Look, don’t blame me. I actually started authoring The Solid Signal Blog in 2012. Five years before that, we published this article about the TiVo HD. It was all-new, all-exciting, and all the rage back in the late 2000s.
Of course its specs seem puny today, when DIRECTV’s latest DVR gives you 200 hours of HD recording space and when virtually any device out there will let you stream content from Amazon. Still, I have to give “props” to TiVo for its early work here.
The TiVo HD was the latest in what was then a very successful line of DVRs from the company. At that time, the word “TiVo” was literally synonymous with DVR, and it was common to hear people say “I’ll TiVo that.” The DVR itself was just coming into its own as a replacement for the DVR and TiVo the top independent brand.
What happened to TiVo?
Of course, you can’t stay at the top of the heap forever. TiVo found itself outdone at every turn by cable and satellite company DVRs. Its relationship with DIRECTV had led both companies to success for a few short years, but when DIRECTV started designing its own DVRs the writing was on the wall. DIRECTV’s HR20 DVR (the forerunner of all modern DIRECTV DVRs) may not have been perfect when it launched, but its sales volume immediately dwarfed TiVo’s and even the return of the TiVo box to DIRECTV in 2011 didn’t stop the tide.
TiVo found itself defending its intellectual property in a series of lawsuits. TiVo itself wasn’t to blame, but it turns out that its methods were pretty easy to copy and its patents, while uphead, were easy to infringe upon. The company went through several cash-strapped years before victory in court restored their financial health.
In 2016, the company was acquired by Rovi, a company that specializes in licensing patents rather than making products. In the years since, TiVo has slowed the pace of its innovation, releasing updated versions of its products rather than revamping its whole line.
While TiVo (now known as TIVO in what may be the most subtle rebranding of all time) still has strong proponents, the fact is that it’s not really looking for new customers. The company has rarely shown its products at consumer electronics shows and while they do sell online they don’t have a very large presence there either. It can be hard to get into the TiVo (excuse me, TIVO) ecosystem for those who start anew.
But then again, other DVRs really are that good.
If you love TIVO’s user interface or its remote, it’s going to be hard to convince you to move away from it. Still, pay-TV companies have advanced the art of the DVR to where it’s really hard to say no to the manufacturer-supplied option. DIRECTV’s Genie and DISH’s Hopper are really excellent choices and offer features far beyond TIVO’s. They’re often available with steep incentives to new customers and upgraders, and that makes it very hard for people to shell out cash for a third-party option. And of course, with the coming wave of cloud-based options from Sling and DIRECTV NOW, it makes even less sense for some folks to go the TIVO route.
I guess that’s why they say every dog has his day.