ReplayTV makes another attempt to carve out a niche

You have to give ReplayTV some credit, they keep trying even when it seems futile. ReplayTV launched almost simultaneously with TiVo back in 1999 and for a couple of years there was real competition. But ReplayTV never quite matched TiVo’s success, and as TiVo’s reputation took off, and their success built, ReplayTV faltered. TiVo’s deal with DirecTV gave them a major boost that ReplayTV could never match – ReplayTV’s licensing deals with Panasonic (the Panasonic ShowStopper was a ReplayTV re-badged) and the like just couldn’t match TiVo’s growth. Success breeds success, and, while ReplayTV had a larger retail presence early on, TiVo overtook them and eventually ReplayTV lost retail partners as TiVo continued to gain them.

ReplayTV went bankrupt, and SonicBlue bought them. Under SonicBlue they introduced SendShow, Internet show sharing. This brought lawsuits against SB, which greatly crippled ReplayTV’s growth by diverting funds to legal costs. This contributed to SonicBlue’s bankruptcy, and D&M Holdings, parent company of Denon and Marantz, acquired ReplayTV and Rio from the wreckage, making them part of DNNA (Digital Networks North America). However, DNNA wasn’t really interested in keeping ReplayTV running. Instead, they canceled all future hardware and software development, planning to use the ReplayTV features in higher end gear from Escient. A product was announced a few years ago – and never shipped. Meanwhile, DNNA just kept selling off the existing stocks of hardware and they eventually sold out in very early 2006. And ReplayTV was no more.

Except, later in 2006, DNNA announced that ReplayTV was returning as Windows-based DVR software. It was delayed, but finally shipped late in the year – for $100. Competing with established players such as Beyond TV, SageTV, and GB-PVR – all of which cost less and do more than ReplayTV’s PC software. (GB-PVR is free.) And there are others – including free Linux DVR software like MythTV and Freevo. Not to mention the 800-pound gorilla that is Windows XP Media Center Edition, and now Windows Vista which includes media center features. If someone is going to buy Windows DVR software, why would they buy more expensive software with more limitations? And the ReplayTV software costs $20/year after the first year, while the other software has no ongoing costs. I’ve said that they’d never be able to carve out a niche this way.

So, why did I just ramble through all that? Well, mainly because I felt like it, and to mention that apparently they feel the same way. ReplayTV just dropped the price to $50 and updated the software to address some of the issues.

I still predict it will bomb – it still has major limitations, it is a new player in a saturated market (and the other solutions have established developer communities with tons of add-ons, etc), and even though it is now one of the lower priced options up-front, the ongoing costs add up. If you’re looking for Windows-based DVR software, and want more than MCE/Vista, I’d really look at Beyond TV or SageTV.

I picked this up from PVR Wire @ TV Squad.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • moonlonely

    If they’d released this software for this price a few years ago, they might have something going. But there’s still no HD support, and I believe ReplayTV PC Edition still only works with a limited number of Hauppauge TV tuners. Granted, they’re some of the best standard-def tuners on the market, but still.

    A few years ago, loyal customers of the ReplayTV set top box might have made the switch, but now few people even remember the company’s name.

  • anonymous

    thank you for the brief history for ReplyTV.

  • anonymous

    Who will pay $50 to turn a $500 PC into a $100 Tivo?

    Myth TV will do that for free, if you have a few days of time to waste messing with it.

    (This site is a contender for worst color scheme – green on black is nearly unreadable!)

  • megazone

    Well, this kind of software is aimed at Windows users. Most people aren’t comfortable with Linux or messing around with MythTV. And a lot of people need Windows for other things and don’t have a spare PC laying around to use for MythTV.

    But even if you’re going to go that route, the other solutions are better.

    As for green on black – it seems some people really dislike it and others like it. Personally I always use green on black for my SSH windows, etc, and have been doing that since the old green-screen VT220 terminals. The colors on the site are the official TiVo colors, I took them from their style guide.

    If you have an LJ account you can always use ?style=mine when reading communities, etc, and they’ll display in your style.

  • megazone

    The new software has pretty much just the name in common with the old players. I think it is a big disappointment. Even as a TiVo user, I thought the ReplayTV boxes were decent – up until DNNA took over and just abandoned all new development. I think competition is good, and in spurs innovation.

    The new PC software is really just a new product with some effort to cash in on the ReplayTV name. They could’ve given it abilities to transfer content to/from the old boxes – but they didn’t. In fact, there is no compatibility or interaction with the old product at all.

    And the limitations to just a couple of tuner models, etc, really makes it a limited product.

    I really don’t know what DNNA is thinking.

  • anonymous

    I have a couple of ReplayTV’s from back in the day an they were nice boxes. They still work till this day (well, until the end of the month). When I signed up I got the monthly plan thinking that in a few years they would die anyway or I would upgrade. I did upgrade to BeyondTV but I kept the Replay TV boxes around for backup of the shows I most valued. I just recently called to see if I could get a discount on the lifetime membership ($299) and they wouldn’t budge. So I canceled the service . . . something I should have done 2 years ago. Ah, what could have been.

  • megazone

    ReplayTV had some nice ideas, but they’ve been mismanaged almost every step of the way.

    All of the David vs. Goliath posturing SonicBlue did with the studios was certainly nice and all, and it made for some good press – but it was stupid. They did not have the resources to sustain that fight – the odds were always that they’d run out of money before the studios did, if not lose the case outright – which probably wouldn’t bankrupted them in settlement anyway. There was never much of a chance they could win the case.

    People, especially RTV fans, criticise TiVo for having DRM on TTG – but, like it or not, that was the only way they could do TTG without suffering the same fate as RTV. The FCC gave TTG the nod only because it protects the content and honors flags to limit transfers if the content providers wanrs to. (Almost never used.) The MPAA and NFL both lobbied, HARD, to block TTG, but failed.

    I’d love open trading of shows myself, but I recognize that the industry is slow to change and you need to chip away at things slowly, not try to force the change all at once – or you get buried under lawyers. Napster, ReplayTV, Grokster, Kazaa, etc, have all experienced this.

    But, aside from that, ReplayTV kept changing their business plans – sell boxes, no license the code, no sell boxes… Sell them for a flat fee, copy TiVo’s pricing, no try flat fees again… oops, back to TiVo’s pricing model. They changed pricing right before Christmas, I think that was Xmas 2005, with boxes in the retail channel already labeled as including lifetime subscriptions – but sold without them. That was a debacle.

    They promised features like sharing shows between 4k and 5k units, USB WiFi support, and MP3 playback – then cancelled the work.

    Some people think I’m anti-ReplayTV just because I’m pro-TiVo. That isn’t the case, I think RTV had a good product and I would like to see real competition in the standalone DVR market because it really drives creativity. I have some slim hope that Moxi’s entry into the market this fall may spur things a bit – but only slim because I was less than impressed by what I saw and heard at CES this year.