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Summary:

Getting a new TiVo Premiere DVR through a lease from your cable company? Then don’t be surprised if it offers you less than the same device sold in stores: Hulu and Netflix aren’t allowed to offer their subscription services on DVRs distributed by cable companies.

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Hulu Plus is slated to come to TiVo’s Premiere DVR soon — but don’t expect it to show up on any TiVo devices supplied by cable companies like Suddenlink, Cox or RCN. Rights holders are resisting subscription-based streaming content being placed next to cable-powered VOD offerings, and they’re preventing services like Hulu Plus and Netflix on any device provided to you by your pay TV operator through licensing clauses.

The issue became apparent for the first time last week when Suddenlink said that it would love to offer its customers Netflix access on its Premiere DVRs, but can’t because Netflix isn’t able to deliver its subscription service to DVRs leased by cable companies. Netflix at the time confirmed that its contracts simply don’t allow this, and now Hulu is saying that it is bound to the same restrictions: “Currently, Hulu Plus will not be available on MVPD-provided TiVo Premiere DVRs,” we were told by a company spokesperson.

This type of blackout for online subscription services is frustrating for consumers who expect TiVo’s supplied by their cable company to offer the same type of service a TiVo sold through retail channels would get them. Suddenlink, which rolled out TiVo availability in four Texas communities this month, charges end users $15 per month to lease a Premiere DVR. That’s only $5 less than the no-money-down promotional offer recently introduced by TiVo.

However, the real loser could be TiVo itself: The company has been banking on alliances with cable companies to make up for its ever-declining consumer subscriber base. Its access to extra content has been one of the selling points. In fact, the company boasts on its website that it “brings the operator content, navigation, and branding options that they can’t get elsewhere,” with one of those content options mentioned being Netflix. Cable operators are unlikely to invest a lot of money into rolling out Premiere DVRs if those boxes offer little more than the generic devices they’ve been shipping to customers for years.

A TiVo spokesperson didn’t provide any further details when contacted for this story, and instead said that it was “important to remember that TiVo offers a millions of pieces of broadband delivered content from providers beyond just Netflix, as well as integrated cable video on demand.”

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  1. This sounds like a job for Google TV. Hope they get it on to PS3. The established players are monopolists that shutter at the thought of competition, as they have never operated in a free market.

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    1. GoogleTV is DOA.
      TV watchers absolutely do not want a keyboard being required to control their TV.
      TV watchers absolutely want content also, which GTV does not deliver.
      GTV has cancelled at CES
      GoogleTV: DOA

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      1. GoogleTV is not dead. I fully expect GoogleTV to be back in an improved form. Google is smart, they saw the feedback for the first products and they’ve halted the roll out until they can make improvements so they make a better first impression on consumers. (Right now they’ve done little more than get units into the hands of hardcore early adopters, who generally seem to like it for what it is.)

        I disagree about the keyboard, we’re seeing more devices add keyboard capability. I have a TiVo Slide remote for my TiVo Series3, and the keyboard is a nice addition. Boxee Box has a keyboard on the remote, some Internet enabled TVs are getting keyboard remotes, etc. Keyboards are necessary for ease of use. Entering searches from on-screen ouija boards is tedious.

        Now, the form factor of the current GoogleTV keyboards may not be the best, but I don’t think the keyboard per se is a problem.

        And GoogleTV delivers a LOT of content with more in the works as they work out the business deals. That’s a business issue, nothing else. It comes down to money and it is in the best interest of both Google and the providers to work out deals, so they will.

        GoogleTV will be back and improved – perhaps they’ll wait until they can launch it with an app store, and maybe that’s how the content issue will be resolved – apps for each network, etc.

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  2. I would not expect this to effect Cox, just RCN & Suddenlink. RCN & Suddenlink distribute the TiVo Premiere hardware to their customers with specialized software loads for those MSOs. But the Cox deal is different, Cox will be supporting Cox VOD services on *retail* TiVo Premiere units – NOT supplying the hardware: http://blog.tivo.com/2010/08/tivo-and-cox-partner-to-offer-cox-on-demand-service-to-subscribers-with-a-tivo-premiere-box/

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