TiVo boss Robbee Minicola, who is known for being a bit of a motor mouth, couldn’t help herself when Foxtel rolled out 30 new channels, new HD sporting channels and access to over 400 hours of free TV programs earlier this week.

Now she is trying to claim that the TiVo PVR, which is predominantly owned by the Seven Network, is offering a better content experience than Foxtel.

So is the Tivo offering better? Let’s take a look.

A Tivo package now being promoted by Harvey Norman is up front going to cost you $995 or $695 for a non IP network box. The premium package, consists of a TiVo player, a separate Western Digital 1 TB hard drive and two Netgear powerline adaptor,s then there is the option of a home networking package which will cost you an additional $199. All up the package will cost $1,195.

With the TiVo offering you also get access to 12 programs which are basically the 5 free to air channels plus new HD channels being transmitted by the free to air TV stations.

In addition, you get access to Blockbuster movies which can be up to 1.4 gigabytes in size as well as access to services such as home Pizza delivery and music channels from the likes of Vega. There is also access to games.

In an effort to get traction with broadband carriers, TiVo has cut deals with two small ISP’s in an effort to deliver access to TiVo services. For the ISP, they get access to a content management system and a small amount of content from Tivo partners such as Blockbuster.

On the other side Foxtel, is 50% owned by Telstra, who not only have the lion’s share of the broadband market, but are delivering the Foxtel services via several of the Smartphones they sell.  TiVo is only offered on a Blackberry phone.

Foxtel consumers gets access to up 180 channels of content, including a large amount of content that is not available to free to air TV stations.  With the $88 Foxtel family HD package consumers only get access to 68 channels Vs 12 from TiVo.  

Foxtel customers are also able to download for free up to 400 TV programs and paid movie downloads which are also, around 1.3gigabytes in size. The service is 100% legal.


This online TV content from Foxtel is free while the Tivo movie downloads from Blockbuster and Foxtel will incur a cost for a movie and a cost if downloaded outside of a user’s broadband plan.

Under the deal announced this week some Foxtel subscribers will also have access to 30 new pay-TV channels – including 10 new high-definition channels, six of which will be dedicated to movies and three to sport – pushing the total number of channels available to180.

On the content management side, Tivo have their management system, which allows users to search and record including the ability to search by category such as sport, crime movies or by an actor’s name. This is excellent software and easy to navigate.

 Foxtel, who recently upgraded their management system, now offers the same capabilities with the added advantage that subscribers can now go online from a PC or smartphone, from anywhere in the world and record a program to the Foxtel IQ recorder.

Foxtel are also upgrading the bulk of their subscribers to the new iQ2 box which will allows Full HD content to be watched and recorded. This set top box comes with a 500GB hard drive Vs the 1 terabyte of additional storage which TiVo deliver.

This is a clear Foxtel weakness, so is the fact that their set top box will not allow an additional hard drive to be attached.

So who is the winner? I believe it is Foxtel by a long, long way. Let me explain.

Firstly with TiVo you have to fork out over $1,100 to get access to a box and storage that delivers only 12 programs plus movies and some services which research shows people rarely use.

The box and the home networking package is very expensive. The content that TiVo delivers is now available to all HD TV’s with an electronic program guide or a Freeview guide for free viewing. By attaching a simple PVR, viewers can store and playback this content.


This TiVo box and the attached storage technology will become obsolete very quickly. For example TiVo launched their recorder without any home networking capability six months later they were asking users to pay $199 for the privilege of an upgrade. They also launched it with a small hard drive which is why they are asking early adopters to fork out over $300 for an additional drive.

The bottom line is that recording technology dates very quickly.

With Foxtel, a family HD package costs $88.00 a month. The box comes free. You get 68 programs including news packages like CNN, FoxNews and the local SkyNews which, from November, will deliver weather by suburb and news by State.

You get access to Premier league soccer from the UK along with a host of overseas and domestic sport.

With Tivo all you get are the same 12 programs that you can watch for free if you have a HD TV, PVR or set top box.

You also get access to movies from Blockbuster, however my observation of these movies is that they are old or not on the A list of movies doing the rounds. This begs the question of whether they are worth downloading.

At the end of the day a personal video recorder, which is what TiVo and Foxtel are selling, is all about content and the ease with which the content can be accessed and recorded.

The critical element is content and that’s what Foxtel have over TiVo. They have access to more programs and over 400 hours of TV programs that can be downloaded if you have forgotten to record them.




On the content front, content is like a smorgasbord and the battle between TiVo and Foxtel is a bit like having the choice of a smorgasbord that’s simply meat pies and sausage rolls or a smorgasbord that’s packed with over 100 choices.

My recommendation is Foxtel because shareholders like Telstra and News Ltd have the muscle to deliver a stack of content going forward. I also believe that the TiVo offering is going to have obsolescence problems as new technology and services are launched.

Also adding to this is that Foxtel have done a great job at developing local content while licensing additional content for their channels. If Seven Media were really serious about the TiVo box they should have by now delivered a lot more channels, instead they are dressing up a tired old box to deliver by majority programs that people can get for free.

If all you want is a good PVR that does just about everything that TiVo does, with the exception of pizzas and  Blockbuster movies, go out and buy the new Topfield Media Centre with the new Ice TV EPG.

You get all of the programs that 7 are delivering plus access to YouTube and other online services for less than $895 or you have the option of buying a Teac 500GB PVR for $599 which records two programs at once.




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