Why is TiVo bothering with an OTA DVR?

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Sure, 100% of us would rather pay less (or preferably nothing) for our cable and satellite television service. But despite years of the media building the cord cutting myth, not very many of us are actually cutting the cord. It’s a popular idea that resonates with many of us, but not enough for most of us to actually cut the cord.

Today TiVo announced its new Roamio OTA (over-the-air).

The good: at $49.99 it’s inexpensive for a high quality DVR

The bad: sadly…pretty much everything else.

• It doesn’t include any streaming capability – that will set you back another $129.99

• It won’t work with a TiVo mini (TiVo’s extender)

• It doesn’t include the program guide. That’ll set you back $14.99 a month with no option to fork over for a lifetime subscription like there is with the other TiVos.

The announcement is a head scratcher for a few reasons.

TiVo’s retail business sucks. The year-old Roamio line that has been widely praised hasn’t done much for TiVo’s retail business. As of April 30, TiVo had 4.541 million subscribers, but only 957,000 of them were a result of its retail business. The other 3.584 million were all subscriptions sold by MSOs. The Roamio OTA is a retail product.

Of TiVo’s  retail subscribers more than half of them  bought lifetime subscriptions.

If you did a simple three circle Venn diagram where one circle is “DVR-loving cord cutters” and one is “willing to pay $50 for a nice DVR” and the last one is “willing to pay $14.99/mo for a program guide,” that last circle has very small intersections with the other two circles if it touches them at all.

Using an already bad retail business to target a still small segment of folks who’d cut the cord to save money doesn’t necessarily scream “bad idea!” but charging $6/month more than Netflix for the program guide is another story.

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