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TiVo: TV and Web Convergence ‘Started Years Ago,’ Not With Google TV

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TiVo (s tivo) is launching an assault against Google TV (s GOOG) ahead of the new web-on-TV platform’s launch later this year. While Google is hoping to have its integrated TV and web offering available on Sony (s SNE) TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as Logitech (s LOGI) set-top boxes, in stores by the holidays, TiVo says you can already get similar functionality on its existing products — and have been able to do so for years.

TiVo VP of Marketing Tony Lee in a blog post yesterday talked up TiVo’s advancements in the TV space: how it revolutionized the industry by creating the DVR, and later, how it added search functionality to make it easier to find the content that users wanted to watch, long before competing products were able to. But where the blog post gets really interesting is when he moves on to talk about web content on TiVo devices. Lee writes:

“With your broadband connection, we bring you the best of the Web all into one TiVo box –- currently 6 million content options and counting. Netflix (s NFLX), YouTube, Amazon (s AMZN), Blockbuster (s BBI) and more are only one click away with your TiVo Premiere. Not up for a movie? Explore new tunes with options like Rhapsody or Pandora, which is coming soon.”

In other words, TiVo already gives users access to a wide variety of web content. He goes on to say that:

“We believe this new vision of TV entertainment is only complete when you can watch both television and Web content. Why should you have to choose between one and the other? Choose the TiVo box and service and you get both.”

The bottom line? You don’t need a newfangled device that isn’t even on the market yet to get the best of the web on your TV. TiVo already lets you do that, and by the way, you can buy a TiVo Premiere DVR today.

But Lee’s money quote is as follows:

“We haven’t just entered a new era of TV and Web convergence –- that era started years ago. We believe the defining theme of this era is about making all the content you want television-centric, in one single approach.”

In other words, Google TV is nothing new.

Importantly, Lee alludes to one big difference between the two: While TiVo’s DVRs offer web content through certain pre-integrated applications for Netflix, YouTube and others, Google TV is a platform that can enable its users to find and view anything on the web, right alongside their TV programming. It’s essentially the difference between the same old walled-garden approach taken by existing carriers and TV operators vs. the open platform approach, which gives viewers access to all web content.

What’s notable is that TiVo believes that its users want that web content to be available in a television-centric model, rather than through Google’s more web-friendly platform. It believes that users will want a YouTube channel listing in their program guide, rather than being able to search for YouTube in a more browser-based model.

The problem is that the TV-centric programming guide is broken and it’s not fit for harnessing all of the great content available on the web. While TiVo has made great strides in making finding that content easier — through integrated search between broadcast content and broadband services that are available through its products — its current search model isn’t robust enough for the broader global web.

It will be interesting to see what consumers choose: TiVo’s walled garden approach, where they have access to a few, pre-chosen content sources, or Google’s open web model. With Google TV available by the end of the year, we’ll soon know.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Google TV: Overview and Strategic Analysis (subscription required)

11 Responses to “TiVo: TV and Web Convergence ‘Started Years Ago,’ Not With Google TV”

  1. Openivo

    Maybe this comment will be amusing 5 years from now, but I think the whole web-on-TV concept is misguided. The essence of Web content is interactivity. The essence of television is entertainment with minimal interactivity. Adding web content to TV is like listening to CSI on the radio. The best place to view web content is on a computer screen. The best thing to watch on television is television.
    Computer and internet technology can enhance television, not by adding interactive “content”, but by making good-old-TV easier and more fun to watch. DVR functions, intelligent and effective recommendations, and social network interface, are three possible enhancements that I think would work.

    • If we’re making predictions, I’ll roll out my own crystal ball and join the mob. :)

      I think what is in the process of happening is the merging of TV with the computer. Not the web, but the computer. Namely the computer monitor. Not software/content, but hardware. I think in a very short time there won’t be two separate systems (TV and computer) but one with the computer in charge of both. And it becoming in charge of both simply because it will likely always have FAR more memory capacity than TVs. The computer will act as essentially a DVR for the TVs in one’s house. What will become the “TV” of the future will essentially be a large monitor meant for group watching and/or theater-style watching.

      And what is holding all of this back is what I call “The Last Dash” (click on my name for a white paper that explains it [page 13]), which is the last hundred yards between one’s TV and one’s computer. Everything beyond the last hundred yards is in place for the convergence of these two technology. Right now, we’re watching who is going to conquer The Last Dash. Will it be some set-top devise? Will cable providers provide a way for people with cable modems to have their computers send stored programming to one’s TVs so cable subscribers only have to download a program to do this? Will another player not yet on the field come and cause the paradigm shift? Cellphone companies? Electric utilities?

      Once The Last Dash has been conquered, everything will be prime for kicking into high gear. Then it will be up to content to drive the paradigm shift. All it takes is one profitable “must-see” web-series that doesn’t get picked up by broadcast or cable TV networks to move the masses to the new reality.

      And this is why I check NewTeeVee as part of my morning routine. I think this blog will be the one that will be one of the first spotters of the changes I predict above.

  2. Hi,

    It depends on whether you believe Apple’s strategy has been a success or not.

    Do normal consumers want a simple-to-operate elegant solution that doesn’t give even more info to Google?

    Too much choice is sometimes overpowering.

    Tivo deserves so much more success, but to fulfill its potential it might want to learn from the Psion Epoc Operating system! ;)

    Google-TV won’t be the success so many are expecting by virtue of all the alternative platforms, but largely that most digital tv comes via stb-providers, and then there’s the consoles, etc. and all provide better value than simply providing a “nice” UI on a tv.

    Ultimately, most consumer a/v electronics are getting browsers of one sort or another, it’s simply a question of how much control those manufacturers want and how much of the revenue-share, e.g. see: Vieracast.

    Yours kindly,

    Shakir Razak

  3. TiVo is Henry Ford. When Henry Ford was asked what colors does the Model-T come in, he replied, “Any color as long as it is black.”

    TiVo has been slowly dying because they bring so little to the table. Right now, if you hook up your TV to your computer, your computer can act as a DVR for you. You can even download free DVR programs off the net for your computer. It is only a matter of time that such programs because part of any computer’s basic software package.

    And then there’s cable and satellite TV companies that are now essentially enabling their subscribers to have a DVR through them. No box need be purchased. It is just one of the features they offer. Them doing this eliminates the need for a middleman like TiVo.

    R.I.P. TiVo … and do so quickly. We’re all tired of your endless lawsuits against anyone that even publicly pronounces your name.

    • Openivo

      Computer DVRs are great, but have significant cost for the computer, if not the software. Suppose there was a DVR service that used real standard PCs instead of a cable box or single use TiVo. Suppose it used unobtrusive skip-able commercials to finance the system at low or no cost to the viewer? Suppose it used open-source software, so nearly unlimited apps would be available. What would you call it?