Tivo Rewards Fans Get Punished

Tivo has been through some tough times - lawsuits, financial losses, price wars - but the tiny company has survived on the strength of its loyal and sometimes zealous customer base. These consumers refuse to use an inferior cable or satellite-provider DVR box, and preach the gospel of Tivo's features to anyone who'll listen.

But last week, as Tivo prepared for its March 5 fiscal 2008 earnings meeting, things were looking up: Courts continue holding Tivo's patent claims in court against Dish Network; Comcast began rolling out boxes using Tivo's licensed technology; and the company hinted at long-awaited plans for a video-on-demand service through Tivo boxes.

Why, then did Tivo choose this optimistic time to lash out at its eager fan base? On Feb. 28, Tivo terminated new enrollments in its rewards program - the system that served up freebie gadgets and Tivo boxes to customers who motivated enough other people to sign up for Tivo.

Rewards points won't accrue after April 28, and the points must be spent by May 28. Owners of Tivo Platinum MasterCards will swipe their credit cards for points for the last time.

Tivo's FAQ offers little in the way of explanation:

"The TiVo Rewards program began as a way to reward our loyal fans and encourage them to spread the word about the joys of TiVo. In a recent survey of Rewards participants, we discovered new and different ways to involve our fans and keep them more connected to TiVo and other TiVo customers. The current program is ending on May 28th, 2008 but stay tuned for more news and announcements."

Tivo fans have been burned before. In March 2006 the company terminated its lifetime service plan, forcing buyers of new Tivos to pay monthly fees upfront. Tivo's now tempting its rewards program big-shots with a final prize. Those with more than 120,000 points will get new Tivo HD boxes with lifetime service according to the new through-May 28th rewards listed on the company's site. -Rachel Rosmarin

TiVo Rewards