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HD TiVo, way too expensive

I didn’t see this one in the FAQ, so I’ll ask the question here: Can someone explain to me why the just-released Series3 TiVo (aka TiVo HD) costs $800? (!!) I’ve been waiting for this damn thing for months/years now, but I just can’t justify spending that much money when Time Warner’s (admittedly inferior in many ways) HD DVR is $7/mo. Hell, we only get ~12 HD channels in this backwater burg anyway, so downgrading to a regular cable box and hooking up the old TiVo is an option as well.

TiVo’s next priciest box is the 180-hour Series2 for $130.1 What’s in that box that’s worth the extra $670? Is it the dual HD tuners? The THX? (Maybe Lucas charges exorbitant sums of money for THX certification?) The extra hard drive space for the additional 170 hours of programming? The CableCard inputs? The backlit remote? What?

[1] Although the Series2’s service fee is $20/mo versus $13/mo for the Series3, based on a 1-year contract. On a three-year contract, the S2’s service drops to $17/mo while the S# would still be $13/mo. Over three years, that brings the total price of the S3 to
~$1270 compared to ~$740 for the S2, a difference of $530.

Reader comments

Mike BSep 12, 2006 at 8:55PM

Compare to how much more processing power is recommended to show HD Quicktime movies:

Apple Quicktime HD System Recommendations

David ElySep 12, 2006 at 9:00PM

This doesn't answer the whole question, but I remember reading somewhere that it actually has 8 tuners in it, 2 each of 4 different kinds. Each cable company outputs a different kind of signal, so to make it work with any setup it has to have hardware for each kind.

hudsonSep 12, 2006 at 9:05PM

Remember the High-Def DirectTV TiVo premiered at $999. Not until DirectTV decided to dump TiVo did they plunge to $199. They held the $999 prices for ages.

crazymonkSep 12, 2006 at 9:11PM

I too only get ~12 HD channels in Las Vegas, but with HBO included in those 12 channels, I'm hesitant to stop receiving the HD signal. Think about it: do you really want to downgrade your The Wire viewings to NTSC?

jon dealSep 12, 2006 at 9:13PM

The extra $670 is the "early adaptor" surcharge, I'm guessing.

kwcSep 12, 2006 at 9:23PM

A minor correction: over three years, the S3 is actually $1098 as they are offering a 3-year service plan for the Series 3 for $299 (i.e. same price as 2-year plan)

josh mishellSep 12, 2006 at 9:35PM

Yeah, $800 is a lot to spend on something like that when you can pay $10/month in Denver for it. I couldn't imagine using the same DVR for 7 years, so you probably wouldn't break even paying for the Tivo-branded box.

I'm still disappointed in the number of advertisements that have come out in the last few years that play on HD stations, but sadly aren't shot in HD. Yes, I know I'm an idiot for watching some commercials, but you have to watch some when you're a graphic designer.

DonnieSep 12, 2006 at 9:38PM

It'll be a cold day in hell when I drop my Xbox Media Center for anything. I'll ride that thing until its death. Although it doesn't do well with digital surround (that I know of)... it can output component HD like a mother. Used Xbox, modchip, and a big hard disk cost me around $200.

davis freebergSep 12, 2006 at 9:46PM

If you transfer an existing lifetime subscription you are all in for $1,000. That may sound like a lot, but over the next five years you'll pay $420 to your cable company and in San Francisco I will pay $600 to mine for DVR rentals. Even today a five year old TiVo's with a lifetime subscription fetches a nice resell value on Ebay, assuming I can get $200 for resale in five years, then the real cost works out to be about to about $14 per month over a five year period. You might not be willing to pay twice as much for your DVR, but with Dual tuner HDTV and that great interface, I'm certainly willing to pay an extra $4 per month just to get the features that TiVo offers. Not everyone will know that they will want to be a customer that long, but I've had time shifting for 6 years now and there is no way I would ever go back to regular TV. Now that I have a series 3, I'll never have to go back to regular HDTV.

Ryan SchroederSep 12, 2006 at 10:23PM

there's a post on that listed the introductory prices for each of TiVo's models and the S3 was inline with other introductions. Consensus there seems to be that prices will come down (or rebates will come back) before xmas, which, of course, is just speculation. There does seem to be a lot of people willing to pony up though. I just got an HDTV this week and I'm going to try to hold off as long as possible with OTA an old S2, the Best Buy sign-up-for-our-credit-card-and-get-0%-for-36-months deal is looking pretty good on the other hand.

jkottkeSep 12, 2006 at 10:27PM

Compare to how much more processing power is recommended to show HD Quicktime movies

Good point...I meant to include that as one of my questions. A faster processor, especially one meant to deal with 2 simultaneous HD streams, would be more expensive.

