Is Apple Out to Kill Tivo?

Is Apple Out to Kill Tivo?

Summary: Yeah, I'm calling it. I think Apple (and others) are about to send Cable TV and Tivo a clear message...


Yeah, I'm calling it. I think Apple (and others) are about to send Cable TV and Tivo a clear message...your time is almost up. The Web 2.0 world is about to kick the door in and escort the old methodology to pasture. And I think it is going to happen pretty quickly.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Now I've heard a lot of complaints about the Apple TV, and plenty of skeptics who think the device doesn't hit the right technical marks, but I disagree. I think it hits a number of sweet spots that make it one of the most compelling devices we've seen in some time. Other companies are trying to get into the living room, but I think this one may finally have the legs it needs to make a big impact in our lives. Bigger...yes I'm saying it...bigger than Tivo!


One of the major complaints I've heard from people is the lack of a Digital Video Recorder in the Apple TV. I was initially shocked myself and saw it as a major oversight, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense.

And now...I think that the DVR (of which I've owned many), might be reaching the end of it's usefulness.

Okay...saying "Yeah, I Apple'd it," does have the same ring as "I Tivo'd it," does...but hear me out.

Let's break down why Apple likely made the right hardware choices when building the Apple TV...and shed some light on why I'm right... 

  • Adding a tuner would likely increase the price of the device. Apple needs a sweet spot to get these units in the living room. Adding DVR would also compete with the iTunes store. That would be a big no no.
  • It was smart to leave out the DVD player. Most people already have a DVD player, so adding one might not make it a compelling feature, while also adding to the cost and reducing the margin.
  • The point of this device is to replace live television, not enhance it. Just like a DVR, the Apple TV time-shifts content, at least 24 hours from the moment it was originally broadcast. Same function, different approach. I think we'll likely see the gap in this delay getting shorter and shorter. Because of Apple's relationship to Disney, we might begin seeing ABC shows that are available almost immediately.
  • This device could likely stream "live" content from the internet in the near future. I could see getting my news this way, with only a slight buffer, similar to a DVR. This gives me pause and rewind functionality. Sports lovers will for sure want this feature. I can imagine buying a "live" football game with an RSS ticker of other game scores appearing at the bottom of the screen.
  • On average, Americans are watching 4.5 hours of TV a day. Much of that is junk we don't want to watch, including about 18 minutes of advertising per hour of television. That's over an hour per day/night of ads, just to view our favorite shows. And even using Tivo to skip over ads doesn't work entirely, since they are always looking for new ways to force us to view them. With iTunes, I have no ads to worry about and many premium cable shows run the full 30-60 minute time slot. We may also see advertisers provide some shows for free just to get a small 30 second ad in the content. Allowing is to pick which one we prefer to watch.
  • Cable TV combined with Tivo is cost prohibitive in comparison. We pay it because we've been trained to pay it, but that doesn't make it a better value. Let's break it down over two years based on my favorite shows:

First, iTunes/Apple TV
Next, Cable TV/Tivo 
The difference? 

Over two years I would see a savings of about $645 by choosing iTunes/Apple TV over cable television and Tivo. I own the content and can watch it any time I like, can stream it over the home network, I can put it on an iPod with very little trouble, and I'm only limited in storage capacity by the Apple TV and my own home computer storage. Even if I knock out the Tivo, I still see a savings of $215 over Cable TV. In addition, I get more time for reading, getting up off my butt, doing laundry (wait, I see this backfiring).

So let's recap...

The Apple TV is a time-shifting media viewer that allows me to buy only the media content I want to watch, when I want to watch it, with pause/rewind/fast forward, at a reasonable price, with no monthly subscription fee, small hardware footprint, works with Macs and PCs, automatically downloads my season passes when available, doesn't require any BS to move it to my iPod or another computer, could very well stream "live" television like news and sports (as it does movie previews), supports HD, I only pay for content not service, doesn't force me to watch commercials, and gives me back 18 minutes of my life for every hour I spend watching broadcast shows.

And why would I want Cable/Tivo?

So Apple...I am opening the door to my living room. Come on in. 

