TiVo is coming to Canada. Inspired or irrelevant?


Tivo For many Canadians, TiVo is sort of like the iPhone. We’ve heard about it, read about it and some of us may have even seen it or used it. Until now. Next month, the device that helped create the PVR revolution will be available to Canadian TV fans for the first time.

Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) are a no-brainer. They give TV viewers the kind of control over their viewing preferences that VCRs and even DVD-recorders failed to deliver in the past.

For some, it’s the ability to never miss their favourite show. For others it’s the ability to call up their kids’ favourite shows on-demand regardless of the time of day. And let’s not forget the near-magical "skip forward" and pause buttons. Any way you slice it, PVRs have completely changed the TV landscape. Most folks who own one can’t imagine a world without it.

In the U.S., the brand that has done the most to push forward the adoption of this relatively new technology is TiVo. South of the border, the brand has become synonymous with recording TV shows and it’s not uncommon to hear TV show hosts and others talk about "TiVo-ing" something. As Canadians, we’ve largely had to stand back and curiously watch while our American friends gush effusively about their set-top boxes with the smiling-TV logo.

Not that we’ve been suffering up here in silence or without options. PVRs come in many shapes and sizes here in Canada. We have a ton of choices including either renting or buying a PVR from our cable or satellite providers, or picking up an off-the-shelf solution like the combination DVD recorders with hard disk drives. Still others choose to use their PCs as PVRs. For more than 3 years, there have been models from HP, Sony and Dell that come with Windows Media Center software allowing PVR functionality on their desktops.

The real question current or prospective PVR owners should be asking themselves is, what can a TiVo do for me that other PVRs can’t, and is it worth the difference in price?

From what I’ve been able to gather, the TiVo unit that is hitting store shelves will:

  • pack about 80 hours worth of standard definition programming
  • give users access to the TiVo Service
  • allow them to remotely program their PVR via the internet
  • give them the ability to transfer their recorded content to their iPods, PSP or laptop
  • connect to the user’s broadband internet connection via ethernet or an optional wireless USB adapter
  • provide access to some web-based content such as podcasts and weather data

The price is $199, but that does not include the mandatory subscription to the TiVo service which will run you $12.95 a month or $129 a year.

The hardware is optimized for cable, and the ability to watch one show while recording another will not work with satellite receivers. As well, the unit has to be connected to either a phone line or your broadband internet connection in order to receive the on-screen programming guide from TiVo’s servers.

For most people, the alternative to TiVo will be a PVR provided by their cable or satellite company. These boxes can (depending on the configuration) run anywhere from $299 to $599. But in all cases, these are one-time hardware costs, with no ongoing monthly or annual fees (unless you decide to rent). We recently covered the launch of ExpressVu’s latest HD PVR the 9242, which does most what the TiVo does, and a few things it can’t.

So tell us, have you been patiently awaiting the arrival of TiVo in Canada?  Is the subscription fee justified by the features it offers? Or are you content with the current PVR solutions already available to you?

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37 comments

  1. Ron

    This dose not intrest me one bit. It is just another way for the cable companiies to gouge there customers for for more money.

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  2. my2cents

    I live in Canada and have had it for 9 months. I can't image TV without it! I love my TIVO. We now have a second one. It has many features you can't get with satellite.

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  3. Austin Mayo

    My cable box already does all of what Tivo does. The only good that can come from this is to drive the ridiculous price of the Motorola cable boxes down which cost 350% more than Tivo for no good reason.

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  4. Jane

    I've had my Tivo for over a year now, they work in Canada, they just haven't been sold here. I got a Version 2 on ebay for 57$, and have never been happier with it. The amount my cable company wanted for a DVR was crazy- hundreds and hundreds of dollars. I have never had a problem with the tivo, and the monthly fee doesn't bother me. I get to watch exactly what I want, without the aimless channel surfing of olden days. Glad that Tivo is finally being retailed up North!

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  5. Richard

    NO BIG DEAL!
    I prefer the DVD recorder with a hard-disk. It can work on any supplier. TiVo is more of a gimmick and groupies with a notion that they have something special.

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  6. Henry

    I'm glad I saw this news item as I have wanted this feature and can't stand Bell's overpriced monopoly with laughable Customer Service and lack of selection. I phoned them about other receiver/PVR items on the market for the DISH network and they will not activate if not bought from them. This TIVO allows me to get around that and Bell oses $15.00 a month they couild have of thery would open up their eyes.