Do you really want to downgrade your The Wire viewings to NTSC?

We get HBO in HD here too, but we watched all of the first three seasons on DVD (which is not HD quality), have been watching season 4 episodes On Demand (non-HD) a week before they air, and they're not letterbox anyway, so it doesn't matter much. If Six Feet Under, which was shot in widescreen HD, were still on, I'd have to think about it.

A minor correction: over three years, the S3 is actually $1098 as they are offering a 3-year service plan for the Series 3 for $299 (i.e. same price as 2-year plan)

That's for calculation was for the pay-as-you-go options.

I've had time shifting for 6 years now and there is no way I would ever go back to regular TV

I've been using TiVo since 1999 and had a similar reaction to it. You could pry it out of my cold, dead hand, etc. etc. But we stopped using it because of this HD issue and haven't used it for the past year. And it hasn't been so bad. There aren't any shows I watch religiously anymore (aside from The Wire), so I usually just end up watching whatever is on or, if there is something in particular I want to catch, I make time for it when it's on. It's all very quaint. But if we started using it again, I'm sure the crack-like addition would take hold again.

jkottkeSep 12, 2006 at 10:30PM

It looks like Matt Haughey picked one up.

Lee BennettSep 12, 2006 at 10:32PM

Approximately 12 channels? Jeez, what all are you expecting to get? If you toss out all the fake HD channels from PBS and _add_ the premium HD channels for Showtime, HBO, et al, even here in metro Orlando, 12 sounds about what we have (without actually turning on my TV right now and counting).

davis freebergSep 12, 2006 at 11:18PM

Well I can understand why it wouldn't be for everyone and if you don't watch a lot of HDTV, then it does diminish the value for you, but people still don't think about the resell value when they hear how expensive it is. With my TiVo series 1, it ended up costing me $4 per month after I calculated it all out. Considering that with TiVo I was able to go to basic $12.95 cable, I actually ended up saving money, by not needing comedy central and MTV for a while. Now of course this box isn't meant to go with basic $12.95 cable, it's meant to go with an even more exorbinate amount of money that the cable companies are charging, so I can understand if you can't figure out why I'm paying Comcast $90 per month ($1080 per year) for internet and TV. (without their set top box or DVR) I can also see how this will be most appealing to a niche audience, but regardless of how much it costs, it does look pretty sweet.

KrisSep 13, 2006 at 1:31AM

TiVo is falling in to a hole prices way to high I have sold out my shares in the company. while the gett'n was still good.

raulSep 13, 2006 at 1:49AM

$800 is the stated retail price... It's rumored the actual street price will be much closer to $500. That's still a big bump but the real deal killer for me is the skimpy hard drive. It's 300 hours of standard recording... only 32 hours of HD recording. That gets eaten up very quickly. So in order for the thing to work like you want, on top of the purchase price you'll be shelling out some extra cash for a second hard drive mod.

Matt HaugheySep 13, 2006 at 2:01AM

Jason, someone internal at a major retailer emailed me (could just be a rumor, dunno) that with incentives and rebates, the box will eventually go for about $500. For now, they're making as much money as possible on earlier adopter dorks like me, but it'll come down to a reasonable price in the next six months I'd guess.

For me, it was worth it because I watch pretty much just HD content on the dozen or so channels, and I'm tired of my cable company dvr forgetting to record stuff and having the audio cut out halfway into a program. Also, the rest of the UI is so bad that adding new shows and season passes is an ordeal. I just wanted things to be good again, in a set-it-and-forget-it way that TiVo can do. Still, I can't believe I paid $1100 for a DVR, but then again, I've been writing about TiVos for three years and I figured I might as well take the plunge.

For the price you get six tuners (two normal cable, two hd cable, two OTA hd) and any two can record at any time. You get a big 250Gb hard drive in it as well, which more than doubles my cable company's HD DVR storage.

The big question is once TiVo's software is powering Comcast and Cablevision DVRs, is the Series 3 TiVo worth even $500 when you can someday (probably) pay maybe $15 a month for a cable company DVR that runs some form of actual TiVo software. When those cheap TiVo options are available, it seems like the standalone Series 3 box will be just for home theater nuts.

Ange P.Sep 13, 2006 at 3:08AM

Whoa! $800 is ridiculous. I guess its only for the elite, or those that just love their TVs a little too much. I doubt that the price will remain that high for long especially when there are cheaper options available.

