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Channel Seven has finally given confirmation that its interest in TiVo in Australia is officially zero. A representative of the network advised Appliance Retailer last night at the launch of FreeviewPlus that it no longer had any involvement in the famous American PVR brand and that Hybrid TV, the subsidiary established to be the official Australian licensee, had been effectively dissolved.
While the popular service has remained dormant for a long time, the television network’s exact role in the product and interest in the service has been nebulous. The website for TiVo in Australia — MyTiVo.com.au — occasionally has been updated with new notices, the most recent one announcing that Quickflix was replacing Caspa as the set top boxes subscription streaming supplier. The last media release in the newsroom is from November 2011 and the website hasn’t sold actual TiVo boxes for at least 18 months.
“Hybrid TV is done,” said the Channel Seven representative.
Shortly after Hybrid TV’s exit from selling TiVo devices in Australia, this author wrote a feature arguing that Channel Seven was the cause of both TiVo’s fledgling success and its ultimate failure. The crux of this position is that Channel Seven was so intent on owning the infrastructure — blocking out Foxtel, opposing subscription services, not involving the other free-to-air networks — that the market was always going to turn against it.
Does Channel Seven have any regrets?
“None at all. It was a great product for its time but Seven no longer has any involvement in TiVo. It’s up to TiVo in the United States if it ever comes back to Australia.”
TiVo continues to enjoy a strong following in the United States and its most recent release of PVRs have been well received. The new Roamio service, which allows for recording of free-to-air and cable TV, remote access via connected devices like smartphones and tablets, and access to on-demand content is described as being “a cable box, a DVR, an Apple TV and a Slingbox in a single experience”. In a very positive review for VentureBeat, Rakesh Agrawal called the new range, “the best TV viewing experience that money can buy”. Joshua Goldman at Cnet gave the high-end model 4 stars out of 5, describing it as “excellent”. Nilay Patel at The Verge said the Roamio Pro was the “ultimate DVR”. All three of these American reviewers criticised the expensiveness of TiVo, which, in the United States, includes an upfront cost and a subscription fee. TiVo in Australia was sold in Australia with a relatively higher upfront cost but with no ongoing fees. The reason for this was twofold: launch partner Harvey Norman wanted the over the counter price to be more expensive and Channel Seven wanted a key point of difference between TiVo and Foxtel.
And while TiVo chugs along in the United States, owners of the PVR in Australia, many of which are now obsolete, take to forums and blogs to find out why the set top box they purchased at top dollar only a few years ago is no longer being supported. The general tone of these posts is that TiVo was a much-loved device for many Australian consumers and there is a sense of anger that it is no longer available. One poster goes so far as to say, “Who ever killed TiVo in Australia should be bought before the courts”. It is unclear what they would be charged with but the passion for the product is undeniable.
The way is now clear for another distributor to step up and become the licensee for TiVo in Australia. Appliance Retailer understands that at least one regionally-based agency has expressed an interest in wholesaling TiVo.
“TiVo continues to explore opportunities with various potential partners with hopes to bring TiVo’s newest products to Australia in the future,” is the official line from TiVo Inc. PR and social media manager Seana Norvell.