    I wish TIVO would put equal focus on satellite so as to have the 2 channel feature

    Hope it works on Express Vu as advertised TIVO's website does have an icon/link for Canada and a Canadian section up and running but nowhere do they mention Express Vu compatibility nor is it in their drop down list of satelite provioders elsewhere in their site (they do mention the DISH network which I understand is what Express Vu is part of)

    H. Noble

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  7. joan

    I agree with Ron and Richard. A question? Why can we not generate/create things in this day and age that are going to help improve peoples minds and their well being rather than just using their fingers and unstimulating their minds. It doesn't take a whole lot of brains to give/use the finger. Everything is all about use the finger and push a button. I am happy that today I can still pick my nose and I get immediate results (breathing better) and it doesn't cost me a friggin cent.lol

    Joan

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  8. Jason

    I have had a hacked version to work in Canada of Tivo for the last 4 years and just recently got a Shaw PVR. I have to say the Tivo system is much more user friendly. It is easier to fast forward through commercials, it makes recording suggestions based on personal preferences, you can set recording options by type/theme or even an actor, it has a lot more memory, can easily save recordings to a VCR or DVD and there are no adds in the guide listings like Shaw. I much better system. If you have never tried it you just don't know how good it works.

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  9. Nfld TiVo'er

    I don't understand – I bought a used TiVo that came from back in the days when they used to offer lifetime subscriptions (i.e. no monthly fee), and it works perfectly here in Nfld with Rogers Cable.

    It recognizes where I am, what timezone I'm in, and all the channels that Rogers is piping into the house: I had no idea that TiVo wasn't supposed to work up here!

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  10. Kivi

    I had an old Tivo given to me by a friend in the states a few years ago. We currently use a pvr from Bell. There are many functions that the old Tivo handles in a much better way than my new Bell multituner PVR. The old TIVO did things that my latest and greatest PVR is still unable to do. I think much greater thought and planning went into the functionality of Tivo, than the PVR's here in Canada.

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  11. AHB

    The big Tivo/PVR debate…
    Sure there are many pros and cons about "consuming" television broadcast and the costs it may occur. That is a personal choice and what you get out of it.
    For us, our Tivo has been very useful and the relative cost is well worth it. Features like not having to scan through schedules to find broadcasts of interest is a great feature; we are currently planning a trip to Argentina and our Tivo as been very useful: we simply entered the word "Argentina" and our Tivo scans all channels at all times (till we tell it to stop) for any mention of Argentina in broadcasts descriptions and it records the broadcasts till we are ready to view them. Great feature and reduces the long and frustrating channel surfing needed to find these broadcasts. This is but one of the features. Imagine using it to pick up all your favourite shows on all channels at any time? Can you say: "My own private library of Seinfeld, Start Trek, Canadian Idol or whatever…".
    We have copied onto our computer and then onto DVD any broadcasts we wish to keep in our DVD library (over 1000 strong).
    This brings me to another point: Tivo, though now available, remains technically illegal in Canada. The CRTC and related legislation does NOT allow the use of personal video recording to record any broadcasts. Though there is currently a push to review many of the laws governing media rights, the PVR and alike have been specifically left out by the Harper government. Like copying a store bought and registered software CD (therefore legitimately owned by the user) onto a CD as a back-up (in case of a computer mishap) remains illegal in Canada.
    Once Canada was a leader in telecommunications and now we have been surpassed by most countries in Africa… Just look at our cell phone oligarchy: crappiest limited services at the highest prices in the world…

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  12. Chris

    I don't understand how anybody can be interested in TIVO without the ability to record in Hi-Def. And I can't see any current HD viewers buying a TIVO, that's for sure.

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  13. Kelly Wells

    No matter what features TiVo offers, it can't make up for not offering the ability to record in high definition.

    And to those who complain about the price: talk to me in 5 years.

    Shaw HD PRV: $650
    5 yr TiVo: $844

    What a rip off!

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  14. my2cents

    Record movies in HD. With TiVo HD, you can record shows in standard or high definition. Plus, you can pause or rewind HD instant replays without sacrificing the original razor-sharp HD resolution.

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  15. Navin

    TIVO craze began in USA and the makers grabbed the market through ads.on TV, web 7 magezines ETC.
    Marketing , availibity and subscription was made available to USA subscribers ONLY, NOT to canadians.
    Now several manufacturers have come up with numbers of devices to burn and store programes TIVO sales are suffering in USA thus they now began to oblige canadian consumers.
    This I find typical of many USA businesses.
    Who in their right mind purchase a thing like TIVO, pay high $s to buy and for ever pay monthly fees to be able to use it when several electronic equipments are available everywhere to do the same job. All you have to do is walk into any electronic shop and such devices are staring at you to be picked and in the long run cheaper to operate too.

