade your tivos with bigger hard drives and the like. I have a 300gig drive in my 40 hour tivo :). Tivo will continue to be a wonderful innovation, and hopefully this will allow it's interface to spread into other venues.
    • What does this love-fest have to do with the substance and premise of the article?
    • For instance, I was gone for the last 2 weeks on business. I didn't have time to catch the shows on TV where I was. When I got back, there they were!

      Not trying to throw stones here, but there's really nothing on television that I (personally) would find so important that I'd miss while out of town. For many years I didn't even own a television nor miss having one. Until my son started spending significant time in my home I had no need for it. The downside of having one now is that I can still hear Sponge
      • Forget being out of town - we've got 3 young kids, so we can spend time with them in the evenings getting them to bed, and then watch shows that are normally on while they're still awake. It's also handy for keeping a steady supply of their favorites shows available, when you need a few minutes to hop in the shower or cook a meal. Or there's the case where the wife wants to watch something, but you want to watch something else at the same time - just have Tivo record one while playing the other.

        Tivo truly
    • I have a difficulty watching "live" tv since getting mine about 6 months ago, and it's mainly due to the fact that during your recordings you can "30-second" skip through the commercials.

      I don't watch live TV at all. I've found that simply slurping an entire show, by which I mean every single season, off bittorrent really improves the quality of teh expierience. Despite the reduced quality, nothing quite beats watching the first four seasons of SG-1 over three weeks. It's a million times better than waiting
      • well, yes, i'm sure that TiVo is at a competitive disadvantage when compared to an illegal alternative
      • Intricate plot details? It's a half-satirical scifi spoof. Come to think of it, I hope some of the futurama staff have/will trickled over...

        If you enjoy the show though, why do you seem to be opposed to everyone involved with it getting either 1) some of your money or 2) some of your time to give someone else a chance at (1)?
    • during your recordings you can "30-second" skip through the commercials.

      Hmm. My ReplayTV skips right over commercials, invisibly, silently, and with no fuss, and no silly 30-second button clicking.
  • . . . when the fate of a company is not defined by wether it is better than its competitors but by the legal system?
    The DVR innovator seems to have little control over its own destiny now, and future success may rest in the hands of the legal system.
  • by Waken66 ( 885236 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:56AM (#15148000)
    By Microsoft:
    "Well that's too bad, I sort of liked them before; but now no way. Looks like its time to build my own DVR or switch to Myth TV becuase I could never use Windows Media Center, even if it was better."

    By Google:
    "Well that's awesome, maybe now ill be able to search through TV shows to find exactly the ones that I want and skip all the ones that aren't worth watching."

    By Yahoo:
    "Please provide your yahoo username, otherwise please create an account. It will be free until we get up to what Google would have done. And after 2 Gigs of storage you will have to pay again. Sorry for any incontinence."
    • Heh, the only thing that google'd add would be context sensitive text ads on the side of the screen that you can click to send to your google inbox- so when you're watching Lost you'll get ads for GPS units, Sex and the city would give you speed dating, sex toys and Gucci and of course 24 will give you Duct Tape, Plastic sheeting and freeze dried food.

      On the other hand, the State of the Union address from Pinnochio himself would give you one way tickets to Toronto, Sydney, Tokyo, Paris and London. Basica
    • By Apple:
      "Oh my GOD a new piece of Apple hardware??! I wonder if it syncs with my iPOD!? much does it cost?? 700$? OKAY! Anything for STEVE JOBS!"
    • Did you do that on purpose []? Or did you mean inconvenience []?

      Either way, I got a chuckle out of it.
    • By Google: "Well that's awesome, maybe now ill be able to search through TV shows to find exactly the ones that I want and skip all the ones that aren't worth watching."

      That's the first step to Googlezon and the Google Grid []!

    • By Apple:
      "The TiVo you just bought last month is obsolete. Introducing the MacRecorder Pro. Its sexy! Steve Jobs has personally redesigned the remote. We've recorded every TV show ever broadcast for you at our Cupertino headquarters. You can buy them for 99 cents a show."
  • by Kombat ( 93720 ) <> on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:09AM (#15148068) Homepage
    I have Rogers' PVR service, and they use Scientific Atlanta units. They are terrible. The interface is ugly. It occassionally "forgets" to record programs you've set up to record. Sometimes it freezes during playback for 5 - 10 seconds, then resumes. If you're recording a program, and you decide to start watching it while it is still recording, and you're only halfway through when the episode ends, the PVR jumps you to the end, and you have to start watching it again from the beginning, and fast-forward back to where you were.

