Saturday, August 09, 2008

TiVo in Australia: What next?

Now having the TiVo ticking over in the corner of the lounge room, I thought I would look at some of the features and issues for the future.A news search on "TiVo" found 1,943 recent stories, so here are the ones most interesting. Some of these may go some way to explaining why Channel Seven introduced TiVo to Australia and how it sees this competing with cable TV:

Saving TV advertising the TiVo way, Maggie Shiels, BBC, 23 Jul 08, 09:46 GMT:
"... TiVo have partnered up with Amazon ... the 'Product Purchase Feature' will pair up any item that is available from Amazon with a TV show and allow TiVo viewers to simply click and buy. ..."
This sounds like the ultimate in product placement: You see something you like on a TV show (apparently any TV show), and press a button on on the remote control to buy it.

iceTV and iPhone users rejoice: remote recording is here - again by Alex Zaharov-Reutt, iTWire, 8 August 2008:
" iPhone users can download the app via iTunes free of charge, with non-subscribers able to see the day’s TV guide, although subscribers get the full 7-day EPG (electronic program guide). ... remotely record shows if you have “any IceTV Interactive compatible PVR, Mac or Media Center PC, including the new Topfield 7100 and the Beyonwiz range of PVRs.”

In addition, you can “see what the Most Popular TV shows are for the coming week as well as create your own personalised TV guide with IceTV’s My Shows."

IceTV's site also reacts to the TiVo launch, for anyone that's interested, showing why it believes IceTV-equipped devices are superior to the TiVo offering."
The interesting part of this will to see if having a dedicated iPhone application, as opposed to using a web interface, will make remote scheduling of a PVR easier. It might turn out that iPhone users will prefer this way of working even when in front of the TV. This approach would not work with the current TiVo interface, as it only checks the internet for updates about every fifteen minutes for broadband users (but would be easy to change).

Assuming TiVo's web based interface ( Tivo Central Online, which is not yet available for Australia) has been designed for compatibility with smartphones, then it should work with an iPhone or similar. If TiVo have used W3C's web accessibility guidelines, then they are most of the way to a phone interface. You can then add extra web code for small screens which is automatically activated when a phone is detected (one catch is that the iPhone doesn't think it is a phone and you have to add extra code for it). I did a quick check with Opera in Small Screen mode and the TiVo Central Online adjusted reasonably well (the images would need to be made smaller and some keyboard shortcuts added).

Also the social networking aspect might catch on. Also note that this is not about watching TV remotely, just using the program guide information, so it will not use up a lot of the limited data allocation you get with a mobile phone account in Australia. ICE are selling a program guide, but now TiVo are giving it away with their unit.

Watching the watchers: TiVo tracks ad viewing by Stefanie Olsen, July 30, 2008 12:50 PM PDT:
" ... Starcom USA, a Chicago advertising agency with such clients as Walt Disney, Coke and Kraft, has teamed with TiVo to be the first to use its so-called PowerWatch Ratings Service, a Nielsen Ratings-like service that reports--based on input from a panel--which television shows and ads people fast-forward, watch, and time-shift (which means to record and watch later). TiVo reported the first findings of the new ratings system on Tuesday. ..."
It is a little worrying what the marketers will do with very detailed information about viewer behaviour. On the other hand, having more information about what people watch might improve TV. As an example, targeted ads on web pages for products you are interested in are less annoying than ones for something you don't want, or have a strong objection to.

YouTube free on Seven's TiVo, Nick Tabakoff, Australian IT , July 30, 2008:
"THE Seven Network's newly launched TiVo digital video recorder will offer users the ability to download YouTube internet videoclips to the box free by the start of next year, according to the man charged with selling the product outside the US.
It had been thought that Seven could charge subscribers for additional features as they became available on the TiVo box -- which was launched yesterday in Harvey Norman stores -- including internet downloads.

But Joshua Danovitz, TiVo's international general manager, said: "We're going to make YouTube available free of charge from early next year. ... "
The announcement that the extra features, such as watching video clips will be free, will be free, suggests that sales of TiVos may not be going as well as expected. It is a welcome announcement, but my limited broadband connection will not cope with many video downloads.

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