RIP ReplayTV (1999 – 2011)

Dave Zatz —  June 18, 2011 — 47 Comments

Quite frankly, I’m surprised ReplayTV services have carried on since DirecTV acquired the intellectual property from D&M Holdings back in 2007. But the curtain call is nearly upon us, as onscreen messaging and the updated website indicate:

The ReplayTV Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) Service will be permanently discontinued on July 31, 2011. After this date, owners of ReplayTV DVR units will still be able to manually record analog TV programs, but will not have the benefit of access to the interactive program guide. Effective immediately, monthly billing for the ReplayTV service to remaining customers has been suspended. The industry conversion to HDTV is complete and ReplayTV DVRs are unable to take advantage of the wealth of HDTV programming. Please contact your service provider for current offerings.

Of course, ReplayTV and TiVo were the DVR pioneers… that disrupted the television industry. (Although, ReplayTV’s founder now portrays the DVR as transitional – perhaps to be expected given his current perch atop Roku.) ReplayTV had a rocky time of it early on as the company flirted with bankruptcy and changed hands a few times, their pricing structure also seemed to regularly vacillate between subscription-free and subscription services as they tried to find a critical mass of customers, and perhaps, most dramatically, the entertainment industry took Replay’s commercial skip functionality into court.

ReplayTV was actually my first DVR. I didn’t care for TiVo’s cutesy presentation or “Live Guide” – whereas ReplayTV provided the traditional grid guide I was looking for, without having to go through Comcast, and component output. Beyond that, the community developed Java DVArchive software took ReplayTV to another level, in allowing me to simply offload recordings and manage the DVR from any computer in the house. As you can see above, from the basement junk pile, Mari was also a ReplayTV customer (on Panasonic hardware). So come 7/31, we’ll both share a moment of silence and shed a tear.

47 responses to RIP ReplayTV (1999 – 2011)

  1. There’s some talk on the forums of continuing to provide guide data after the shutoff, as folks are doing with original Series1 TiVo units in the UK. Additionally, one note I read seemed to imply after the central servers go down, Replay boxes will lose the ability to be reconfigured for other cable providers or box and keep accurate time. Who knows. And as Ben D says, “How good can it be, if it isn’t HD?”

  2. This is a sad day indeed. I remember having a choice of which service (TiVo or Replay) waaaay back when and it was not an easy choice. I ended up choosing TiVo back then (and still have it in a box….too emotional to get rid of it I guess).
    Still I could have easily chosen Replay, that automatic commercial skip was a great selling point.
    Farewell Replay……

  3. Wow, that’s sad. ReplayTV was my first DVR also. In late 1999 when I got the 2020 from Amazon. My friends were amazed at the tech. I remember waiting and waiting and waiting for the next software update.

    And I remember furiously debating the TiVo vs ReplayTV arguments online, initially debating RTV.

    I then upgraded to a 5000 series. I still used it up until last year with Poopli.

    Over that time I had 3 (or 4?) TiVo’s including an original 14 hour until, a Series 2 and now my current original Series 3 unit which I LOVE and think it’s amazing with the CableCARDs installed.

    RTV will fondly be remembered as the way I was the first of my friends – for many years – to have a DVR.

    God speed, ReplayTV. You’ll be missed. But that Santa Claus Coca-Cola Pause Ad won’t be :)

  4. Wow, that sucks.

    We had four different units over the years (all lifetime service) but sold them off when we got HD. I sort of assumed–maybe naively–that it’d be around forever.

    I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for ReplayTV.

  5. Lol so much for my life time service. Despite having lived in the garage since we got a HDTV, it was by and far the best and most innovative DVR I ever owned as a stand alone box

  6. Looks like I’m going to have to do some investigation. I still have 4 ReplayTV units chugging away recording standard definition “backups” of the network programs. It has saved my butt on more than one occasion when my HTPC failed to record the HD version of a network show.

    I still have a 2020 and 3030 (both with larger drives) and also two 5040′s (again with larger drives). I had a drive in one of the older machines die a few months ago and had to rummage around in my old stuff to find an old ATA drive to put in as a replacement.

    Alas, maybe it is time to pull them out of the AV rack and retire them for good. :( They have served me well over the last 12 years. I bought my first 2020 in November of 1999, the 3030 in July of 2000, and the 2 5040′s in mid 2004. All still chugging away as of right now.

  7. I’m not surprised, since ReplayTV was really already dead before D&M Holdings sold the IP to DirecTV in 2007. It had already been a couple of years since they basically stopped development. It’s really lingered for a while.