    That said, it's only $25/month to rent the unit, and it has 2 tuners, meaning you can record 2 things at once (and watch a pre-recorded third program at the same time, if you want). I'd gladly pay a little extra to have a real Tivo unit.

    Why aren't any Canadian companies using Tivo's technology? Has Tivo tried to crack the Canadian market? As I said, Rogers uses Scientific Atlanta. Bell has their own ExpressVu box. I have a co-worker who claims he bought a Tivo on his own, and it works on Rogers' network. So what's holding Tivo back from breaking into the Canadian market? Just curious, because I'm really getting sick of this Scientific Atlanta crap and would gladly upgrade.
    • You can now get Tivo in Canada.

      What does this really mean?

      Well you can get programming data for most (all?) Canadian tv providers, the catch is that you have to buy the Tivo hardware in the States (or over ebay or the excellent site []).

      Keep in mind that the series 3 Tivos should be out soon*.

      *where soon is sometime in the next 6 months.

    • In Canada, the cable companies have a very closed system. Except for the analog channels, you can not use any recording device except an authorized/enabled unit from them. So no digital channels, premium, or ppv from a Tivo, Myth box, etc.

      I have a Rogers digital cable and their pvr (8300HD). Actually got it free for 2 years, which is a nice price. Except for it missing some programs due to time zone changes or what not, I really can't see why I would want a Tivo and pay extra. This unit has a dual tunner,
    • $25/month to rent the unit? Thats extremly expensive. Look at TiVos website you can get a year of service and the box for a one year contract for 19.95/month
    • Getting a tivo in Canada is easy. The problem beforehand was that the system required you to enter a zip code, but they changed that some time around August last year.

      Call up your credit card company, and put an alternate address on your credit card, use the address of a business that receives packages in the US. I used a UPS store just acrosss the border. Call up Tivo, order the machine, give them the UPS address as the shipping address, they'll receive it for you. Drive down to the States, pay the UPS g

  • Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by intrico ( 100334 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:11AM (#15148086) Homepage
    Apple really should buy TiVo. I really believe TiVo nicely complements the overall direction and image of Apple's product line. They just need to make slight modifications to the casing to make it match their other products. Also, it really wouldn't be too hard for them to tie it into iTunes service as well, thereby using iTune's success to increase the TiVo user base. If this happened, Apple would corner the home entertainment market. Hopefully someone at Apple has the insight to see this. Of course, there are behind the scenes accounting and finance factors that determine whether or not a large buyout like this would be feasible for a company such as Apple.
    • Re:Apple (Score:3, Interesting)

      Also, you could recode your recorded videos to MPEG-4 so that you can dock your 'pod on the tivo and take your programmes with you. This would of course be perfectly legal, like home taping. It wouldn't, of couse sit well with media so will (probably) never happen.

      What i would like though is a PVR unit like my Philips PVR, but one that has a network jack on the back to allow netowrk access to the hard disk, and playing of content via the network. Are there any PVRs out there like that, or has the DMCA i
      • ^ sorry I meant sit well with media moguls, not sit well with media.
      • Mythtv has a distributed architecture. You can have multiple frontends viewing shows from the backend system and you can have multiple backend systems (additional tuner cards) that can record shows using the same database to store the information on the shows.

        Been using a mythtv system for over a year now and it has worked great. As others have stated it changes the way you watch TV. And the auto-commercial skip features are pretty good.
        • Can you buy a PVR-type standalone device that fits with the architecture though? That's what I'm really after for conventience you see :o'
          • Prebuilt mythtv systems are available from several sources:

   G god2CimAA []



            And building your own is not that difficult or expensive.
            • Thanks very much, man- the systems look excellent, and if they're open source then I guess I can upgrade the hardware without voiding the warranty. I'd have to get the money together, but I think I could be onto a winner here.
              • Please note: I have not used any of the systems listed. I built my own mythtv systems from scratch. Sometime in the future I plan to rebuild the mythtv boxes. I want to put together one big backend system with at least four tuners and then build a number of small diskless frontend systems. Currently I have two combo systems, frontend/backend, that use a single database and storage point. One system has a 1TB file system for storing video. Hoping to use some of the small EPIA systems for frontends.
                • That's cool- I will of course look before I leap etc, and i might build one myself. I'm buying a shiny new PC before I go for any new PVR wing-ding as I'm going freelance doing multimedia production (3D animation, video production, DVD-ROM production and and using flash& actionscript to string it all together) so I'll just have to see how the money goes _^^
      • Replay TV. I've had one for years and love it. If you have more than one, you can stream from one to the other. If you install DVArchive on your PC you can copy shows to your PC's hard drive and then stream them to any Replay box in the house. If you have a recording conflict, the Replay will allow you to schedule it on another free Replay box in the house.

