TiVo: The anti-cable
: Om Malik started the ball rolling, suggesting what he would do to save TiVo: He’d give away 2 million boxes to get to 5 million customers paying the annuity for what he thinks can become a premium club sold without marketing. Next, George Hotelling at PVRBlog reacts. Then Fred Wilson decides not answer the TiVo call but then imagines what he’d do, which is pretty much what I’d do with a few variatons on his and Om’s themes:
1. Turn TiVo into the anti-cable: Let us download, store, organize, and serve media from both cable and — this is the important part — the internet. Let us use it for BitTorrents, podcasts, recorded satellite radio shows, recorded broadcast radio shows, MovieLink et al movies, Audible stuff, MP3s, my pictures: anything. Make it a place for my stuff.
2. Release TiVo from the box; store my stuff in the Internet so I can get to it from anywhere, including the den and the bedroom and soon including my mobile phone. Yeah, sure, you’ll have fun times with the MPAA and RIAA but by the time they get you into court, the people will be addicted to the freedom and you’ll have won. Make it the everywhere gadget, the tomorrow device without the gadget or the device.
3. Forget about getting people to pay for another TV guide. Ask TV Guide: People don’t pay for that anymore. That has been my problem with TiVo; that is why I have resisted: I didn’t want to pay for a grid, no matter how good it is. But I also understand that selling hardware is not a great business. So follow the Apple example and sell software: The best way to store and serve my stuff and let me do that on the box you sell or on a box I buy (OK, that’s more Microsoft, but you get the point: sell the functionality, not the chip). More important, follow the Apple example and sell community (by making it, as Om suggests, an exclusive club): Aggregate the opinions and recommendations, the links and behavior, the Flickrish tags of the TiVo audience so they help me find what I want to watch even better than today’s TiVo (or TV Guide) do; when I organize my own media, capture that and share the logic in aggregate with everyone else in the club. Charge a one-time admission for the box or software and the entry into the club (and then charge me for upgrades later, a la Apple).
4. Market yourself as the alternative to cable that does cable and the internet and more, as tomorrow’s everything, anywhere, anytime, any way ticket to media freedom.
That’s what I’d do.