March 02, 2006

Is TiVo Becoming Irrelevant?

Since 2003, we've featured a TiVo digital video recorder (DVR) in the center of our entertainment hub - and if you've ever had access to a TiVo, and then been forced to fumble with standard television, you'll know there really is no going back. And similar to Apple fans, TiVo subscribers are fiercely loyal about their machines - eagerly awaiting feature enhancements, and often pow-wowing with one another on how they can "hack" their box to gain additional storage capacity or hidden surprises. But as much as they enjoy the company's product, there is a growing sense that the company is no longer on the leading technology edge - and has seen competition eclipse the lead it once had, reducing the company's actual and perceived value.

This week, TiVo stirred up interest by coyly hinting at a major product announcement that was to take place this morning. Cloaked in the type of secrecy that followed Apple's announcements earlier in the week, the Web began to buzz again about what TiVo would possibly have up their sleeves - the roll-out of their Series 3 recorders? More news into their partnership with NetFlix? Who knew?

Instead, the reports started to trickle in, from TiVo fan blogs to the Wall Street Journal, that all the company was readying was an enhancement aimed at children, called KidZone, which would help parents work with their children to avoid the potential evils of television, in cooperation with the Parents Television Council. And that was it. TiVo tried to trumpet the announcement as being groundbreaking, issuing a lofty release, titled "TV and Kids: Finally the Right Solution", but I don't think subscribers are buying it, and Wall Street didn't care - at all. In fact, TiVo stock didn't change a single penny on what should have been a rather important day for the company - and that really sums up the TiVo story - Unchanged.