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Comcast takes on TiVo

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Comcast takes on TiVo

Old 12-04-03, 07:42 AM
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Comcast takes on TiVo

http://news.com.com/2100-1033_3-5113...l?tag=nefd_top

Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, plans to begin providing TiVo-like video recording features directly to its cable TV subscribers by year's end.


The company will offer digital video recording (DVR) services over Motorola set-top boxes and is developing its own digital video recording software with partner TV Guide, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said Wednesday at the Western Cable Show in Anaheim, Calif.

"We are working on Motorola's platform, and we will be rolling it out this quarter," Roberts said. Comcast will launch DVR services "big time next year," he said, adding that he expects to be able to provide the service to 90 percent of the company's subscribers by the end of 2004.

Digital video recorders let people record TV programs onto a hard drive. Customers also can control live programs by rewinding or pausing their TV programs.

The move is a blow for TiVo, which pioneered DVR technology and is increasingly facing competition from set-top box makers. The company has sought refuge in partnerships and software licensing, a strategy that won't be helped by Comcast's decision to develop competing DVR software.

Other companies have decided to partner with TiVo to offer these features to customers, including satellite TV provider DirecTV and DVD makers Toshiba and Pioneer.

Analysts said Comcast's DVR moves signal a shift in industry sentiment, which has long backed video-on-demand (VOD) technology. VOD services typically store video files in central servers and stream them to the customer.

"Major cable executives are now showing unified support of (DVR) being a new revenue stream," said Richard Doherty, director at market researcher Envisioneering Group. "That's a big change from previous sentiment."

Cable companies charge people a monthly subscription fee to use DVR systems. Many Comcast set-top boxes already have hard drives built into them, but people have to upgrade to new boxes to take advantage of the feature.

Cable executives, however, are not tempering their enthusiasm for VOD. Some are taking a more cautious approach to DVR technology, viewing it more as a test bed rather than an established business.

"The video-on-demand platform is rich and potentially can do more than (DVR) boxes," said Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable.

Different views on DSL
Executives discussed various issues that affect the industry during a roundtable at the Western Cable Show. Topics included the growth of high-definition television, wider deployment of Internet phone calling, and sports programming rights.

However, the panelists, including Roberts, Britt, Cablevision Systems CEO Tom Rutledge, Adelphia Communications CEO Bill Schleyer, and Charter Communications CEO Carl Vogel, did not address the issue of digital subscriber line (DSL) price drops. For the past year, Baby Bell phone companies, feeling the threat of cable broadband, have introduced price cuts and heavily discounted promotions in hopes of driving subscriber growth. Instead of lowering their own prices, cable companies responded by boosting their base download speeds to levels as high as 3mbps or more.

SBC Communications, for example, has lowered its price to $26.95 a month for the first year. Verizon Communications lowered its price to $34.95 after a three-month offer for $29.95. Qwest Communications is selling DSL for $29.95 a month for the first year, and then $34.99 thereafter.

In contrast, cable broadband services cost $45 to $55 a month but have greater download speeds than basic DSL service.

Cable companies remain divided about how best to approach DSL price cuts. After the panel, one executive expressed an interest in trying to beat the Bells at their own game and offer a competitively priced, albeit slower, broadband offering.

"I do believe we need to develop share in the $25 to $40 market," Adelphia's Schleyer said in an interview after the panel. "It's a market segment we as an industry need to go after. We cannot cede anything to the competition."

Comcast, on the other hand, is considering the opposite, offering an even faster service at a higher price instead of a slower, cheaper product. Comcast's Roberts said during the panel that higher bandwidth will become available as long as there are applications to drive demand.

After the panel, Roberts said Comcast is "very comfortable with prices right now" and that it's not planning to offer any lower-tier services.

"We are not planning for any price response," Roberts said.
Do you think this will hurt TiVo at all?
Old 12-04-03, 07:50 AM
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Just because they call it a DVR doesn't make it a TiVo.
Old 12-04-03, 08:05 AM
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How old is this news story? Comcast started offering this early in 2003 in my market. I already have 2 Replays so no need for one.

I think they may have a marginal effect on the PVR market, but these boxes do far less than what Replays and TIVOs can do.