Topic: Apple

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  • Quality

    Fact is internet video quality still sucks. Until we get HDTV quality video without buffers, we're tied to broadcast TV. When FiOS gets out here, though, I'm all over that.
    glocks out
  • Misleading

    You stated that the average american watches 4.5 hours of TV/day, which would be 30.5 hours per week, not the 5+ hours you used to compare the cost of iTunes to Cable TV. If you use a more accurate number of 30 hours, or even 25 hours, the cost comparison is still considerably in Cable's favor. Not to mention that I'm interested in watching Heroes and 24 "live", or delayed by an hour or two because I get home late, not an entire day. The fact that Apple can't record "live" TV seems to be the more likely reason they excluded the DVR from the device since DVR's are used to record "live" shows for later viewing. I like the idea, and it's a great device, but I wouldn't consider buying it until it's a real cable TV replacement but I'm not an "early adopter" anyway.
    • Clarification...

      What I said was that I would compare Unlimited cable viewing to my own habits of the shows I like to watch. Granted that if you want to go on just the "bulk" aspect of unlimited TV (which gives you 100+ chanels of which you can only watch one at a time)...cable wins...but I also stand by my idea that Americans watch a lot more tv simply because they are waiting for something to be on. I think people are much more in tune to paying for what they want to watch instead of just watching crap because it happens to be on.

      I don't mind waiting a day for a fact I watch the Daily Show a day late every day...and I don't find it less entertaining because it is late.

      I think there are a lot of people out there who are only interested in watching "their: shows...and could care less about the other 98% of what happens to be on on the other 100+ channels 365 days a year.
      Not saying this is for everyone...but I think the value of paying for what you want when you want it and
  • What are you, a Bachelor?

    The kids have their shows, the wife has hers, and I have mine. While I can't speak for others, the diversity of our viewing preferences probably adds significantly more hours to our "family" hours per week than is practical for any individual. I like my Tivo+Cable, thank-you-very-much, because it is constantly getting new content, guessing about content I may like, and satisfies the varied tastes of everyone in the family.
    • Nope...not a bachelor.

      Let's drop the hardware cost and just go on the fees:

      First...a lot of premium content is now available on iTunes. To get that in cable I have to get a premium package...which generally now has to be digital. That's about $80-$90 a month (not to mention rental hardware costs). In two years that's $2,280 with Tivo service.

      That's an awful lot of iTunes season passes...which I'll average out at $25 since some are more and some are less. That's 91 season passes you could get over two years...and you own the content.

      I'll give you that if someone is a TV junkie...and watches a lot of television...this might not be the best value...but if you only really watch a certain amount of shows in a week that you really care about...I don't see the value in cable and Tivo.

      And if Apple or someone starts a subscription service (like Netflix)...I think it is pretty much game over.
      • Creative Math

        How are you averaging out iTunes season passes to $25? The only show on your
        list that was less than $25 was a show that only had 11 episodes in a season. The
        average cost is closer to $35 even on your short list.

        And what premium content are you talking about on iTunes? I didn't see anything
        from HBO or Cinemax at iTunes when I just looked. Showtime is the only PPV
        channel with content on iTunes and they also happen to be the cheapest PPV
        channel package you can get on cable, about $10/month more than your original
        figure or $15 if you throw in the digital cable box fee. So, you're up to $80/
        month with Tivo and at $35 per season, you're at about 45 season passes. Add in
        TivoToGo and burn DVD's and I also own the content if I choose. And I can easily
        take that disc to a friend's house and watch without having to do some jiggering
        on his computer (hope he has iTunes and/or AppleTV). And I'm not limited to the
        content on iTunes. If I want to catalog Bob Barker's final months hosting The Price
        is Right, that's my peragotive. Freedom is seriously lacking with the iTunes/
        AppleTV model.
        • Dude...

          keep your cable...your DVR...your DVDs...if it ain't for ain't for you. I obviously can't bend your mind at all...and you aren't gonna change we can just leave it at that. Come back in a year and we'll see how things turned out.
          • Great Comeback

            I'm sorry, but your article is plain nonsense. And you can't really defend it except
            with this lame defense. I've seen a couple of articles just like this one, and they all
            seem to be written by the statistical anamoly that only watches 1 TV show a day.
            You admitted that the average is closer to 5 hours a day, but let's take your
            argument that most of that is crap they don't want to and be ultraconservative and
            save the average REAL TV viewing time is 2 shows a night, 14 a week. At $35 a
            season, the price difference between Tivo/Cable and AppleTV/iTunes becomes
            fairly small.