Steve MarshallSep 13, 2006 at 7:21AM

Cabel seems to have an idea why the HD TiVo is so expensive: $300 markup. I'm guessing that if people are patient enough (but with enough early adopters to stop TiVo canning the product), the price will drop toward the $500 mark and maybe then economies of scale will kick in and it'll start getting cheaper still…

Not that any of it matters to me: I’m in the UK, where TiVo lasted a whole year before pulling out, thanks to the near-monopoly Sky have on the set-top box market (want extra TV channels? live in the UK? either put up with absolutely shitty NTL or go for Sky… Or get FreeView either way or as an extra box).

OlavSep 13, 2006 at 7:28AM

Maybe your reffering to the black edition? You know, black coating costs hundereds of dollars.

sethSep 13, 2006 at 11:13AM

Anyone who is willing to pay that much for a tv recorder is nuts in my book. how much tv can you possibly need to record? 8 tuners?

I have RCN (formally Starpower). I used to have their digital cable box which I believe was $8 month. For an extra $4/month I know have a dual HD tuner motorola DVR.

I admit the TiVo has a much better interface but could it possibly be worth that much more?

And don't forget, you are /buying/ it, not renting it as I am. When RCN upgrades (and they were pretty early with this HD DVR) I will get the upgraded version. You will most likely be locked into this TiVo box for years (and if not, that was a lot to spend on a box you only used for a couple years).

If I would get your local cable company's HD DVR and try it. You may find it is enough for you, and will be cheaper in the long run. If you hate it after a month, give it back and buy the TiVo

Tom K.Sep 13, 2006 at 11:22AM

I admit the TiVo has a much better interface but could it possibly be worth that much more?

I have both the RCN Motorola Dual-Tuner HD DVR and the Tivo Series 2. Despite the fact that it's not HD, I use the Tivo Series 2. (RCN doesn't charge me for the DVR, as I cancelled it after a month and they chose to leave it with me rather than send a rep to pick it up.) It's not just the interface -- the quality of the recording system, fast forwarding method, etc is so much better than the Motorola design, which seems to skip really obvious functionality and has just a disaster of a design from a software perspective.

So is a Tivo HD worth $800 more? I'm not sure, but it's definitely worth $400-$600 more than the Motorola product, which is nearly non-functional in comparison. Tellingly, whenever someone questions the relative value, they've usually only used the Motorla or SA unit and haven't used a Tivo for any length of time. I haven't seen many jumps in the opposite direction, even with the HD advantage going to non-Tivo boxes (until now.)

glitch p-uddingSep 13, 2006 at 4:09PM

most bizarre is the fact that all the networked goodies that have made the s2 so cool are missing (for now, at least) from the hd model.

i have to imagine that, like the s2 firmware, this hd software is going to be used by cable providers who have contracts with tivo.

it seems to me that this could drop considerably in price over the next 6-12 months. in the same time, good HDTVs should become extremely affordable.

we're almost there.

emilySep 13, 2006 at 4:11PM

Davis Freeberg, where did you get that $1000 figure? Just this morning our TiVo had a message for us -- transfer over our lifetime subscription (which they don't offer to new customers now) to a new HD box for a mere $199, I think. My husband was yammering reading it aloud and I was only half listening, but I remember $199. Since we don't have an HDTV and can barely get through the episodes of 'The Daily Show' and 'The Closer' that clog up our current box, I put my foot down. And NO WAY would we pay $800 -- our TiVo hard drive crashed recently and we had to shell out about $150 to get a new one, and that irked me enough.

emily's husbandSep 13, 2006 at 5:28PM

I was just reading the post above, and I thought to myself "that sounds just like the conversation my wife and I had this morning!" Then I read the sig and realized it is the conversation we had this morning.
I don't think it occurred to my wife Emily that I read this blog too. Yammering, am I? Half-listening, are you?
I was only hot on the Series 3 until I realized that the $199 membership transfer does not include the cost of the new box. (Call me a naive dreamer!) They cleverly left that factoid out of the email they sent me this morning and the info-merical on the TiVo home page.

emilySep 13, 2006 at 5:31PM

Love you too, honey! >;-)
/kottke newlywed hijack

jimSep 14, 2006 at 4:18AM

build your own...

NickSep 14, 2006 at 10:08AM

Chances are that the price will come down but will it be reduced enough by the end of December when VIP upgrades are up? If you want to keep your lifetime license you have to buy a new box by then in order to upgrade with the lifetime package (albeit for another $200). This is only worthwhile if the price goes down to about $500. Otherwise, you won't make money back for about 10 years which isn't going to last for this box.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.