Death Warrant For Australian TiVos

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After years of uncertainty Australian TiVos will lose access to the TV guide after October, leaving thousands of lounge rooms in the lurch.

The Australian TiVo service has been plagued by Electronic Program Guide outages in recent months, leaving owners unable to schedule recordings or automatically record their favourite shows. Now TiVo's Australian backer Hybrid TV (initially bankrolled by the Seven Network) intends to pull the plug on the EPG on October 31, permanently crippling the set-top boxes in Australia and New Zealand.

These TiVo recorders download their TV guide directly from Hybrid TV, rather than extracting the guide from the free-to-air broadcast signal. Access to this custom guide makes TiVos more reliable but in return leaves the set-top boxes completely reliant on the download service.

Without the downloaded guide, TiVo owners will still be able to watch free-to-air digital TV channels and manually press record, but the box won't know which program it's recording or when the program starts and finishes – basically leaving you with the functionality of an old VCR. TiVo owners will also be able to watch old recordings still stored on the TiVo's hard drive.

The old TiVo models sold in Australia from 2008 to 2013, which were never updated with newer streaming-enabled models from the US. The Australian TiVo service was launched with great fanfare in 2008, in time for the Beijing Olympics, but was hampered by a high $699 price tag. TiVo boxes are cheaper in the US but users are required to pay a monthly subscription fee. In an age when Foxtel and Optus' pay TV networks were the country's only subscription content services, local retailers felt that Australians were not prepared to pay ongoing montly fees to watch free-to-air television.

TiVo's famed ad-skipping features were also disabled in Australia at the insistence of free-to-air lobby group Freeview, which has had several failed attempts at launching its own personal video recorders.

The Australian TiVo service has been in limbo since the video recorders disappeared from the retail shelves in 2013. Hybrid TV stopped answering the phone but Seven initially refused to concede that the Australian TiVo operations had gone into hibernation.

The experience of other countries made it clear that the Electronic Program Guide would eventually be discontinued, although UK TiVo owners were granted a 10-year stay of execution on the EPG after the boxes were withdrawn from sale in 2002.

The Fetch TV Mighty can record free-to-air and streaming pay TV as well is tap into services like Netflix.

The TiVo's reliable program guide and easy to use menus has gained it a loyal following in Australia – with faithful users hoping in vain that the US parent company would revive the local service and release the new generation of US TiVos which support Netflix and other streaming services. There were rumours for a while that the US giant would intervene but they dried up after Australia's analogue switch off and streaming video explosion.

Hybrid TV "discourages" the use of Australian TiVos after October and is offering a $100 trade-in deal on a Fetch TV Mighty recorder, currently Australia's closest equivalent to a TiVo which supports modern streaming services. To take advantage of the deal, available via Harvey Norman, the trade-in TiVo must have connected to the EPG download service in the last six months as of yesterday – meaning old TiVos which have been sitting idle for several years won't be eligible.

To be honest, it's a $100 discount on the Fetch TV Mighty's $399 RRP and Harvey Norman has had the box on special at around $300 a few times in the last year, I bought one for my mother-in-law just after Christmas for $299 after she grew tired of the TiVo EPG outages.

Australian TiVo owners have known for years that their set-top box was living on borrowed time, but many homes will still struggle with the change. With the death of TiVo, which device will take pride of place in your lounge room?

This article originally appeared on SMH.

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Comments

    I'm absolutely devastated at the loss of my TiVo, even though the fan and/or hard drive in it is so loud that I have to bump up the volume on my TV. We've been watching free to air TV through it for years now. I already have a Fetch box and it's just not the same. Nowhere near as intuitive and a lot less features.

    I will probably take up the trade in offer, but will always miss my trusty TiVo,

    TiVo's famed ad-skipping features were also disabled in Australia at the insistence of free-to-air lobby group Freeview

    They did the same thing to Sony's PlayTV on the PS3. Yet another example of lobbyists dicking over Australian consumers out of fear of the competition.

      That's not all FreeView demand (sorry in advance if this is common knowledge now).

      To make it easier to read, I'll by a World vs Australia view.

      When not set to Australia, the PlayTV:
      * Can skip 120 second back or forth via the L3 and R3 buttons (controller or media remote), effectively making add skips two presses away
      * Recordings can be transferred to the PS3 menu (Cross Media Bar, whatever term is still used today), thus making it possible to keep recordings on a separate hard disk and even allow them to be edited.

      When set to Australia, the PlayTV:
      * Can only FF/RW at most x20 instead of x120.
      * Recording cannot be transferred to the Cross Media Bar thus preventing use outside the PlayTV app on the console.

      I think the main reasoning is FreeView is of the idea that broadcasts are paid for by the ads thus it "harms" the industry if we don't see the ads and then buy the displayed products. Hence why the FF and RW is limited to x20.

      The most moronic thing though besides their reasoning; if one doesn't mind frequently returning the PlayTV, one can simply get the recordings out by simply setting the region to Other, copy the recordings to the Cross Media Bar, then set the region back.

      Changing the region doesn't remove the recordings and in some cases even keeps the recording schedule.

      And yes, I will admit here. I used to do that to keep cartoons that most likely will never see a DVD release. Especially those by the late Yoram Gross and his now defunct studio.

      Last edited 03/03/17 3:05 pm

      Wasn't just the PS3, Windows 7 Media Centre had the 30 second skip disabled when you selected any Australian location for the EPG.

        Windows Media Center always worked fine for me with its 30 second skip. No issues at all. MS actually never had an Australian EPG service, you either had to provide your own EPG, or (in later iterations) it just extracted the OTA EPG, but the skip worked fine.

    Fetch is very good, but I'll miss my Tivo Suggestions. I have 2 TiVo boxes and I had trained over 7 years one to record stuff for the missus and the other to record things I like. I loved sitting down to check the suggestions only to find it had recorded a movie I haven't seen in 4-5 years which recorded at something like 2am in the morning.

    No other PVR service does anything like that. RIP Tivo Suggestions...

    When my parents TV died they bought a DVR from Samsung. Nowhere near the same quality of experience. Fetch TV sounds good for anyone seeking a DVR with a good interface who doesn't want to go to Foxtel.

      I have fetch. It's free with my cable and it's not bad of tv it's about all I watch. Plus you can rent movies etc. But compared to the price of netflix etc I don't know if I'd be willing to pay money for it.

    Couldn't tivo do a patch to.make boxes retrieve the EPG from the free to Air sources?

    When my TiVo died, I went to Beyonwiz because it can record more channels at any point in time. I am very disappointed with the product. Beyonwiz has a very steep learning curve.

    Programming recordings are infinitely more difficult.
    Downloading the EPG drives me crazy.
    & I still haven't worked out how to download a particular genre ie all cooking shows

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