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  16. les

    i have had 2 tivos for about 3 years. i record my satellite on one and digital cable on the other. the best thing about having 2 is networking them. i transfer shows between them, i can listen to music off my cpu wirelessly through them and i have never had any problems. both my tivos have upgraded hard drives and can record 500 hours of quality television, which no other pvr can do. i also was able to pay a one time subsciption fee so i will never have to pay again. in the time i have had them, it has paid itself off. oh yeah, and the best thing sbout my series 2 tivos, they both have burners. so if i want to back up any of my shows on to dvd, i can within 10 minutes.

    with anyone concerned about recording in "hd", i would wait anyways. most providers only put out a 720dpi hd signal. it is rare to get a true 1080dpi signal here in canada. and seriously, most of the shows out there in hd are sports. so why would you want to record a 3 hour game in hd anyways…i think that is just a waste of space anyways. trust me, you can find them cheaper on ebay (where i bought both of mine) or on websites here in canada that have been selling them for years. it was an investment that i have never regretted. i even got one for my inlaws!

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  17. Mike

    Still looking for something that will record OTA HDTV in HD, preferably with no monthly fee (why I'm using OTA in the first place). Looks like I'll stay with my ATSC tuner plugged into my VCR for a while yet.

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  18. Paul

    I've had my TiVo unit & TiVo service for a couple of years now, completely without incident. There are NO other PVRs available in Canada with the same features, functionality and pricing; I checked in depth. We time-shift our programs due to working odd shifts. We can download from the TiVo to our home computer or upload photos & videos from the home computer to the TiVo. The TiVo website shows the various models and they do support HD & Live HDTV. All models can be purchased in the US and used here in Canada. The service is available for MOST program suppliers in Canada. The best thing I liked about the TiVo I got was that I paid $200 US for the unit and got a $200 US rebate when I activated a one year service subscription. I'm now in my 3rd year of service with TiVo and will be buying the high-end unit on my next trip to the US. I'm glad to hear that TiVo is coming into Canada, but the initial offering for units may be very limited. But you can buy the unit you want in the US and bring it into Canada. Enjoy!!

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  19. Ray

    Hi Simon, I think that the TIVO package is too little too late. Lots of things happening in the way of interactive TV viewing and I don't think that the TIVO bandwagon would be a smart move at this time.

    There are some new systems that will be making themselves available soon that are going to blow a lot of these systems out of the water. Just have a look at the flash systems that are being tweaked as we speak, pretty impressive to say the least. They do all the same stuff and then some.

    I can't say that those that already have TIVO are not experiencing a good product, it's just that there will be a wide choice avail shortly and Tivo will just be one amongst many, depending on what the individual wants to do. I've had my eyes on some flash systems and they are much more compact and loaded with features for some pretty reasonable money.

    I also have to point out that I am located in the EXCEPT Quebec area as I read in another article last night and that Say's volumes to me also…

    See ya, Ray.

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  20. Mallory Wilson

    It might be a competion between tivo and other pvr recivers, I've got the standard pvr reciver for bell expressvu and it does ok, the only downside is after 5 mins after shutting it down, the harddisk will run for a bit. What could tivo possibly have that other recivers don't have, another big toy for big people.

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  21. Simon Cohen

    Ray, c'mon don't hold out on us, which flash systems are you refering to? Is it the Sandisk TakeTV? Or by flash do you mean Adobe Flash? We need details!

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  22. Raif

    I.ve had a Tivo for years now but can't realy say too much about it as it is modofied to give free unlimited viewing, the picture and programming feeds are great. Wish I could get HD though as Canadian cable at sat services all suck! Chow fer now Raif

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  23. Mark

    While TiVo has done a lot to the concept of channel the way we view TV but it has also been responsible for driving up the cost of cable premiums as well. Hear me out. With the capabaility of tuning out commercials it stops the major portion of the TV producers / owners revenues. They have to recoup that revenue. So they charge your local cable provider more money to be able to broadcast their channel. Then your cable provider passes on those charges to you.
    I'll stick to my PVR that records 2 programs at the same time plus I own it and have no reoccuring charges each month. As well my PVR doesn't have to be plugged in and taking some of my bandwidth away from my internet.

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  24. warren

    I can't believe some of these crazy comments. TiVo has nothing to do with the cable company and has no effect on their price. I've used the cable company PVR's, in Standard Definition and the HD models and they DO NOT do what a TiVo can do. The only reason that Rogers offers crap like Scientific Atlanta is because of their bottom line. They make more off them and they can sell you Video on Demand through them, not because they're better.

    Say you get into a conversation, with a friend about a show, while you're at work. Can you go on your cable company's website and schedule a recording? Nope. With TiVo you can and it works.

    The Rogers PVR doesn't even have the most basic functionality! You can't even search by show title to schedule a recording! You have to scroll through days of the TV guide info to find the show first and then schedule it. How can they sell something without that? It's like selling a book without a table of contents, index or page numbers. With my TiVo I can search by title, actor, or keyword. It let's you specify category and whether to record a first run only or reruns as well. Let's say you want to record talk show appearances with Julia Louis Dreyfus 'cause you like her new show, but don't want it to record the fifty Seinfeld episodes that air each day. You can tell it to record by her name and specify talk shows only. Or just record movies she's in that air on any channel.

