October 14, 2005 2:04 PM PDT

TiVo buries the VCR

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.
TiVo hosted a mock funeral for the VCR on Friday as part of a promotional sales event for its digital video recorders, highlighting the expanding role of emerging DVD formats.

The funeral service, which coincided with the opening of the Digital Life consumer technology event in New York, also featured a eulogy and a casket overflowing with VCR tapes.

"Today we're officially saying farewell to the VCR, goodbye to the flashing 12:00, sayonara to a product that broke new ground in home entertainment when it came to playing movies but fell far short of making it easy for consumers to record and play back television programs," said TiVo Vice President Katie Ho.

TiVo's digital video recorder (DVR) and service lets users pause live TV and record broadcasts.

People at the event were able to get a 40-hour TiVo Series2 device for free if they traded in an old videotape and signed up for a subscription plan. The company's lowest-priced boxes retail for $49.99 with a rebate. A one-year subscription goes for $12.95 per month or a one-time payment of $299, which is good for the life of the box. TiVo is also offering consumers three months of free TiVo service with all TiVo box purchases made at Best Buy stores between Oct. 14 and Oct. 16.

While the death of VCRs and the VHS format has been long expected, it may be a bit premature to announce its arrival. Some 97 million households still have at least one VCR, according to the International Recording Media Association. However, TiVo's stunt does point out how fragile the VCR market is.

Panasonic and Toshiba still make VCRs, as do lesser-known companies such as Lite-On, a Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer that sells its recorders through Wal-Mart Stores. But several manufactures have quit making VCRs. Brian Lucas, a spokesman for Best Buy, said that the retailer carries less than 10 models of standalone VCRs now. Ten years ago, it carried more than two dozen.

"We have no plan to phase out all sales of VCR machines at this time," Lucas said. "However, many customers are opting to purchase our dual machines (which retail for about $150) that play both DVD and VHS formats."

Best Buy and Circuit City stopped selling VHS movies online earlier this year. Target said it is also phasing out sales of VHS tapes. In its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wal-Mart reported a sharp decline in VHS sales, but still continues to sell videotapes.

Many of the major studios are also wrestling with the VHS format. Fox and Warner Bros. are reportedly phasing out VHS tapes by 2006. The increased popularity of DVDs and next-generation DVD formats--Blu-ray and HD DVD--are also having a major impact on the VHS market, according to Steve Kovsky, senior analyst at Current Analysis.

"We have already reached that point where DVD sales and rentals have outpaced VHS formats," Kovsky said. "Motion picture studios are more likely to pull the plug in 2006 because that is when HD DVD and Blu-ray formats will emerge. Conventional DVDs will become the mainstream format until there is a clear market direction. But studios are indicating that the market for VHS isn't strong enough to duplicate efforts for those products."

TiVo, meanwhile, could use the business. The company's most recent financial statements were positive but showed its fee-based TV recording service falling to 254,000 new subscribers from 288,000 in the same quarter one year ago. Its total subscriber base is 3.57 million.

The company is now looking for additional partnerships to make up for the eventual loss of its largest partner, DirecTV, which is promoting its own digital video recorder.

DirecTV said it will continue to support the TiVo service for $5.99 a month. The two companies have a contract that will expire in 2007, but DirecTV has not indicated it will renew the contract.

DirecTV's replacement DVR is expected to be introduced later this month, after four months of delays. A second, increased-capacity version that supports high-definition television is expected in mid-2006.

TiVo is struggling because its technology is available to any company that wants to implement it, Kovsky said.

"You don't have to be TiVo to have this service," he said. "Most people are becoming aware of what TiVo and its competitors do, but they're finding it is a lot easer to acquire the boxes from their cable or satellite provider than buying it on their own."

 
Correction: This story incorrectly stated the number of TiVo subscribers.

26 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Come on, Tivo exist to skip commercials
I know Tivo doesn't like to market their device as a commercial skipper, but that's the major reason why it's so popular. Commercials have become more intrusive and take up 20 minutes in a 60 minute program. The way we consumers can fight back is with the PVR.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Come on, Tivo exist to skip commercials
I know Tivo doesn't like to market their device as a commercial skipper, but that's the major reason why it's so popular. Commercials have become more intrusive and take up 20 minutes in a 60 minute program. The way we consumers can fight back is with the PVR.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VCR IS FREE!!
We will see who survives when the economy tanks and the subscriptions shrink... My VCR is still free.
Posted by Vetter83 (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Try recording 10 programs on 10 channels in one day on a VCR
The best thing about Tivo is the programming capability. I can record 10 programs on 10 different channels in one day. I'm not limited to one tape a day if I'm not home. VCRs are free to use after you buy them but they suck!!
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Link Flag
VCR IS FREE!!
We will see who survives when the economy tanks and the subscriptions shrink... My VCR is still free.
Posted by Vetter83 (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Try recording 10 programs on 10 channels in one day on a VCR
The best thing about Tivo is the programming capability. I can record 10 programs on 10 different channels in one day. I'm not limited to one tape a day if I'm not home. VCRs are free to use after you buy them but they suck!!
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Link Flag
VCR is free but tapes are not
I am getting tired of buying VHS tapes, even as cheap as $1, and the tapes run out or the VCR gets old and eats them.

