Is Apple Out to Kill Tivo?

Yeah, I'm calling it. I think Apple (and others) are about to send Cable TV and Tivo a clear message...
Written by Alan Graham, Contributor

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. 

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