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Like a variety of publications and blogs, I came across Verizon’s DVR press release yesterday. However, instead of speculating how the telcos will battle the cablecos with new features or getting hung up on the underlying technology I’ll give you two different reasons why this a significant announcement.
I assume many of my readers are TiVo owners. As such, you realize these “new” media features (multi-room viewing, music & photos from PC) have been available for years to those of us in the club. Which brings me to point 1: A mainstream company (Motorola, by way of Verizon) other than TiVo is providing set-top box to set-top box multi-room viewing functionality. In addition to TiVo’s intuitive and powerful interface, much of their competitive advantage has been offering home media features… which are now being commoditized by competitors (Moxi and SciAtl are others).
Point 2 has to do with pricing. While we’ve seen two tiers in some cable markets for a HD DVR versus a SD DVR, charging for specific DVR features has never been as clear cut as it is now with Verizon’s new model (unless we count TiVo’s abandoned HMO fee). Pay $12.95/mo for X & Y, or pay $19.95/mo for X, Y, & download Z. This is just the beginning of a cell-phone á la carte pricing model era for DVR service (those wireless carriers plan to get in on the action as well: Verizon, Sprint, etc).
Not that I want to spend my day debating or correcting other blogs (and I know I make my fair share of mistakes), but I feel compelled to report the 6416 is not Verizon’s first DVR and in fact this model is currently deployed in many locations. Additionally, I wouldn’t characterize moving shows in-home from one room to another or onto PC TiVoToGo-style as “place shifting” though that is arguable. Maybe.
I assume you recall that TiVo went to court, spanked EchoStar, traded press release posturing, and then… nothing. A bench trial was held at the end of June, but the judge has yet to rule on treble damages or TiVo’s request for a permanent injunction. In the meantime, EchoStar appears to be manipulating the system by dragging the case out (including not providing court ordered documents) — TiVo called them on it last week in two letters to the court:
Delay is a benefit to EchoStar and a harm to TiVo. Every day without an injunction allows EchoStar to continue to expand its market share based on products found to infringe TiVo’s patent. TiVo respectfully submits that the Court can and should rule upon TiVo’s pending motions without waiting upon EchoStar’s prematurely-filed post-judgment motions.
I’m what you’d call a casual gamer — I’ll play a game a few hours a day over a long weekend maybe once a month. I joined Gamefly.com, a service like Netflix, in 2005 as an economical way to get a different title each month.
I’ve been downsizing recently in preparation for a move and decided it was time to unload the Xbox. So I cancelled Gamefly and shipped back The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. A week or so later I get an email from GameFly saying they haven’t received the game and they will charge me the full cost of Riddick… Though all will be forgiven if I “reactivate your account.” Huh? At this point I should mention when I tried to cancel online they kept throwing up extra screens to dissuade me. Since the first email, I’ve received two more. The final email I received this morning informed me I will be billed $52.49, though I have 60 days to return the game via Registered Mail to have the charge reversed. Of course, I also have the option of reactivating my account online.
I tried contacting support earlier this week, but their phone lines don’t open until 9AM PST weekdays (doesn’t help me much since I try to take care of these things first thing in the morning EST). So I fired off an email to the provided email address which was promptly ignored. I’d call them today regarding today’s email however they don’t staff their phone lines today (Saturday). Interesting how that works, eh?
There are three possibilities here:
- The USPS lost the game. I find this unlikely as I shipped back two Netflix discs at the same time which successfully made it out of the local drop box (where most postal crimes seem to occur). What are the odds the last game I ship back is the only one they lose?
- GameFly got the disc but hasn’t processed it yet or has misplaced it. This is a distinct possibility given the horribly slow response times I’ve experienced in sending/receiving games.
- GameFly is manipulating me. Initially I would have said this is unlikely and a paranoid thought, however the cancellation roadblocks combined with warning emails offering amnesty if I resubscribe to avoid “delinquent” fines makes me wonder.
So how will I proceed? I’m hopeful this is a bluff on their part or internal inefficiencies that will be corrected shortly without my intervention. Though the second a $52.49 charge shows up on my AmEx card, it will be contested. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, I’ll have to waste time getting a used game off ebay or Amazon for >$10 and send it to them via Registered Mail. If I’m forced to go to that much trouble, you can guarantee I’ll be blogging about this again which is possibly more effective than dealing with the BBB. Regardless of the outcome, when I purchase a 360 with HD-DVD this fall, I’ll be getting discs via a service other than GameFly.
UPDATE: I just received an email from GameFly. Apparently they thought I wanted to buy the game since I didn’t respond to their emails. Uh, hello I have to contact them whenever I don’t want to buy a game? Never mind that the email said send the game back (which I had) OR I could reactivate (I think not) online. Last but not least, I guess they forgot they were responding to the email I did send them. “Kevin” informed me the $52.49 charge would be reversed.