For $5.99 a month TIVO can record more TV shows and movies than I can afford to buy in tapes. I even have an option to "Save to Tape" what TIVO recorded, so I can still use my VCR for shows that I want to keep for a long time. My satelite company gives me that $5.99 a month discount, instead of the TIVO $12 a month price.

It is still cheaper than the Apple iTunes store that sells TV Shows by ABC/Disney for $1.99 each, what a scam that turns out to be.

TIVO uses digital recording, and is a better quality than VCR recording.

Plus if the power goes out, so does my VCR programming, but TIVO remembers my programming schedule even after a black out. As long as power comes on before my program starts to record, it works fine. I also have to switch VCR tapes, and only can record 6 hours on a tape at SLP speed which lowers the quality. If I need to record 10 movies in one day, that would be 2 hours per movie, or 20 hours total and require me to use 4 VHS tapes and switch them at least three to four times between movies. TIVO can record all 20 hours for me without switching a tape, as long as schedules do not conflict.

Plus TIVO can record two things at once, can my VCR do that?
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VCR is free but tapes are not
I am getting tired of buying VHS tapes, even as cheap as $1, and the tapes run out or the VCR gets old and eats them.

For $5.99 a month TIVO can record more TV shows and movies than I can afford to buy in tapes. I even have an option to "Save to Tape" what TIVO recorded, so I can still use my VCR for shows that I want to keep for a long time. My satelite company gives me that $5.99 a month discount, instead of the TIVO $12 a month price.

It is still cheaper than the Apple iTunes store that sells TV Shows by ABC/Disney for $1.99 each, what a scam that turns out to be.

TIVO uses digital recording, and is a better quality than VCR recording.

Plus if the power goes out, so does my VCR programming, but TIVO remembers my programming schedule even after a black out. As long as power comes on before my program starts to record, it works fine. I also have to switch VCR tapes, and only can record 6 hours on a tape at SLP speed which lowers the quality. If I need to record 10 movies in one day, that would be 2 hours per movie, or 20 hours total and require me to use 4 VHS tapes and switch them at least three to four times between movies. TIVO can record all 20 hours for me without switching a tape, as long as schedules do not conflict.

Plus TIVO can record two things at once, can my VCR do that?
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Facts wrong: numbers are new subscribers, not total number
The numbers are wrong. Tivo has over 3 million subscribers. It's just that they're not adding them as fast as they used to.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TiVo subscribers
Bill,
Thank you for your interest in the story and the clarification. We are adjusting the paragraph accordingly.
Posted by msingersfo (24 comments )
Link Flag
Facts wrong: numbers are new subscribers, not total number
The numbers are wrong. Tivo has over 3 million subscribers. It's just that they're not adding them as fast as they used to.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TiVo subscribers
Bill,
Thank you for your interest in the story and the clarification. We are adjusting the paragraph accordingly.
Posted by msingersfo (24 comments )
Link Flag
TiVo isn't just time shifting...
It's the interface, season pass manager, wish lists, showcases, onscreen info, and tivo's suggestions.

Anyone can build and sell a dvr with timeshifting, or record a show by channel and time, but what TiVo does best also happens to be what they have patents on.

get someone to use a generic dvr, then give them a TiVo. Now try to take the TiVo away. Good luck with that.
Posted by webdev511 (254 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TiVo isn't just time shifting...
It's the interface, season pass manager, wish lists, showcases, onscreen info, and tivo's suggestions.

