On a few separate occasions over the last couple weeks, I’ve received both inquiries and accusations suggesting that DirecTV is out to get TiVo… given their underwhelming new DirecTV TiVo DVR. From our writeup last month:
It’s everything we expected, but nothing we hoped for. The unit features TiVo’s original standard definition user interface, now branded as their “Classic” UI, running on outdated DirecTV hardware. So it’s neither the best TiVo experience, nor is it the best DirecTV DVR.
Christopher Price of PhoneNews cornered TiVo at CES and pitched us with the provocative theory that “DTV is sabotaging TiVo by making their boxes inferior to DTV.” From his write-up lamenting DirecTV’s lack of TiVoToGo:
Representatives for TiVo blamed DirecTV squarely for not offering the technology on their units. TiVo even went as far as to say that they had offered DirecTV a solution that would ensure copy protection requirements for DirecTV, but that the service provider still mandated that TiVo remove TiVoToGo from the new generation of DirecTV-enabled TiVo HD units.
While many agree that this new DirecTV TiVo DVR isn’t very compelling, I find Chris’ theory of sabotage highly unlikely – verging on the preposterous. First, DirecTV and TiVo are not competitors. Second, DirecTV will take a bath if the deal doesn’t work out as they bankrolled development of this product and “has obligations to nationally market [TiVo], and those obligations are substantial.”
Over on Twitter, I recently pointed out that DirecTV’s relationship with TiVo isn’t substantially different than their original partnership in many respects: DirecTV is the customer, they largely determine what TiVo features they’ll (pay to) implement. Where the current deal does differ is a higher commission to TiVo per subscriber and a reciprocal do-not-sue patent clause while in effect. Unfortunately, given the subset of TiVo features combined with such a long gestation period during which DirecTV upped their “in house” DVR offering, I can’t imagine the new DirecTV TiVo will be successful. Resulting in less (perceived) incentive for DirecTV to further invest… and I expect this partnership will ultimately unravel, to be replaced by a less risky and less costly licensing of TiVo intellectual property by DirecTV (to avoid their legal department). Which sounds more like good business rather than spiteful sabotage.