Ever since I watched the Super Bowl in 2002 at my good friend, Reed Roussel’s, house; I was a TiVo fan. For months prior, I had been trying to sell my wife on the idea that we NEEDED a TiVo. Now, need is an important word. If you recall back to grade school, the only real needs are water, air, food and shelter. Well, in the early 2000s, I was looking to add TiVo to that short list. Up until that Super Bowl evening, it was a weak argument, and frankly I wasn’t even 100% sold. During the game though, something changed. We were all watching, talking and eating. A commercial had played. Most of us had missed it. But, like magic, Reed was able to rewind the game, letting us watch the commercial…then again, like magic, he fast forwarded back to the game. Wow. I was sold. More importantly, the wife was sold. True Story: the very next day, we picked up 2 TiVos and had them up and running a few days later.
So, for more than 10 years, I’ve been a TiVo guy. How much of a TiVo guy you ask? Well, when DirecTV ended their relationship with TiVo and came out with their own DVR interface, we switched to cable. When Comcast tried to give us their version of a DVR, we purchased new TiVo’s instead, and had Comcast put the cable cards in the TiVos. When I moved back to Chicago, my 2nd purchase was a TiVo XL. When I moved to New Jersey, the first purchase was a TiVo XL4. It was this purchase and the subsequent experience I had “activating” it, that lead me to tell this story.
For those not in the know…let me take a second to explain the nuts and bolts of TiVo. TiVo is both the box and the software that runs inside the box that you see on screen. There may be other companies that have more impressive boxes (storage size, speed, etc.), but none can remotely come close to offering “software” as great as TiVo’s. So when you buy TiVo, you’re paying for both the box and the service/software. The cost of the software…or rather the cost to use the software, comes in one of 2 flavors:
- A monthly subscription model. Think NetFlix…you pay $x a month to license the software/service
- A 1-time fee that would grant you access to the service FOREVER. But, that access is based on a per box model. Confusing? If you have 2 TiVos and you wanted a lifetime subscription, you would need to pay the fee for each TiVo you own.
Now, for as long as I can recall, this was always TiVo’s pricing model. You could pay month to month or pay one lump sum up front. Because of my penchant for upgrading, a lifetime subscription just made no sense. These pricing models never made any sense to me, but I’m not privy to TiVo’s financial data…so take that with a grain of salt.
This past weekend, I had my first negative TiVo experience in 10+ years. When I purchased my TiVo XL last year, I signed up for a 1 year commitment. Honestly, I’d forgotten about this. TiVo now has 3 pricing options:
- Month to month: $19.99 a month
- Year long commitment: $13.99 a month
- Lifetime: $499.99 (equal to just over 2 years of month to month service)
So, when I signed up las tear, I apparently took option 2. Before I go any further…let me say I’m completely responsible for having chosen TiVo, purchasing the box, signing up for the service and understanding the terms. With that said…this past weekend, I called TiVo to signup for monthly service for my new TiVo XL4 and to discontinue service on my TiVo XL. The XL4 was going to take the place of the XL in my living room. When I called to make these changes, I was reminded that I had signed up for a year of service on the XL and that canceling would cause me to incur early termination fees. I did the logical thing and asked, can’t I just transfer the commitment to the new XL4? I mean, I’m not looking to break up with TiVo…we’ve had a 10 year+ relationship. The answer was no. And that’s when it hit me. This brand that I love. This brand that I’m a fan of, doesn’t want to have a relationship with me. They want me to have a relationship wit their box. And honestly, that’s just silly.
Look, there’s no shortage of pricing models out there when there’s a physical device and a subscription for service. For example, when you purchase a car, you’re often give X years/Y miles worth of service. When you buy a new car from the same manufacturer, your remaining service isn’t transferable…similar to TiVo. The relationship between customer, phone and phone service is quite similar. Your 2 year commitment is not transferable to a new device or a new number. But…with AT&T, Sprint, Verizon or the like, there’s always going to be a monthly cost to access the service. So, what TiVo is doing isn’t out of the ordinary. But, like I said, it was the first time I realized that I don’t really have a relationship with this product I love or this software/service I adore.
No, my relationship, is with a black box. And that’s just sad.