Anyone can build and sell a dvr with timeshifting, or record a show by channel and time, but what TiVo does best also happens to be what they have patents on.

get someone to use a generic dvr, then give them a TiVo. Now try to take the TiVo away. Good luck with that.
Posted by webdev511 (254 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TiVO and VCRs reason we are lumps
What is all this hysteria about recording 10 shows in 1 day and 2 shows at once??
We have had that for 20 years with VCRs and how many of those do people watch after they record them?
These are products that contribute to 60% of Americans being overwieght (FAT) and in poor health: sitiing on a couch or in front of a PC or video game pushing a joy stick controller button is dumb. Get out and get into playing sports or bike riding with the kids.
Who cares about if TiVO or VCRs can record 20 hours or 50 hours--- Get real !
Posted by eeee (672 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What a bunch of luddites!!
Who needs a new fangled DVR when I got my linear access VCR? Looks just fine on my B&W TV. And Cable? Bah! On a clear day, I can pull in Raleigh over my roof-top antenna.
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
Link Flag
TiVO and VCRs reason we are lumps
What is all this hysteria about recording 10 shows in 1 day and 2 shows at once??
We have had that for 20 years with VCRs and how many of those do people watch after they record them?
These are products that contribute to 60% of Americans being overwieght (FAT) and in poor health: sitiing on a couch or in front of a PC or video game pushing a joy stick controller button is dumb. Get out and get into playing sports or bike riding with the kids.
Who cares about if TiVO or VCRs can record 20 hours or 50 hours--- Get real !
Posted by eeee (672 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What a bunch of luddites!!
Who needs a new fangled DVR when I got my linear access VCR? Looks just fine on my B&W TV. And Cable? Bah! On a clear day, I can pull in Raleigh over my roof-top antenna.
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
Link Flag
For Tivo to remain competitive....
Tivo needs to come out with a Cablecard HD unit.

Yes the VCR is dieing, but the reason is not just Tivo, but all DVRs.

The number of new subscribers is decreasing because more people are switching to digital cable. Tivo does not offer a good DVR solution for digital cable and HD.

More people will choose to get their cable company's DVR because it is an all-in-one solution.

Once Tivo brings out their Cablecard DVR that can record HD the number of new subscribers will increase.

Anyone who has used Tivo and other DVRs from Comcast, Cablevision, etc will tell you that Tivo is a much easier and better way to record and watch TV. It is just that Tivo's technology is getting old and the competition is increasing. Bring on the new Tivo with the same interface and useability and watch it's market share grow.
Posted by Dave_in_DC (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
For Tivo to remain competitive....
Tivo needs to come out with a Cablecard HD unit.

Yes the VCR is dieing, but the reason is not just Tivo, but all DVRs.

The number of new subscribers is decreasing because more people are switching to digital cable. Tivo does not offer a good DVR solution for digital cable and HD.

More people will choose to get their cable company's DVR because it is an all-in-one solution.

Once Tivo brings out their Cablecard DVR that can record HD the number of new subscribers will increase.

Anyone who has used Tivo and other DVRs from Comcast, Cablevision, etc will tell you that Tivo is a much easier and better way to record and watch TV. It is just that Tivo's technology is getting old and the competition is increasing. Bring on the new Tivo with the same interface and useability and watch it's market share grow.
Posted by Dave_in_DC (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TIVO is garbage
compared to any other dvr offered by cable and satellite companies.

My dvr has no commercials sent to it, it has no locking software stopping me from recording whatever I want, it doesn't display adverts when I fast forward thru commercials, and it has all of the features that tivo offer - only it costs me nothing, because it's also my cable box, the first three are free.

As most cable companies don't have know how to program locks into the boxe's firmware, and provide the content themselves, I can always record at least 480P or 480I into my DVD burner for DVD quality copies, with the commercials edited out.

It even has a firewire port to transfer the data straight to my PC at whatever resolution I want, although storing 720P or 1080I resolution TV with Dolby 5.1 sound would mean a dedicated HD just for that.

So why anyone would actually pay for a tivo subscription service on a device that is constantly updated with more and more restrictions (if they're not going to implement these restrictions why would they upgrade the firmware to include them?) as well as commercials, is beyond me.

It's just weird that people would do that, when they can get multiple dvrs from cable or satellite companies for free.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TIVO is garbage
compared to any other dvr offered by cable and satellite companies.

My dvr has no commercials sent to it, it has no locking software stopping me from recording whatever I want, it doesn't display adverts when I fast forward thru commercials, and it has all of the features that tivo offer - only it costs me nothing, because it's also my cable box, the first three are free.

As most cable companies don't have know how to program locks into the boxe's firmware, and provide the content themselves, I can always record at least 480P or 480I into my DVD burner for DVD quality copies, with the commercials edited out.

It even has a firewire port to transfer the data straight to my PC at whatever resolution I want, although storing 720P or 1080I resolution TV with Dolby 5.1 sound would mean a dedicated HD just for that.

So why anyone would actually pay for a tivo subscription service on a device that is constantly updated with more and more restrictions (if they're not going to implement these restrictions why would they upgrade the firmware to include them?) as well as commercials, is beyond me.

It's just weird that people would do that, when they can get multiple dvrs from cable or satellite companies for free.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.