Last month, TiVo petitioned the FCC for a waiver to allow them to introduce a new four tuner, digital only DVR – the TiVo Premiere Elite. Last call for comments on the petition was a couple of weeks ago. Now TiVo has filed their reply to the comments, and it contains some interesting additional info.
TiVo is urging the FCC to grant the waiver expeditiously, because they already have a timeline in mind. The CEDIA show starts September 7th, and TiVo plans to focus marketing efforts at the show. They also want lead time to prepare marketing materials and get the retail sales force trained. They plan to ship the Elite in mid-September so it can be on shelves by mid-October, in time for the holiday shopping season. That also lines up with the information from Virgin Media that a new software load is coming in October to enable streaming content from a TiVo.
Expeditious grant of TiVo’s request is particularly appropriate in this case because time is of the essence as TiVo seeks to expand the consumer market for an all-digital DVR. TiVo urges the Commission to consider the business realities that TiVo will face in marketing, advertising, distributing, and sales force training in connection with deploying a new retail product such as the Premiere Elite. For example, in the high-end retailer outlets where TiVo will be focusing its retail marketing efforts, distributors are more discriminating regarding their stock, select products less frequently, and require far more lead time for point-of-sale materials and sales force training. In addition, the trade show for the custom installers to whom TiVo will be directing another substantial portion of its marketing efforts, known as the CEDIA show, begins on September 7,2011.17 Tivo’s window of opportunity to stimulate demand from retailers and custom installers, therefore, is short and imminent. Given these factors, TiVo must be prepared to commence shipping the Premiere Elite and associated sales and training materials by no later than mid-September to place the Premiere Elite in retail outlets by mid-October. Otherwise, the Premiere Elite may be unavailable to consumers in time for the important holiday sales season.
Under these circumstances, and bearing in mind both the important policy considerations and the expedited process contemplated by Section 629 of the Act, TiVo requests that the Commission accelerate its decision making process here and allow TiVo to bring the benefits of superior technology to the retail navigation devices market as soon as possible. An expeditious grant would be consistent with the requests of consumers in this proceeding, and, as demonstrated in the Petition, with the public interest and the long-standing but elusive policies embodied in Section 629 of the Communications Act.
Of course, this is an all-digital device – no analog support – which means it will not handle any analog cable channels, such as those present in ‘digital’ cable systems that are actually hybrid. And that could lead to consumer backlash without sufficient consumer education. But TiVo has a plan to deal with that as well:
Although comments submitted by consumers in this proceeding demonstrate that they already aware of the Premier Elite’s capabilities, TiVo reiterates its commitment to undertake vigorous customer and retailer education efforts designed to ensure that consumers recognize the capabilities of the Premiere Elite and purchase it only where it will be deployed in a compatible digital cable system. Those commitments include: (i) marketing the Premier Elite to customers in all-digital cable systems and systems that offer a digital simulcast of their analog signals; (ii) marketing the Premier Elite primarily through its custom install, high-end retail, and TiVo.com channels, which will verify that customers have all-digital service or digital simulcast service and are fully aware of the Premiere Elite’s capabilities before purchase; (iii) developing clear and easily understood point-of-sale disclosures and retailer scripts; (iv) working to educate any retailers as well as cable operators about the Premiere Elite’s functionality; and (v) offering free return or exchange for a TiVo product that includes analog functionality to any customer that mistakenly purchases a Premiere Elite for use in an analog cable system. TiVo’s commitments to consumer education and support should dispel any potential concerns regarding whether the requested waiver serves the public interest.
So it seems that TiVo is all ready to go with a retail launch of the Premiere Elite, all they need is permission from the FCC. Somewhat disappointingly there has been no mention of the TiVo Preview for retail. The Preview is the non-DVR companion box for the Premiere Elite’s MSO-targeted alter ego, the Premiere Q, announced in June. Similar in some ways to the just launched Insignia TiVo-powered connected TVs, the Preview would have a CableCARD tuner and support for OTT content, but no hard drive or DVR features. But the Preview’s special trick would be acting as a whole-home DVR client box to access a TiVo Premiere Q in another room. And, as the Elite is a retail version of the Q, most people presume it could do the same with an Elite. Since the Preview is believed to be digital-only as well, it presumably would need a waiver. Though this may be a cause where one waiver would allow TiVo to introduce all-digital products in general, and not just the Elite.
I’d love to get one TiVo Premiere Elite, for the living room, and at least one TiVo Preview, for the bedroom. If it works well, and pricing is reasonable, I’d probably get another Preview for my front room, where I don’t have a TV currently but my fiancée is interested in adding one.
Getting back to TiVo’s comments, it was interesting to see them citing comments left by end users, including yours truly, and not just the big names. I changed my name over eleven years ago, but I still get a kick out of seeing ‘MegaZone’ cited in official documents. Almost as much fun as hearing Veronica Belmont say it.