Streaming radio, Pizza for couch potatoes and 1TB of storage coming in early 2009. But don't call it a PVR, or they'll get really angry.
TiVo's launch locally has been an interesting one, primarily due to the fact that the model Australians were able to buy
around the Beijing Olympics (remember those?) was somewhat limited compared to its US counterpart. Hybrid TV, the arm of Channel 7 that distributes the TiVo locally was always a touch coy about which new features were going to be added to the TiVo platform, and when. Today at a press event they detailed some of the plans for the TiVo, as well as aggressively taking potshots at PayTV and the PVR market."Some 30% of Australians are mindlessly paying for (Pay-TV) channels that they do not watch."
said the forthright CEO of Hybrid TV, Robbee Minicola. But don't call the TiVo just a PVR, however. "The PVR is dying. It had its peak in 2006, and has gone downhill from there. Tivo doesn't want to be an outlier to what's actually going on. In terms of content, this means more, more more."
Minicola's vision, such as it is, focuses around the TiVo as a content platform; in one quip that only a marketing person could love, she commented that "If content is king, services are her queen".
So what can you look forward to with TiVo in 2009, should you chose to lay down the $699 current asking price? An asking price, as an aside that Minicola notes shouldn't rise despite the falling Australian dollar. Well, for a start, a touch more storage. Currently on track for a February 3rd launch should be an external 1TB hard drive for additional AV storage, although the trickiest part of this, according to what Minicola told APCMag.com, was getting the pricing sorted out; there at least the tumbling Australian dollar will have an effect on the final price.
Once you've got your 1TB of extra storage, you're presumably going to want some content to put on it. TiVo this week started trialling a Blockbuster-branded "Movie Of The Week" service, which will initially offer free movies, and later either pay-per-view or ad-sponsored ("you won't be able to skip the ads"
, according to Minicola, before you ask) movies. Paul Uniacke, CEO of Blockbuster noted that the first trial movie, "The Water Horse
", had been accessed by around 25% of Australian TiVo users since it was made available on Monday, and was on track for around 5TB of downloads by the end of the week. He claimed that at its busiest time of the week, the combined number of people going into either Video Ezy or Blockbuster stores, were they to switch to downloading movies, even only in SD format, would "melt down Telstra, Optus and everybody else."
Movies currently come with a warning that they may be between 2GB and 5GB in size, which is a considerable margin over competing services from BigPond or Apple, although Minicola and Uniacke both noted that the message informing consumers of this was at least partly a deliberate "sticker shock" tactic to make sure consumers didn't blow through their download caps. As yet, TiVo hasn't announced any plans for cap-free downloads from any ISP provider, but when APCMag.com questioned her, she noted that "we do not want to partner with only one ISP.
". There may be a marginal cost involved in getting a cap-free TiVo service from some ISPs, but no plans are yet firmly set.
The event also saw a few new product announcements and launches. On the minor side, by the end of the week TiVo users should be able to access a world clock, horoscopes, and PixelEye, a service that lets you access Photobucket and Picasa photo accounts direct from TiVo, as well as three new games; Classy Couples, Sudoku and Wild Pair. They join the existing weather service, which apparently 73% of TiVo users access at least once a week.
DMG Radio head Cath O'Connor was also on hand to announce that in "early 2009", Nova and Vega FM channels would be available on TiVo. While initially they'll be streams that can't be multi-tasked -- so you can't listen to radio and, say, check your horoscopes -- Minicola told APCMag.com that they're hopeful to be able to integrate future multi-tasking capability in this area. O'Connor also noted that they have no firm plans for what they'll do with the screen real estate offered by TiVo, given that Radio's not exactly a visual medium.
But of biggest interest to TiVo -- and probably of biggest interest to its biggest users -- is the ultimate couch potato fantasy; being able to order a Pizza from in front of the TV. TiVo in the US only recently started offering this tasty and yet potentially artery-clogging option, and Minicola announced today that they'd entered into an arrangement with Dominos Pizza to offer Pizza ordering for Australians via TiVo. While the deal was still in its infancy -- Dominos CEO Don Meij wasn't entirely sure if they'd offer full customisable pizza choices, or just initially the most popular combinations -- it's expected to be available -- once again -- in "early 2009". Can you wait for a Pizza quite that long?