TiVo flies with Qantas to the detriment of retailers

By Patrick Avenell

Two of the most recently criticised brandnames in Australia, Qantas and TiVo, have teamed up to produce an novel offer for consumers – but how will this affect the Harveys and JBs of the world?

The Australian distributor of the TiVo “media device”, Hybrid Television Services (essentially Channel 7), announced this week that Qantas Frequent Flyer points can now be used to purchase a TiVo. This offer is available as a straight out redemption or as a point plus pay purchase.

This marks the first time the device has been offered directly to consumers – a giant leap for the PVR, which was originally available exclusively through Harvey Norman. Despite criticism of TiVo’s functionality, which includes elaborate set up requirements and non-connectivity with Foxtel, Harvey Norman has continuously declared that sales have been strong.

At a fixed price across the board of $699, and the presumption that a decent proportion of this is margin, TiVo has represented a good moneyspinner for retailers, and the distributors should then be congratulated for expanding the retail base to include JB Hi-Fi, Clive Anthony’s and David Jones. This decision, however, is an ever so slight slap in the face to these retailers, with the distributor now promoting the device direct to the consumer, bypassing the retail stores that have so far made it a hit with consumers.

Hybrid CEO Robbee Minicola says this forms part of the distributor’s wider plans: to continually increase channels of sale for the device.

“"We…want to ensure that Australians can get their TiVo media device through as many retail channels as possible,” she said, before highlighting some reasons for the decision. “Loyalty programs of the high calibre of Qantas Frequent Flyer will experience heavy demand for personal and gift purchases in the lead up to Christmas.”

That sentiment is fair – it’s Minocola’s job to sell the devices any way she can, and her ingenuity would otherwise be applauded. But these are difficult times for retail outlets, and even if only one jetsetter buys the device through Qantas Frequent Flyers, that can only be seen as a retail sale that has flown out of a more deserving hangar.

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