TiVo considers giving its hardware away for free.

Apparently the folks at TiVo are feeling the heat of competition enough that they’re considering some pretty radical moves to help keep them gain ground in the DVR market. Among those moves is the possibility of giving the hardware away for free:

Chief Executive Tom Rogers said the company, whose name has become synonymous with the ability to pause live television and skip commercials, was close to offering a range of pricing options, including one plan that would include a free set-top box.

“We’re continuing to pursue the prospects of zero upfront and all upfront” pricing, Rogers told the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.

The company is likely to begin the test to offer free boxes, possibly in exchange for higher priced and longer term plans, fairly soon, said Rogers, who was named chief executive last July.

I like TiVo, but I’ve never been happy with the idea that I was expected to shell out $200 to $300 for the box and then an additional $13 monthly fee to download the channel guide when TiVo was collecting all sorts of data on my usage that there were selling to other interested parties. I’d be more than willing to shell out the $200 to $300 for a TiVo if the monthly subscription for the channel guide were dropped and I’d at least consider paying the monthly fee if the hardware were considerably cheaper to purchase, but neither of those options are available. As a result I’ve never bought a TiVo, though I did make use of Wide Open West’s DVR set top box offering when it became available up until I got laid off. It was enough to make me appreciate DVRs and I wasn’t happy when I had to give it up.

Despite how much I do like DVRs, it still wasn’t enough to convince me to shell out the asking price of a TiVo if I had to continue to buy the monthly channel guide so I’m intrigued by what alternatives the folks at TiVo are considering. Free hardware is certainly a tempting offer depending on how much the monthly service fee is jacked up to get it, but I’d be happier if they decided to drop the monthly subscription fee and keep the hardware prices the same. They’re making money by tracking my usage so there’s really no justification for the monthly fee in my mind. If you’re of a similar mind then perhaps we’ll both be getting TiVos in the not too distant future.



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