  8. Count me another early Replay TV customer. $800 for a 2020? With a larger drive. Introduced us to how fantastic having a DVR was. RIP.

  9. MZ, until the web page was updated on the 15th it still said “Coming in 2006, For the PC” — so, yeah, they’ve been in stasis for a long, long time.

  10. I’m OK with ReplayTV going under the waves, since I never got on board with the technology. (I spent my money on DVD’s, heavy Netflix plans, and hacked EPROM DVD players to defeat output copy-protection instead at the time. DVD output to mini-DV tape to computer input was a non-lossy workflow that rocked.)

    However, I’m still anxiously awaiting the new upgrade promised for my Commodore 64…

  11. Dave – you mention in your first post about the talk “in the forums” – which forums are you referring do? I am definitely be interested in squeezing some more life out of my RTV. My elderly in-laws don’t care so much about that newfangled high definition TV, so my old Showstopper unit is plugging along over at their house.

  12. bummer, I’ve got a couple 5040′s with lifetime in various places around the country still providing service. Wonder if/when they’ll go dark. Should have sold em off a while ago.

  13. I assume there’s some discussion on AVS, but the two or three I was specifically referring to were unfamiliar to me. Here’s one:
    http://www.planetreplay.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=15657

  14. As I remember it:

    Replay was first. TiVo came slightly after.

    That being said, I’d like to put the DVR years behind me. I forget which cable company it was but one of them was talking about keeping all the DVR bits in a central location so that if multiple people recorded the same program we could watch it whenever and just on-demand it via SDV. This made a lot of sense to me but it had a problem in court.

  15. TiVo started shipping the end of March 1999 (Bluemoon) and ReplayTV started shipping in April (according to Wikipedia). I got my first DVR(s) in 2001.

  16. “I got my first DVR(s) in 2001.”

    I do remember seriously going over the pros and cons of getting a DVR in the ’99-’00 timeframe. I’m a voracious consumer of video content, and I could see the beauty in the concept.

    I read up on the two offerings, and even sought out a unit to play with. But I just couldn’t justify the cost, considering the dollars I was sinking into my happy DVD use scheme outlined upthread. I made do with VHS recording for my beloved National Basketball Association broadcasts and The Sopranos.

    I ended up getting my first DVR when I read about the beginning of my local cableco’s DVR rollout in ’04, requested one, and they gave me a Scientific-Atlanta box for next to nothing with a beautifully functional UI that bested TiVo’s in certain ways.

    Then HD changed the game entirely, and that’s where I happily went TiVo, since HD made multicast much more valuable to me, and TiVo gave me the best control over the content and experience.

  17. Didn’t know they we’re still around.

    A 4020 was my first DVR and I sold it for more than I paid since the com skip was removed on newer models.

    As Dave quoted me, they’ve been dead to me since I went HD in 2003.

    My DVRs:
    ReplayTV
    SA Sara
    DirecTV HD TiVo
    Series 3
    Vista Media Center
    Windows 7 Media Center

    Desperatly seeking the next while I continue to be dissatisfied with all the streaming options.

  18. “As Dave quoted me, they’ve been dead to me since I went HD in 2003.”

    The funny thing is that one of the reasons I put my money into DVD’s instead of DVR’s around the turn of the millennia had to do with PQ.

    The amount of compression the MSO’s were squeezing into newfangled digital cable was abominable compared to DVD’s. The MSO MPEG2 bit-rate was very low compared to the DVD bit-rate. I was constantly being bothered by artifacts in motion, skies, and water in multicast, so I went with the better PQ of DVD’s.

  19. “A 4020 was my first DVR and I sold it for more than I paid since the com skip was removed on newer models.”

    Ditto for me on the cracked EPROM DVD player I had that was region-free and macrovision-free (to allow video out from DVD’s).

    They cracked down on allowing ZIF EPROM chips in DVD players, so I was able to sell my cracked EPROM DVD player for lots more than I paid for it.

  20. “Desperatly seeking the next while I continue to be dissatisfied with all the streaming options.”

    It ain’t really streaming, but TiVo + Amazon VOD = satisfied bliss.

  21. I have two 5040′s and love them still to this day.

    So sad.

  22. ReplayTV was ahead of its time. I still have a 5040 in a guest room that works great.

    It still surprises me that Tivo “won” the DVR wars with how innovative ReplayTV was compared to Tivo. EVen today, strictly as a DVR, I would choose ReplayTV over Tivo.

