Big in the UK, there are moves to bring Freeview to Australia .
Commentary So, we're to understand that TiVo is doomed and now Harvey Norman has refused to stock Seven's AU$500 set top box and the company has been "forced" to rethink its plans. While the article quotes Seven, nowhere does the representative say the company is "rethinking" and there is a liberal sprinkling of "understood to haves" in the text.
Let's do a show of hands.
Hands up people who've heard of TiVo. (I'm betting most regular readers of this site.)
Hands up if anyone not from the UK has heard of Freeview. (The sound of crickets. Someone coughs.)
Sure, with a bit of marketing the Freeview name could gain some traction, but why bother when a free EPG already exists in Australia and has for several months.
For those who don't know, Freeview is the UK's name for its EPG service. It is being pushed by all the local stations as a potential alternative to the TiVo subscription service that Seven will be launching this year. But surely there's already some competition in this field?
Topfield, the maker of set-top boxes, has had set-top boxes for years with TiVo-like facilities — thanks to the ICETV program guide. Same too Microsoft's Media Center. But are either household names? We don't believe so.
Which next-gen recorder are you interested in?
I'm happy with my current recorder
I don't know what the fuss is about
Total votes: 11
As the Freeview "coalition of the willing" is apparently only meeting for the first time today, it's hard to say what sort of functionality its hardware will have. But it appears that the exercise will be in branding existing set top boxes in a similar way to the HD Ready campaign.
We're not apologists for TiVo, but we don't think it's an amazing idea, given that the marketplace is going to be crowded with plenty of different options come the middle of the year — Foxtel iQ2, TiVo, IceTV, etc. We don't think "branding" the already available EPG will make much of a difference to whether TiVo launches or not.
Seven will probably go ahead with TiVo just because it has brand awareness, and it will probably do okay. But it won't stop what is coming
The commercial channels are scared of what Foxtel is capable of, and whether it's Freeview or TiVo, they want to ensure their advertising revenue does not erode. TV as we know it will be unrecognisable in ten years as online content begins to take over, and our little cottage industry is gearing up to defend itself. Inevitably, it's a war they will lose, and it probably won't be TiVo who wins it — it'll be to whoever can create a web-enabled set top box that's as intuitive as TV. And at the moment Foxtel will tell you it's them — but we think people will want a Joost-type service that's free.
Foxtel has shown that subscription TV is increasingly popular and Topfield/IceTV have made a living selling the exact same thing that TiVo is promising — fee-based program guides and "record anywhere" Internet functionality. We think that Freeview and TiVo can co-exist and that people will pay for convenience. We believe that this fabricated 'war' is really a smokescreen for a little fisticuffs: free-to-air versus Foxtel. But things won't really get interesting until the showdown: local television versus the world.
For the latest information on this service, have a look at our guide entitled "What Is Freeview?"