My first few months with TiVo

I’ve been using a TiVo for the last for a couple of months and thought I’d give my initial impressions.

As soon as TiVo/ReplyTV was announced I have been thinking of getting one but felt £400 was an unreasonable cost, so when I saw them for £150, it felt like the right time to buy.

The setup and installation wasn’t very painful. Connecting it was a little long-winded but this is to be expected considering the number of boxes it connects to – the TV, a DTT (free-to-air digital STB), and VHS. The setup of the channels was pretty much automatic.

A couple of initial teething problems were quickly sorted out by the excellent phone support. The most annoying was the incredibly slow speed the TiVo changed channels on the STB, but by using the supplied Infra Red extension lead and making a menu change it was soon improved.

It’s very easy to understand the basic function of the system, as the built-in software has been excellent with the different routes to recording the shows being pretty flawless. Over the period there’s been a number of software upgrades which arrive and are installed without your intervention – which just reminds you of how easy computing should be but hardly ever is.

Pausing live TV has been less useful to me that the marketing material lead me to expect. What has been good is the ability to rewind the live broadcast to hear something that you might have misheard or missed, as the TiVo constantly records and stores the previous 30 minutes of the channel you’re watching. If you change channel the recording buffer starts again.

Of course the Season Pass is a great boon. This allows you to automatically record, for example, every time that Dr Katz is shown (Wow, Dr Katz has to be the best show on TV – brilliantly observed). Just set it up and you get a chance to watch a number of them in a row.

The only slight bugbear was when a schedule overran the end of show was sometimes cut off. This has now been got around by a software update that allows you to extend the finishing time of the recording.

The hard drive filled up pretty quickly as the novelty of recording lots and not deleting anything took over, but a concerted effort of archiving to VHS cured that.

Sadly you have to select and tape each individually and one improvement to the software would be if you could tag a number of shows to archive to VHS and let it save them all to tape. Perhaps the reasons why it might into have been included is in an attempt to placate the media owners who can be a prickly bunch.


TiVo is really a preview of what on-demand TV will be like.

After TiVo I hardly every watch live TV these days and it’s leading me to widen my viewing as I’ll record something and take a quick preview of the show to see if it’s the same as described and enjoyable.

My belief in on-demand content is what lead me to setup LemonTV in ’99. There are times when you want content to wash over you, ie live TV, but most of the time you want to watch what interests, appeals or stimulates you.

In the real World there are two problems; with huge amounts of on-demand content there needs to be a way for the potential viewer of finding what they like and obviously there is a need to make money from the content.

My long held belief is that one solution to this is scheduled broadcast TV show that is effectively a ‘shop window’ for the available programming. The viewers then have the option to pay for time-shifted content, whether this is a small amount of money for shows that have already been broadcast or a lot of money if it’s in advance of their scheduled broadcast.

The TiVo must be good – I’m seriously thinking of adding a second hard drive to up the capacity.