    Oh well, pour one out for ReplayTV. You have been missed.

  23. “It still surprises me that Tivo “won” the DVR wars with how innovative ReplayTV was compared to Tivo.”

    Isn’t that how it always works in video? VHS beats Betamax, and on and on…

  24. Man, DVArchive+Replay was just a match made in heaven. I had such a killer whole home setup way ahead of time using a Channel Plus distro system to control my Replay in my closet. :::sniff::: A sad day indeed.

  25. With 6 weeks before the shutdown the ReplayTV user community is churning on work-arounds for the situation. Like the non-US users, you’ll probably be able to have an old PC in the basement, next to that bleach bottle, take over from the DNNA servers.

    I’ll give up my replays as soon as I see a better solution. It’s certainly not the Comcast or Verizon FIOS dvr boxes.

  26. @NotDeadYet: For me that was Media Center. With extenders and some kind of NAS box you can stream around your home and have nearly limitless storage, plus there are add-ins that do the commercial skipping. There is no more Poopli but with the Internet there are ways to get shows you miss.

    Once they turn off the servers I will either buy another 360 or see if I can find a purpose built extender.

  27. ReplayTVLives June 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    @Peteynice, What add-ons are you doing CA with ? I have been running Win 7 MC for awhile and it is on our main TV. We cut cable awhile back and only do online and OTA HDTV. The 3 RTV 4504 units all happily record (in SD) the HD content from converter boxes using EPG from local DISH provider setting.
    I have always favored RTV’s UI and features. It was sad when they opted to not make the 4xxx and 5xxx series compatible. More sad when they pulled CA and IVS out of the 55xx line.
    Using DVARCHIVE with the 4xxx series is awesome, not as feature rich as a 5xxx but at least a decade ahead of what any other vendor offered.

    Windows 7 Media Center works for us, though the in-house streaming doesn’t work as seamlessly as the 4504′s does. I still have the 4504′s in use and hope they can continue post-July 31 —- though without EPG, using them for manual record will be too much hassle and they will go out in the next of recycling.

  28. Hard to believe so many people are still using non-HD capable DVRs. With SageTV no longer an option, I’d suggest Windows Media Center (no monthly fees but have to buy a tuner) or TiVo (can do a lot of things automatically using kmttg).

  29. @ReplayTVLives: I used the LifeHacker guide to set it up. It is not the easiest thing to do but it works.

    http://lifehacker.com/5490091/how-to-skip-commercials-in-windows-7-media-center

    I have found the opposite experience with Media Center and streaming. My extenders are always rock solid and since they don’t need turners they are very flexible.

    @Ivan Y: Why? HD is great but the UI and features of ReplayTV are very compelling. To me, I really only demand HD for sports and movies and I don’t record many of them. For network sitcoms and dramas or the daily show SD is perfectly fine.

  30. I dont understand this. I paid for a lifetime subscription to the programming guide. Direct TV bought replay’s obligations when it bought the replay. Isnt this like buying a company & terminating product warranty’s of the purchased company

  31. “I dont understand this. I paid for a lifetime subscription to the programming guide.”

    “Lifetime” service is on the same famous list that begins with “The check is in the mail”…

  32. How long ‘lifetime’ lasts is a question for the courts.

    IIRC, Tivo amortizes ‘lifetime’ payments over only 4 years, so those of you with older Tivos might need to worry…

  33. zil, good luck with your claim. TiVo Series 1 owners in the UK learned June 1 (or thereabouts) that “Lifetime” can’t be taken literally. And I assume there’s related legalese which insulates them and probably not enough customers who care to make a legal go of it. As far as DirecTV, they bought Replay’s patent portfolio – not customer base, which was retained by D&M:

    Today D&M announced that we have sold ReplayTV® to DIRECTV, a US-based satellite television provider. D&M will continue to provide service to the current subscribers for the foreseeable future but will not solicit additional customers. All remaining assets, with the exception of the office space and some furniture, will be assumed by DIRECTV.

    So the “foreseeable future” turns out to be 3.5 years.

  34. IMPORTANT: Please read and e-mail me with your feedback. IMPORTANT

    As I cancelled my phone line years ago and have been using Vonage for my RTV, I have been thinking about trying to develop a way of updating my RTV(series 1) without a phone line.

    I was thinking about this…

    1) Plug my RTV into my modem on my PC.
    2) Develop and run an app on my PC that would handle the RTV modem handshaking and would feed the channel listings from a TVGuide like webservice (I am sure that is available out there somewhere.)