        The older models (like I have) had fully-automatic commercial skip. Now you have to manually skip through them like everyone else.

        Replay doesn't

        • No that's cool- I can take a look and decide if I like what I see. I'm Irish so the scheduling options that are generally available aren't much good to me, unless someone's providing stuff for both UK and Ireland (there are only 6-7 extra Irish stations over here so they might do). I could use a player with an integrated burner, too as Hard Disks have a *slight* tendency to fill up when I'm around.

          My current recorder is a philips HDD/DVD recorder, which works very well and has a 6 hour buffer that it re
      • This is the PVR you are looking for: []

        It allows you to access the recorded content via a built in FTP server.
        You can also go the other way and view content from your PC on your TV over your IP network
        • "This is the PVR you are looking for"

          Jedi mind trick!



          Seriously though- thanks to everyone who posted replies to my question- you've realy opened my eyes to the (suitably expensive and occasionally open source) hardware that's out there. This looks like the closest I've seen to what I'm after. Pity these aren't mass-mass-market- if I didn't know about them then no-one I know is even aware they exist.
      • Tivo can do stuff sortof like you describe.

        Plug in a USB/Ethernet adapter, and put it on your network.

        Tivo has a software package (windows only, I think... bummer) that will let you watch stuff on the Tivo on your computer. (Or burn to DVD, etc.) Not that useful to me... I don't use windows, and would rather watch TV on an actual TV anyway.

        But if you have another Tivo (say, in another room), they can share their playlists over the network. (Watch stuff from one on the other. I Got a refurbished Tivo for
        • Whoah, another excellent reply to my question :o) Thank-you very much! Pretty soon i'm going to have a spare machine to experiment with (I'm going from a P4 2.4 to a shiny new Athlon 64) so I might try that out with a TiVo and my old(er) machine. TiVo might be a good choice for me as it's compatible with the NTL cable and Sky Digital services here in Ireland and N.Ireland. I'll just have to see!

    • Actually a PVR is completely antithetical to Apple's business which is going to be selling you TV shows and getting you to cancel your cable service. Why would they enable you to bypass that model by recording shows? I think they should offer PVR functionality, but it isn't going to happen unless they have to.
      • Oh, come on now. You could record stuff just like usual, but there'd be a popup for each show that said "you can view this recorded show only once. To keep this show, you can buy it without commercials for just $x from iTMS by pressing the thumbs up button now." They'll give you a second chance to buy it when the show ends, while the unit self-deletes the program.

        And, yes, you'll be able to download it to your iPod, but only with purchase of the iTMS content version.
    • Apple is probably the candidate that would benefit least from buying TiVo. TiVo's greatest asset is its superior user interface, but Apple is probably the one company that knows as much as TiVo about creating a friendly UI. If Apple wants to expand into the DVR business, it would probably make more sense for them to buy Elgato [], who already make an add-on DVR for the Mac.

      But my suspicion is this is exactly the opposite direction from where Apple wants to go--rather than providing a means for users to capture
  • A Few Points (Score:3, Informative)

    by Atomm ( 945911 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:26AM (#15148217) Homepage
    I have a Tivo and I love it. It really has changed the way I watch Television. Yes, there are some short comings, but things are changing.

    The new Tivo Series 3 adds HD Recording. It will have the ability to record one show and watch "live" television on another station. Even if both stations are HD.

    It also adds the ability to hook up an External SATA hard drive to extend the storage capacity. No more cracking the case to add a hard drive. Finally, there is a RJ45 for standard networking connectivity.

    Then, Comcast has agreed to go with Tivo for their customers. As a Comcast customer and a Tivo owner, I am really excited about this.

    As for who would be interested in Tivo. I see two companies.

    Apple - Tivo is Linux based. They have a lot of *nix experience on their side. It would really be a great Triple Threat for their Video offerings on ITunes. With the strong Tivo brand and the even stronger Apple brand, this would be a huge boost for Tivo.

    Cisco - They already purchased Scientific Atlantic. They have their targets set on getting into the Consumer Market and really, really want to put a Cisco device on everyone's Television. Their motiviation is pushing Television over IP. They see it as the next big Networking push. And like Apple, they also have a ton of *nix experience on their staff.

    I would be completely shocked if it was not one of these two companies that bought Tivo.

