Time Warner Cable is trying out some new moves, adding to its selection of packages and offering a new service that lets customers watch programs as much as three days old without need for a conventional DVR.
As recently noted in the News Dept., Verizon is pushing its FiOS TV, net, and phone service into all five boroughs of New York City over the next six years. Of course this is a major challenge to the local cable companies, Time Warner and Cablevision. Taking a pro-active stance, Time Warner has already been running TV ads for months deriding Verizon's fiber-optic technology. Here's the scenario: A guy about to tuck into his morning cereal answers the doorbell to find a callow youth offering Verizon fiber, complete with animated effects. Waving his bowl of bran--full of fiber, get it?--the happy cable customer snarkily responds that Time Warner has been using fiber optics for years. What the ad doesn't mention is that Verizon takes fiber all the way up to the house or building served, only then reverting to coax, twinlead, etc. for various services. For my own part, I'm both a reasonably happy Time Warner customer and an embittered former Verizon customer. My dialtone went away, never came back, and the company's fully automated customer service wouldn't put a human on the phone to talk with me about it, though I do regularly get mailings begging me to come back. But what technophile wouldn't be seduced by Verizon's vision of a fiber-optic future? The company is make a huge investment in FiOS. In a country decidedly behind in broadband technology compared to other nations, the Verizon program is just what we need.
The TiVo HD XL ($599) records up to 150 hours in HD. It can even record two shows at once. Loaded with "DTV transition ready" ATSC tuner and a CableCARD slot, it has been voted The Product Mark Fleischmann Is Most Likely to Have Slipped into His Briefcase If the THX People Hadn't Been Hanging Around Him Trying to Tell Him Stuff.
TiVo's struggle for survival continues to generate headlines. Two weeks ago I reported that the company may reduced rebated hardware prices to nothing, concentrating on software for survival. This week's big announcement, as Darryl reports, is that TiVo is axing its $299 lifetime service plan in favor of shorter-term plans for one to three years. Darryl's also got the details on the new TiVo Mobile plan which will allow remote scheduling of DVR recordings from the Verizon Wireless network. And there's more: In June TiVo Kidzone will make the DVR more family-friendly by permitting parents to ix-nay programs either individually or under built-in advice from groups like the Parents Television Council. The company is targeting doctors with what it describes as "physician-oriented programs." Finally, the future may be brightening for TiVo—last year's fourth-quarter loss was 24 cents per share, down from 42 cents the previous year.
TiVo may soon lower its hardware pricing to every consumer's favorite number: zero. The news came when CEO Tom Rogers addressed a Reuters technology summit on Monday. The free hardware would begin as a test. In exchange, service plans may extend longer and cost more. Why this, why now? TiVo is a publicly traded company under constant pressure from Wall Street. Once its main competition was RePlayTV but now it's up against proprietary offerings from cable and satellite companies as well as mainstream manufacturers. An especially hard blow was DirecTV's announcement last year that it would de-emphasize TiVo in favor of its own product. Smooth-talking Rogers is determined to defend and increase his subscriber base of four million: "We feel that the notion that TiVo has hit some kind of distribution wall and is no longer a growth animal is not the case." Coincidentally, he is the former CEO of Primedia, publisher of Home Theater.