Sky, bye TiVo UK

David Galbraith reminded me that TiVo are decamping from the UK.

It’s a shame that TiVo got into a pickle here. They were brought over in a deal with Sky (part of News Corp.), which I’m sure looked great on the surface.

Around launch time I remember going to see _THE TiVo_ at the only place that had it, Dixons. Swallowing my pride I went into (gulp) Dixons, to find it sitting on a shelf near the back of the store.

The demonstration video that ran on it was quite informative, but my boat wasn’t sufficiently floated to make me reach for £400 to give them. It’s appeal is understood when you use it.

I didn’t really remember much advertising for it but there was quite a lot of press. Then nothing, followed by … more nothing. Unsurprisingly only 32,000 were sold. I found mine about 18 months ago on FreeServe’s e-marketplace-thing selling for £150. Now I can’t believe I lived without it.

It’s interesting how TiVo alters your perceptions, for example, I’ve given up archiving stuff off to VHS, as its hard to take its bulky, dated format seriously – Do I really want these big boxes cluttering up my house?

I digress.

It’s been alleged, how can I put this delicately, that Sky made it uneconomically viable for TiVo to have a base in the UK for their hardware distribution in the UK.

I was speaking to someone who worked at Sky with the two people that did the TiVo deal. They were told to go and do the deal on specific terms, and not to return until they had. Sounds like Sky saw the opportunity … and the threat – and decided to control it.

From the TiVo side, the deal confuses me. I don’t know if TiVo were seduced by the fact the Sky (Almighty) were interested in their product and all they were blinded by a partner with huge, growing number of subscribers in the UK.

Whatever the deal was, it wasn’t mutually exclusive and appears to be lacking in proper Due Diligence. Sky still continue to developed PVR with NDS, the company they partially floated to the public in 1999. They also did a deal with the UK’s Pace, to supply their public PVR offering, Sky+. In true Sky style, they persuaded Pace to supply the boxes to them at under manufacturing cost.

Sky, of course supplied something as part of the TiVo deal. When you call TiVo support in the UK, you get through to Sky’s Scottish call centre and your Monthly direct debit is labelled Sky – which is pretty galling.

I think TiVo have done the right thing. As long as support continues to be provided at the generally very good level it is now and the EPG continues to function, who cares if they don’t have personnel here?

Strangely they will continue to have a presence here. I heard they took a long lease on their UK offices – which they’re trying to be sublet as I type.

The lesson TiVo learnt is clear. If you’re going to go into business with Sky, you’d better do it with your eyes wide open.

Low down in the piece it says that marketing is the biggest obstacle to PVR adoption, which I agree with and understand . Here’s my suggestion, give people a PVR on free trial for a couple of weeks, you’d have trouble getting it back from them and leave it a month, you’ll have no chance.

One thought on “Sky, bye TiVo UK”

  1. I live in the US and am visiting the UK – I have used Cox Cable – which is the biggest cable TV company on the east coast. Also Comcast – the biggest cable co in the US and Direct TV – the biggest satellite TV service in the US.

    All three have a ‘search by name’ option so you can go to a search page and press in the letters that add up to the name of your show, such as ‘The Good LIfe’ – and it brings up that show with all the dates and channels it will be on TV within a few weeks. I believe neither Sky nor Virgin has that option. Without that option you are trying to catch the show so you can press series record, or scrolling through days and times desperately trying to find your show on each separate channel.

    Also – they all have two tuners, i.e. you can record two shows and watch a third.

    Tivo is far better than any of the US cable company DVR’s and has a much better layout. Yet any of the ordinary non-Tivo DVRs are far better than anything in the Uk.

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