    Tivo Is Dead! Long Live Tivo!
  • I love my tivo, but how can any of you condone this stupid patent? The technology is obvious and should not be patentable. In reality tivo is little more than an advanced VCR, using a disk drive instead of a tape and with a few fancy bells and whistles thrown in. This is just another sign that our patent system is broken. The ones who suffer are the consumers. Now we must pay higher prices and we will suffer from less innovation due to tivo being able to stifle competition in the PVR market.
  • brilliant technology

    Can someone please explain what brilliant technology is in a Tivo? I thought it just records and plays back video in digital form. From what I can gather what's made Tivo big is its usability. Am I missing something technical?
    • Patents cover working inventions, and TiVo was the first complete system that did what is perfectly obvious now.

      You have to think back to when the invention was made, and ask yourself if it were perfectly obvious to build a system to do a given job using the technologies available at the time.

      Consider, for example, Mauchly and Eckert when they began building the first working electronic computer. Atanasoff may have built a digital computer of sorts in Iowa a few years before, but he was rejected by the

      • Let me preface this by saying I love my Tivo.

        Not everything under the sun should be patentable. All they did was take existing technology and put it to use in a very obvious way. If any Tivo engineers or programmers are reading this, don't get me wrong, you did a marvelous job. The product is amazing, I love it.
      • Back to TiVo, they were the first. They deserve the patent because they did invent something, and before it was invented it did not exist in that form.

        Not really. The concept of simultaneously reading and writing a computer file that happens to be video data was patented back in 1993 [] by somebody else. It's a very broad patent, and is not easily worked around like most of the patents that TiVo actually filed.

        Now TiVo owns the rights to that patent, but it's because they bought it out a couple of years

    • 1.) The breakthrough is that a Tivo (and other DVRs) can record and play at the same time. The same program or a different program. That is the key difference between a VCR and a DVR.

      2.) The rest of it is just a very well designed interface on top, that pretty much exposes everything that it should be able do as a consequence of 1.

      For myself, it wasn't until I used it first hand that I understood everything that is encompassed in 2. Here are a few main points:

      Note: I have DirecTV, so I have two tuners in
      • I think I missed your point. If your point is that Tivo probably doesn't have anything truly new under the sun, then I would agree completely. It doesn't seem to me like it should be patentable, for whatever that is worth.
      • You're missing a feature that I find completely invaluable--the TiVo will go out and record other shows that it might think you like based on your recording and rating history. That is, if you like a show, you give it 2 or 3 thumbs up. After it's built up a "profile" of the shows you rate highly, it will go out and record other shows when you're not watching it. I've found quite a few shows I wouldn't otherwise have watched due to this.
  • Tivo still amazes me for not bringing their technology outside of the US. At first I thought it was because of the copyrights that exist on programguide information, but now that DVD/HD-recorders with program guides appear here in Europe, I can't imagine that to be the major hurdle. Tivo must be doing something really wrong if it can't bring its technology in other markets then North America and the UK.

    What amazes me too is how Tivo doesn't seem to be able to license its technology to other players in the m
  • ...and they would be getting a 74 million dollar rebate in the process.
  • Seriously though, I'm actually surprised that Apple, Sony or DirecTV haven't bought them out yet, but perhaps with this patent case they'll be more attractive..

    Oh, and btw, since the last software update I've had to reset my 30-second skip like 10 times now. I assume that this is the prelude to removing 30-second skip.

    Warning to Tivo: DO NOT FUCK WITH 30-SECOND SKIP.
  • With Cisco buying everything in sight thiese days Tivo would be great acquistion. They have already purchased some other consumer electronics firms. Can't think of who at the moment but it was here on /. that I saw it. Anyways Tivo would be great if it could do half of what my homebuilt dvr does. I run mythtv its friggin awesome and beats the hell out of tivo. I could see Cisco adding some much needed network compatibility to the tivo so you could stream recorded stuff to anywhere on your network. Of c
  • Godspeed, TiVo.

    I don't agree. We don't need TiVo to have DVR's. And with the way TiVo is both trying to force their units (patents at least) on all other competitors, and keeps caving into the content industry (automatic deletions, no 30-second commercial skip without a hack that may be closed on any forced update) I foresee a TiVo-based future of ever higher prices for ever less control over one's content.


  • If something good's going to go tits up, let's see both tits at the same time.
  • Both companies have been demonstrable examples of using Linux under the hood, and have a certain ongoing dedication to it. Both companies' products have significant (auth/unauth/tacit) community development (i.e. hacks). Google wants to expand into video search and cataloging, TiVo wants to expand into providing access to online content.

    And for added bonus, the logo colors are practically identical.

    It just seems like such an obvious fit. If only they could see it.

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.