While those of us in the know were aware RCN has been deploying customized TiVo Premiere units to all-comers in the DC area the last few weeks, a press release and updated landing page now make it official. Unlike the retail TiVo Premiere ($299), RCN’s rendition is currently limited to the the original TiVo interface. But what you gain in functionality and support is pretty substantial.
For only a few bucks more over the monthly cost of the generic RCN DVR, TiVo renters end up with a much better experience. More storage, more features, better UI. Compared to a retail TiVo, the RCN includes over 10,000 hours of On Demand content – transparently utilizing SeaChange technology and RCN broadband to get it done. While features like YouTube and TiVoToGo are enabled, and something not seen in prior relationships like DirecTV, someone has made the decision to prohibit access to Netflix and Amazon VOD. Yet it’s not a unilateral blockage of third party VOD service, as Blockbuster On Demand is available. Go figure. (Given their respective catalogs, for competitive reasons, it’d make more sense to block AMZN and BBI while allowing Netflix.)
In the long run, it’s possible a RCN-provided TiVo (max: $20/mo) could cost more than it’s retail counterpart. But official cable-co support is priceless. They will figure out any CableCARD problems. They will replace defective units. And if a better retail TiVo comes along, cancel the rental and grab it. Other than the loss of Netflix, I’m having a hard time seeing any downside.