            I know I won't change your mind, but you could at least write an accurate arcticle.
            I can easily spin the numbers to make Cable/Tivo a better value, just like you did
            with AppleTV.
          • Okay...

            do so.

            And in the meantime...I think this person makes some good points as well:


          • BTW...

            My comeback is fine...I just don't see how going around and around with you is getting anyone anywhere...go look at the URL's I left above...and tell me that's a great value.
          • I Must Have Missed Something

            I didn't see anything new at either link. The first basically confirms your number that basic cable + Tivo is $60...and that the author added on a lot of services making his bill really high. What did I miss?

            As for the second, another analysis by someone who apparently doesn't like watching TV in the first place. 1.5 hours/day, well below the average American...Again putting that figure up to what the typical consumer actually watches, and cable is still cheaper than iTunes plus it offers random access that iTunes completely lacks. It's just another creative math article like yours.
  • No comparison at all

    I'll stick with Tivo and skip the whole crapple TV thing. No DVR, no DVD playback. No thanks.

    The XBox 360 with IPTV coming later this year looks alot more compelling than this.

    It's not even close. But I'll give Apple this, at least it's white. Oooooooooooooh. White.
  • Add Cost of Internet (NET is not free)

    No matter what net neutrality pundits say, net is still not free. You should add cost of an internet connection to the equation.
    • Why?

      That sounds like saying you might as well add the cost of a phone line since many cable boxes and some Tivo boxes require them. Not to mention that people who generally can afford the higher cable packages and the Tivo already HAVE an internet connection. If you have Tivo you already ahve to have either a phone line or a Internet connection so it cancels itself out.
      • You are right

        You are right, Tivo needs a telephone line (minimum). But Can the basic Telephone connect be sufficient to download 600 MB of TV programs everyday for iTV?
        • No...

          The Tivo need for a phone line is basically to enable the box each month as you pay for the service fee. Newer boxes can use ethernet/wi-fi but the point is that you HAVE to have some type of connection so I think comparing the internet costs should be dropped from the equation.

          As for speed and downloads...a regular modem connection is not intended for the Apple tv and would just suck. This is why this product is really more attractive to people with high speed internet.
          • Chicken and the Egg

            And what of all the people whose only access to high-speed internet is the cable
            company? The cable companies pretend you can get just high-speed but it's usually
            at such a higher rate that for another $10-20 you can get digital cable tossed in.
            Where I live now, the cable company is your only source for high-speed.

            When I lived in SC, I had high-speed internet, digital cable and DVR for less than
            $100 a month. The only other option was DSL, which would require paying for home
            phone service which is redundant since I have a cell phone. The DSL/phone option
            was about the same price as the cable bundle. Which is the better bargain?
    • I don't subscribe to cable but still

      I subscribe only to net and not to cable for various reasons, but still: I like to do math:
      if you want to just watch 2 Hours of video every day on AppleTV, that is 120 Minutes x 5 MB = 600 MB. It can take anything from 10-20 Minutes at this speed. (Can you buy high speed internet such as DSL by minutes? May be Muni-Wifi can be done, unless you are pirating your neighbours wifi singles). Even Cheapest DSL connection would set you off by 24$ + Whatever you pay for Basic Telephone (which I am forced to have right now). That itself amounts to 288$ a year, or 384$ if you go for higher speed (again i have not included basic telephony charge). So difference is NIL.
  • BTW...I like Tivo...

    The point of the piece is that if cable becomes does Tivo...and the general idea of what the Apple TV does is very similar to what a DVR does. Hey...I've still got a DVR...I just like the idea of this device better.

    One person mentioned that the Tivo recommends content you might like...well so does iTunes.

    I'm not saying this is going to change overnight, but I think the writing is on the wall here and the way we've been thinking of getting our tv since I was a small about to be flipped upside down.
  • Death of DVR

    Several companies are also clipping at Apple's heels in terms of implementing technology that will allow viewers to uniquely navigate and watch "VOD" on next generation set-top boxes. Cisco, Scientific Atlanta, ChoiceStream and Microsoft are all working with leading cable companies in creating new UI's that will end the liner television experience that we are so accustomed to..