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I’ve pulled the plug on Tivo (NASDAQ:TIVO) after three years of great service. With my recent FiOS TV subscription, I needed HD capability and I cannot justify paying $800 for hardware I get for free from Verizon (NYSE:VZ). I just wish I had tried to cancel my Tivo service earlier as they offered to cut the per month fee in half if I stayed. That’s a bad leading indicator for the health of this company.

Tivo has an excellent online account management interface, except of course for canceling your service. After digging around on the website I discover that I need to talk with a real human. After 10 minutes on hold, I speak with a service rep who suggests I give the old Tivo box to a friend, or hook it to a second TV in my house. They were willing to drop the per month fee to $6.95 - I’ve been willingly paying $12.95 a month. This was irritating - if you are a Tivo customer I suggest you call them up and threaten to cancel.

I would have switched to the Tivo Series 3 box. Verizon charges me $12.95 for their Series 3 HDTV DVR, the same price I was paying Tivo. The difference is I need to front Tivo $800 for their hardware, where as Verizon includes the hardware in the $12.95 fee. My initial experience with the Verizon DVR has been negative, but not enough to make me spring for a $800 piece of hardware.

I think it’s time to crack open the Scientific Atlanta (NASDAQ:CSCO) DVR and see what costs so much in these boxes. I can’t imagine the hardware BOM of the Tivo box is any different. Either Verizon is taking a bath on leasing hardware at $12.95 or Tivo is gouging customers with a ridiculously overpriced $800 box.

It’s entirely possible that Tivo is trying to stick it to early adopters willing to burn $800 on premium equipment and will cut the price aggressively once they have milked this market segment. They will lose subscribers like myself transitioning to HD who can’t turn down free hardware from their Cableco/Bellco video provider. Perhaps someone from Tivo will read this and give me a free unit to review. Perhaps Tivo will cut the price to $299 and earn my business again. Gizmodo discussed the same issue in more depth here.

Regardless, as an investor with a minor holding in Tivo at this point (Read all of my silly visionary ideas on Tivo here), I am now convinced that however grand my visions are for this company they appear to lack a strategy to avoid the fate of another innovative company I mistakenly tied my dreams to, Metricom.

How exactly is Tivo going to grow their subscriber base when it requires an initial outlay of $800 against free hardware from their Cableco? I postulate that there are Tivo subscribers transitioning to HDTV than people without Tivo who are willing to stick with Standard Def and sign up. Without a radical price cut on the Series 3 box, Tivo the company will get unplugged.

I plan to post a more extensive summary of the FiOS TV hardware (yes, I’ve got MOCA) and install process at a later date.

Disclosure: I am long Tivo at the time I write this, and feel embarrassed to admit it.

Source: TiVo: Pulling the Plug