Betrayed By (Once) Friendly Technology

I’ve had a Series 2 Tivo for nearly three years now.  I’ve been fairly happy with it, at least until recently.

Tivo recently released version 7 of the Tivo software.  Unfortunately, the user has no control over whether the update is installed or not, except for ripping the network connection out.  The problem is that this has the undesirable side-effect of preventing the download of the program guide, which is necessary to do Season Passes and searches.  The new update made my older model Series 2 almost unusable.  It would easily take five seconds between screen updates.  That is when it properly recognized the button I pressed on the remote.  The update also introduced a bug where the Tivo sees a double-press of the button.  Some people reported accidentally deleting shows due to this bug.  I haven’t had the problem, but it’s been damn annoying.

So, what do I discover last night?  A damn ad that pops up on the screen for some damn movie (“The Interpreter”) that I’m not going to see because they annoyed me with the damn ad.  It seems I must be one of their guinea pigs for this new “feature.”

TiVo began testing interactive advertising tools during the weekend as it looks to appease companies wary of users’ ability to skip over ads.

The company confirmed late Monday that it released the first in a series of advertising features to a random and limited number of subscribers to the digital-video recorder service. The first test feature—a tag—pops up on the screen when a viewer is fast-forwarding through an advertisement.

If viewers press the thumbs-up or select button during the half second the tag is displayed, they will be redirected to a menu that leads to more information about the advertised product. The tag takes up about 25 percent of the screen, according to the company. TiVo said it is working with only one advertiser, a movie studio, on the trial balloon

The tools will be tested only on Series2 TiVo owners, but once completed could be applied to Series 1 and DirecTiVo customers. Subscribers can’t opt out of the feature, but they can ignore the tags.

“Our goal is in no way to interfere with the TiVo experience,” TiVo spokesman David Shane said.

I call bullshit on two things above.  First, the damn pop-up was way bigger than “25%” of the screen.  I sits right smack in the middle of the screen and you can only see the background image around the edges.  Second, it interferes badly with the “TiVo experience.” 

The whole damn Tivo experience was supposed to be about taking control of TV viewing.  This “feature” is all about removing control from the user.  Yes, you can still fast forward, but it’s disruptive and you have no control over how or where it appears.

I guess I find this irritating because it came right after the piss-poor experience of having my Tivo made nearly useless by their damn update.  It’s unexecusable that they would release an update without doing proper testing to determine that it was OK.  It’s painfully obvious that they didn’t test the new software on the Series 2 machine, or it wouldn’t have been released.  And what did this update include?  The media sharing stuff, which I don’t give a rat’s ass about (I can share pictures and music with my PC’s more easily than I can with the Tivo), and this damn pop-up crap.  They didn’t even have the decency to fix their damn performance bugs before springing this on us.

Anyhow, here’s a fact I bet they didn’t really consider before they sold out to the advertisers:  I watch the ads as I fast forward them.  If I see something that looks interesting I’ll stop and watch a little more of it.  This damn pop-up makes it nearly impossible for me to see what’s going on behind it. 

What really burns my ass about this is that I paid a lot of money for the “Tivo experience.”  I bought the Series 2 back when it was still new, so it was about $400 and then I paid for the lifetime subscription (another $250).  If Tivo wants me to see ads, they can refund my subscription fees and make the service free.  But for paid members, this is simply unacceptable.

I used to be one of those annoying people who advocated Tivo whenever possible.  Not anymore.  When this unit dies I’ll either get a DVR from my cable company (even though their interface sucks) or roll my own using my “entertainment” PC.

Update.  I just remembered something that should be noted here.  The pop-up appears regardless of what you’re fast forwarding through.  In my case I was fast forwarding through part of the show.  I was watching a show “live” and had to leave the room for a bit.  When I came back I used the triple rewind feature to go back, but I went too far.  As I was fast forwarding back to the point where I left, the pop-up appeared over the show, not just the ads.

1 Comment

  1. Mike says:

    I’m about ready to pull the trigger on a Hauppage dual tuner PVR card and the Sage Software. Might be an option for you. Roll your own PVR.