On the Skids, or Just Skidding on the Turn?

Multichannel News ran an intriguing story on Monday about TiVo. Apparently, the television digital video recording (DVR) service has suffered a loss of subscribers from 3.5 million a year ago to 2.7 million now. In an industry where you have to grow to move forward, these look like pretty crushing numbers. According to the article, the company’s new goal is to convince cable operators to use their software for DVR functions, to give their customers the tools they need to manage the exploding number of viewing choices available on cable services and the Internet.

TiVo may definitely have something here. Just as “cloud computing” makes sense for some computer applications, for many people it makes more sense to let their cable company handle the messy hardware aspects of DVR functions, and just access the stored program through their set top box. One problem is that these systems can be miserable to navigate. TiVo has been at this a long time, and many people hold up their user interface as the best example of how well it can work. One problem up until this point is that you have to buy some expensive hardware to get the features, and then pay an annual subscription fee on top of that. Wouldn’t it be more appealing to just pay a $5 a month TiVo fee to your cable company and get all the benefits? It makes sense to me.

But what if you get your television over the air (like I do)? Are there options to the TiVo box for us? There are all sorts of digital video recorders available besides TiVo, but they’re not cheap. If you already have a computer with TV tuners connected to your television and the Internet (as I do), you may want to check out Nero Liquid TV. Nero was selling a boxed kit that included a tuner card, remote control, infrared receiver, and a software package for the blowout price of $39.99, marked down from $199.99, but that offer sold out in a hurry. However, if you have a tuner card, you probably also have the remote and IR receiver, so all you need is the software. And Nero is still selling the Nero Liquid TV software as a download for $19.99 (marked down from $99.99). For that, you get the TiVo DVR software that runs on your Windows computer, plus a year’s subscription to the TiVo service which normally costs $99 by itself. And you get that great TiVo user interface.

Does it work? Stay tuned. I’ll be adding Nero Liquid TV to our home system and I’ll report back on how it works out. If you decide to try it out, let me know how it works for you: alfred@hdtvprofessor.com.