If they develop boxes that have the same space and capabilities then I think they could really hurt Replay and TIVO simply because you don't have to pay the up-front cost for the box.
Old 12-04-03, 08:18 AM
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I will be buying a DirecTIVO after the holidays and if this becomes avail. soon for me I will try this too. as long as the cost isn't that much more than what I pay now. plus the Comcast DVR must still provide HD or forget about it. not taking a step backwords.
Old 12-04-03, 08:37 AM
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Originally posted by ChrisHicks
I will be buying a DirecTIVO after the holidays and if this becomes avail. soon for me I will try this too. as long as the cost isn't that much more than what I pay now. plus the Comcast DVR must still provide HD or forget about it. not taking a step backwords.
I'm with Time Warner, and they offer separate HD and DVR boxes. I came from Dish, where I had two DishPVR's. The TWC DVR is 6.95/month, no hardware cost; the HD box is no add'l charge [over that of a regular digital box.] The DVR has some features the PVRdidn't [name based recording, two-tuner, PiP], and the PVR had some features the DVR didn't [no monthly fee, easy management, Search mode.]
They did just send me an email:
"You also may be interested to know that Scientific Atlanta has designed a High Definition DVR. Smaller Time Warner Cable Divisions will test this new box in the next two months. We hope to have HD DVRs available in the 1st Quarter of 2004. Once a launch date is received, we will send out another email."

I'm all over that--currently we have both the HD box and the DVR hooked to the same TV, because honestly, the DVR is more important to me. But I'd love a combo unit.
Old 12-04-03, 08:52 AM
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Originally posted by Red Dog
How old is this news story?
If you would have clicked the link, you'd see that this story was posted just yesterday (December 3, 2003, 2:41 PM).
Old 12-04-03, 08:55 AM
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Originally posted by Morf
If you would have clicked the link, you'd see that this story was posted just yesterday (December 3, 2003, 2:41 PM).

Well it was more of a joke, since Comcast already provides DVR service.
Old 12-04-03, 09:05 AM
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Cox Cable rolled out their "tivo" like device a few weeks ago. An OK basic DVR, but it doesn't even compare to a Tivo.
Old 12-04-03, 09:18 AM
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Originally posted by Red Dog
Well it was more of a joke, since Comcast already provides DVR service.
Is it partnered with TV Guide? It sounds like Comcast is making something new.
Old 12-04-03, 09:29 AM
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Well, I'm pissed that at the end Comcast said they have no plans to lower their broadband prices. I really am going to have to start looking at DSL.
Old 12-04-03, 09:33 AM
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I had a Time Warner DVR before I moved and got a Tivo. The set top cable box/DVRs can't compare.
Old 12-04-03, 10:39 AM
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Quoth Chew <HR SIZE=1>Just because they call it a DVR doesn't make it a TiVo. <HR SIZE=1>

Agreed. This was my initial reaction too. The belief that you can just make any old DVR and compare it to TiVo (or Replay) is silly.

das
Old 12-04-03, 10:48 AM
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Serious question here:
What does TiVo offer that, say, the TWC/Comcast boxes don't?
I know the DishPVR was a 'basic' DVR, but it also had no monthly fee.
What features does TiVo have that make it special? The only one I can think of offhand is the 'suggestion' feature, and I don't know how much use I'd get out of that.
There certainly are many ways of doing the same thing, and many other 'bells and whistles' available, and I do know that TiVo is the 'granddaddy' of DVR's. I went with the TWC DVR when I got cable because there was no initial hardware cost and no 'long term committment.'
I assume DirectTiVO is only good on DirectTV, but that there is also a 'standalone' TiVo unit available.
Re: cable broadband price drops: I certainly would not be averse to one, but I don't have much choice--I can't get DSL where I live now, and I'm not switching to AOL "broadband" or Earthlink based on past experiences with EL, and general opinion of AOL. I get my 45/month worth with TWCRR, and I don't think I'd pay extra for a 'higher tier' with higher speeds.
Old 12-04-03, 11:29 AM
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My brother-in-law has the Time Warner DVR. He came over and saw my Tivo and was floored by how much better it was then his DVR. Despite that, and although he can afford a Tivo easily, he still has the TW DVR.

It's going to be hard to compete against that.

I also think Tivo should sue TW and other cable companies, to demand that they can provide tivo's with the digital capabilities that the TW box offers. I'd be surprised if they weren't working on it. Didn't ISP's sue to get access to provide internet via the cable modems?
Old 12-04-03, 11:43 AM
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Guys, this isn't just your good old analog DVR, this is a full fledged digital DVR/HD box. So you're getting bit-perfect timeshifting of all digital/HD programming. HD timeshifting will change everything.

