Getting on for 10 years ago, I bought a TiVo. Never really pushed in the UK (but now massive in the US) it was pretty much the first PVR available – and remains one of the best for several reasons.

It was rather ahead of it’s time. It was expensive (around £500 IIRC, + a tenner a month or £200 for a “lifetime” sub). TiVo contracted Sky to provide support and it was advertised by Sky – it even had a “Recommended by Sky” banner in the corner of the screen.

Sky never enabled the serial port on the sky boxes, so TiVo had to live with an IR link to change the channel. Despite working with Sky, terrestrial, freeview (ITV digital as it was) and cable Sky managed the customer support, and also the advertising. The adverts were pretty crap, Sky never really seemed to push it.

Then Sky announced the Sky+ box. I’m sure that’s nothing at all to do with the way they seemed reluctant to push TiVo…

Sky+ was crap in most comparisons to TiVo, but had a few benefits. It recorded the stream directly – TiVo had to re-encode the already decoded picture before saving the stream. Quality suffered as a result which as TVs have got bigger, has become a real issue. TiVo only had one encoding chip so could only record one show. Sky+ could record two. Of course, Sky+ had the massive advantage of being marketed by Sky who seemed to rapidly lose interest in the TiVo. Funny that 🙁

No one else stepped up to license the TiVo software in the UK – and Thomson stopped making the boxes. The last remaining stock was flogged off for 50 quid a go in Comet and Scottish Power stores. A few false starts (Humax seemed close to lauching but it just never happened) and then TiVo effectively withdrew back to the US and abandoned the UK market. Sky+ became massive, HD arrived and even the most committed TiVo owners started to jump.

Early 2009 rumours started to appear on the TiVo forums that TiVo were back in the UK. Seemed unlikely they were working with Sky. Freeview was a possibility but had no single backer. Then Virginmedia announced they were looking at TiVo software for a potential upgrade to their V+ box. Ahha, the news I wanted… I cancelled my Sky sub (yay!), cancelled my TiVo sub (sad 🙁 ) and got a V+ box.

Being able to record 2 shows while watching a 3rd was great. Having HD was great. The video on demand services are fantastic, but wow, the user interface sucks. It’s certainly no TiVo. Virginmedia have now started to roll out their TiVo and initial reports are good. It’s a bit limited at the moment but it’s definately a TiVo (it even has a peanut – *best* remote I’ve ever used). I’m still waiting for my call back to arrange an install date but I can’t wait.

Then just as TiVo is getting some good press in the UK for once, they announce that they are stopping the S1 support. 🙁 Doesn’t cause me problems as I’ve cancelled mine anyway, and I can get the new VM model but it sucks for TiVo users who aren’t in a cabled area (around 50% of the population). Bascially, TiVo are removing the guide data (EPG – but with loads of metadata that makes it *so* powerful) – without the guide data TiVo is crippled 🙁

It’s not clear why they are doing this. It’s been expected by many for a while as subscriber numbers dropped it must have become less viable financially. It’s pretty impressive it lasted this long really. Have VirginMedia put pressure on them to kill it to preserve their exclusive deal? Do TiVo see it as a convenient time to duck out quietly (seems that’s not working – people are fairly vocal on the blog).

Whatever the reason, if they hoped to disappear quietly it’s not working – not helped by an apparent (deliberate?) misunderstanding of the market. Saying things like “Our goal is to provide customers enough time to upgrade” isn’t helpful to the users who can’t have Cable even if they wanted to. Time for a Freeview/FreeSat TiVo? Sounds ideal – but the subscription doesn’t really fit the “free” part and trying to explain to someone why they should pay a tenner a month for something that is “just an EPG that’s normally free” is pretty difficult. Also, if the suggestion that VM have a exclusive contract it wouldn’t be possible anyway 🙁

A sad end to the Series1 in the UK – be interesting to see how the VM one takes off. Maybe VM will announce a freeview version (can’t see that somehow as much as I’d love it to happen).

I’m sure a third party free source of guide data will appear (as it has in Aus AIUI) but that’s not use to users who haven’t hacked their machine and added a network card. Plenty of very unhappy punters on the forums.

Sad 🙁 I’m still going to get a VirginMedia one though 😉 (when the get around to ringing me – hurry up!)

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3 Responses to

  1. pao says:

    Hmmm the tenner a month for EPG data is likely to be a killer for a lot of people, particularly if you consider TVtv EPG data costs 20 quid for a year and even the DVB EPG data is free. Incidentally the BBC are working on improving the EPG data but the biggest problem seems to be getting the Freeview receivers to use the data more often and more intelligently (EyeTV does the former once a day – irritating, and the latter very well but my installation used DVB and tvtv EPG data). Some info:

  2. A UK Tivo Owner says:

    You can now point your series 1 tivo at a new telephone number without any further hacking and that will deliver alternative EPG data via the internet.

  3. Dave Hallett says:

    Sorry for the late comment – but your blog came up on a Google search around the subject. Just a short note to say that there is an alternative source of data for UK TiVos which do NOT need a ‘hacked’ machine to work with. They’ll work with an unmodified unit over the phone line for free (except the cost of the call), or new drives can be bought with more space and the whole thing already set up.

    Have a look at

    for more details.



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