    I'm a fan of architecture, so I have 'architect*' in my Wishlists and with that asterix at the end of the word, it'll record and shows with variations of the word: architects, architecture, etc. I've gotten to see some really cool shows that aired, that I would have never known were on. I'm getting the most out of my cable.

    Someone commented that they cause cable prices to go up 'cause people are fast-forwarding commercials. Rubbish! TV networks got greedy and fell behind the times. A one hour time slot is only 45 minutes of programming now. Shows used to be longer, remember? People are tired of the excess of ads and we have no obligation to watch them. TV is changing and it's inevitable. I am tired of having to remember when a show is airing. Now that I can set the Season Pass in my TiVo, there's no more frustration when a show airs an hour earlier or is preempted or the station moves it to another night.

    TiVo is constantly adding new features. In the past year, they've added 'Kidzone' software so that kids can have their own, moderated by parents, Now Playing list of shows. There is a new search feature and lots of TiVo Cast videos that download weekly. I love the extra content from the NYTimes and CNet. Once I posted on TiVo's forums 'cause a third-party wireless adapter I had bought wasn't working. One of TiVo's programmers contacted me and asked me to send them the adapter for testing and they incorporated it into the new software update they were working on. It didn't work when I bought it, but now it does. He even mailed it back with some TiVo swag. Who else would do that?

    I like gadgets and have bought an awful lot of stuff and there are few things I've bought and enjoyed as much. I watch tv when I feel like it, rather than surf to find something on. It's way more efficient. I bought everyone in my family one and one for my best friend. My mother recently told me that her TiVo started recording the new seasons of her favorite shows as they started to air and she didn't have to re-enter them. Of course she didn't 'cause that just makes sense!

    I'd rather have a standard-definition TiVo, even though it's not HD on my HD TV, instead of using any of the Rogers HD boxes, even if they were free. You can't understand by reading an article, so when displays are in stores, try it out for yourself and decide.

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  25. Tony

    Interesting the way some of you talk about HD on Canada's PVRs. Rogers won't let me use an HDMI cable. The port is blocked. I can only transmit HD signal to my TV using analog component cables. And NO, its NOT the same. Why deny me the opportunity to see the best picture possible. (probably because they aren't actually feeding us the best picture possible)

    Oh and forget about USB ports or any other port on the Rogers PVR designed to let me transfer my recordings to an I-Pod or PSP. No portability. So you spend 599.00 (or rent for a ridiculous 24.95/mo) on the box which only works with Rogers, and they restrict how you use it.

    I am happy that TiVo is coming to Canada. Not necessarily because I will subscribe but because maybe it will force Rogers to smarten up and allow me to use my HD-PVR the way it was designed to be used.

    While paying almost 200.00 a month for service, equipment rentals etc, I expect the best picture possible, and the option to make portable, the recordings of shows I pay to watch.

    Personally I am not sure what took TiVo so long, but what bothers me most is that Canadians are always getting the shaft on technology, especially from our own service providers.

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  26. AHB

    Amazing how some people don't know how to shop: we bought our Tivo for 54$ on ebay. The 13$/month we pay to a US provider is nothing in comparaison to renting a couple of DVDs a month. As to HD; we have decided till cable providers actually send a decent feed, we'd rather watch broadcasts on our 5'X10' foot silver screen via our high rez projector.

    To each our own when it comes to what we wanta pay for a service/product: it's all about what you personally get out of it…

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  27. C

    I have the Shaw HD PVR and it is quite easy to find the shows you want it. The search function in the guide is easy to use and the shaw HD PVR allows you to do series recordings which is nice. The star choice HD PVR also works nice (my parents have it) and so I won't buy a tivo when they come here. If you just have a reciever without pvr then you have to find room for your tivo. When you have an xbox 360 and a ps3 and a surround sound system then it is nice to have the pvr and cable box together as the two combined into one take up much less space then if you have a seperate cable box and pvr.

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  28. rolweg@sasktel.net

    Now my 2 cents: Really I could care less. My quad core w vista ult. has all the bells and whistles, but I couldnt be bothered settig up its pvr function.* two good shows on at the same time, I pick one* Sooner or later the other `missed` one will be on again.
    Its only tv for goodness sake! Rolf.

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  29. negotiator

    I just scored 2 free Rogers PVRs for 2 years.

    It seems that many others having been doing the same for a long time.

    Just call Rogers' customer service and tell them that this is what Bell is offering you if you switch…and Rogers will match it!!

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