Comcast is using the Motorola 6208, and has started rollout in some parts of the country.
http://broadband.motorola.com/noflash/dct6208.html

Initial reports are that the TV Guide/Gemstar menu system isn't that good, but it will improve as time goes on. I don't care either way, because it's the only way to save HD, and will offer Firewire support for archiving/external harddrives.

Only $10/mo.
Old 12-04-03, 11:43 AM
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The Time Warner DVR was basically click on the show in the channel guide, record it. It records at the Tivo equivalent of the lowest quality. There's only a ~2-3 minute buffer to rewind (rather than the 30 minutes with Tivo). No season passes, wishlists, etc (best you could do was to set a manual record for a certain channel at a certain time). No being able to start recording early/late (which made recording the NBC Thursday night lineup a mess).

The only thing I liked better about the TWC DVR than my current Tivo is that the TWC DVR was dual tuner. That's about it.
Old 12-04-03, 11:56 AM
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The TW DVR had direct access to the digital stream, the same way that the DirectTivo does. If I have Digital Cable, but want to use a Tivo, I need to stick a Tivo in between my cable box and TV. Tivo then has to convert the analog signal into mpg format.

For the life of me, I don't understand why TW didn't just license the Tivo software interface, like AT&T did. The Scientific Atlanta interface was horrible. It sucked so hard, my Wife demanded we get a second Tivo and lose the DVR.
Old 12-04-03, 12:19 PM
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Question:

Will this Comcast box know (and be able to automatically adjust the recording time), like last week for Survivor, that the Network moved this week's show from Thursday to Wednesday?

My TiVo did.

The cable supplied DVRs that I'm aware of would happily record whatever drivel was put in place of my moved show unless I physically intervened.
Old 12-04-03, 12:32 PM
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Originally posted by WildcatLH
The Time Warner DVR was basically click on the show in the channel guide, record it. It records at the Tivo equivalent of the lowest quality. There's only a ~2-3 minute buffer to rewind (rather than the 30 minutes with Tivo). No season passes, wishlists, etc (best you could do was to set a manual record for a certain channel at a certain time). No being able to start recording early/late (which made recording the NBC Thursday night lineup a mess).

The only thing I liked better about the TWC DVR than my current Tivo is that the TWC DVR was dual tuner. That's about it.
Interesting--I must have a different/newer model.
That description sounds similar to the Dish PVR.
My TWC DVR:
* has dual tuners
* has a buffer of up to an hour, I think [and sometimes, it seems like it even buffers if the box is turned off..?..]
* Quality--yes, sometimes the quality isn't that great, but I don't know why--the cable source, the source material, the channel, the hard drive space it's allotting, or the fact that I'm blowing it up to a 60" tv
* Record--you can select from the guide, you can browse lists by 'Theme' or 'Title' [I wish it did have a Search mode], and once you tell it to record something, you can set it to record Once, Everytime, Any channel, Firstrun only or All shows, etc. [in effect, the 'season pass' thing, I think.]
* Does not have wishlists.
* If the program changes schedule, I do believe it still records it--I think it compares the DVR schedule to the program guide intermittently and adjusts [obviously it can't account for things like emergency program delays, etc.]
* Interface isn't great, but I'm getting used to it.
* One cool thing is you can check out 'upcoming recordings' and delete single entries, ie, I have it set to record the Simpsons 2x a day M-F, and if I see that tomorrows is one I just saw or didn't like, I can tell it to cancel that recording, without altering the other scheduled recordings.

It sounds like TiVo does offer a few things my box doesn't, but I don't know if they are important to me [wishlists, etc.]

I agree, HD/DVR will be sweet--wonder how big the hard drives are? Doesn't HD take like 10 times the disk space to record?
Old 12-04-03, 12:43 PM
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Competition in PVR is nothing new. Even DishNetwork has their own version.
Old 12-04-03, 01:40 PM
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My TWC box never had problems recording NBC thursday nights...
Old 12-04-03, 01:43 PM
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Originally posted by shadowhawk2020
My TWC box never had problems recording NBC thursday nights...
My TiVo has never had problems with NBC Thursday nights either.
Old 12-04-03, 01:57 PM
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Comcast is the devil.
Old 12-04-03, 02:15 PM
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Originally posted by PixyJunket
Comcast is the devil.

Unfortunately, the angel (in the form of DirecTV) cannot fly into apartment since he can only fly in certain directions. Therefore, I have to deal with the devil.
Old 12-04-03, 03:27 PM
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I usually don't thread crap but I really just have to say...

COMCAST SUCKS.

Why hath thou foresaken me Bright House/TWC

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