    Bingo – No need for a phone line or the RTV service.

    I am a programmer, but I have never handled modem handshaking like this. Maybe someone can tell me why this isn’t possible, but it should work and it shouldn’t be too hard to develop if we do it before the clock runs out while we can still monitor & reverse engineer the communications between our RTVs and the RTV service.

    MAYBE WE COULD KEEP OUR REPLAY TVS WORKING IF WE WORKED ON AN OPEN-SOURCE APPLICATION TO HANDLE THIS.

    If you are interested from a user standpoint or are able to help with development, please e-mail me at “wednesdaytennis at yahoo dot com”

    - Ron

  35. I signed on for a lifetime contract. Cutting off the service of the guide and programming feature seems like breach of contract to me. They should reimburse customers. I have Directv which supposedly bought ReplayTv and still can use my DVR. Only drawback is when you record it has to be set on the channel you want to record on your dish receiver.

  36. JO, read comment #33. Go after Denon & Marantz if you want relief. Although, I’m betting your agreement has language that allows this. You’d probably need an AG to back you up and enough upset customers to get anywhere as seen with “unlimited” data skirmishes.

  37. To be clear, the law is literal and not subject to interpretation. When you purchase “Lifetime” programming, such as is the case with the four units we have, “Lifetime” refers to the lifetime of the machine. What Panasonic did not count on was that the machines would last – pretty much – forever. We got our first Replay in the late 90′s and here in 2011, they still work just as well. We’ll probably have to use a computer for the WiRNS workaround, but it’s not like I don’t have a few dozen of them hanging around. If the unit is still working, then the service should still be available. This is a contract – the company cannot unilaterally cancel the contract based on “the wealth of HD services” that they cannot accurately cover. There were no HD services when ReplayTV came out or when they offered Lifetime services and nobody expects them to upgrade the machines. We do, however, expect them to honor their contract and provide lifetime program guides and recording services and to cancel is a breach of contract at the very least.

  38. I’d like to see this “contract” everyone keeps referring to. ;)

  39. We purchased a lifetime service and it is programmed into the machine as such. Lifetime service was very costly for me, $900 for 3 machines. At the end of the day, it is panasonic’s responsibility to make sure it’s fullfilled. They are who collected my huge fee, seperate fromt he cost of the machines, themselves. If they have problems with their ‘supplier’, that is their issue to remedy. I plan on making damn sure I’m compensated for the breach.

  40. Not dead yet, sir.

    WiRNS (www.wirns.com, see also http://www.planetreplay.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=32) will keep your Replays in the pink. Plus a lot more.

    There will also be a service available similar to the current ReplayTV service, details still in formation, http://www.planetreplay.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=15763

  41. Like a lot of others I bought a lifetime service from them. I would expect it to be honored or refunded my money.

  42. I just updated the channel guide on my 4x via DVArchive. Don’t give up! Now, if someone knows how to update modem only RePlays… I did see something about SchedulesDirectdotorg

  43. Just got a notice on my replayTV, they are NOT cancelling the service. Due to customer demand, they are keeping it going indefinitely! YEAY!

    Just wish I hadn’t bought that lifetime TIVO on ebay.

  44. ReplayTV is NOT DISCONTINUING IT’S PROGRAM GUIDE. They say it’s due to all the positive comments, I think it’s more likely due to the fact that “lifetime” means “lifetime” and these units lasted much longer than anticipated. I don’t know if they’re planning to reinstate fees, but as the owner of 3 units, I am well pleased.

  45. so excited that they are continuing, but i am really curious of how they can stop when i paid for a lifetime membership…….. i didnt pay for 7 years but LIFETIME…. i was thinking of class action lawsuit or something. they are lucky. yes i own 2 of these, have replaced one hard drive and love them. i hate cable dvr you can organize, rename etc. the interface is just sooo much better………….

  46. The original company with which each of us may have signed lifetime contracts went bankrupts years ago. bankruptcy means the termination of obligations that can’t be met.

    Now, has anyone else just in the last week found they are no longer able to get channel guide updates? After the announcement that service would continue past July 2011, everything was working fine until about a week ago.

    I guess I can rely on manual recording, but boy I liked the fact that replay would not record if the show went on hiatus or was preempted for a week.

  47. How do you do a manual record? My unit will not do anything except say it needs to update.

    I’m highly disappointed they cut my lifetime subscription. I really miss having the unit.

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