Poor TiVo. The pioneer of live TV recording was just minding its own business, muddling along in a world it doesn’t recognise when news broke that Amazon is looking to start a fight. That’s all it takes to send investors fleeing. But why does reportedly Amazon want in on this antiquated market?
Above photo: Getty
Bloomberg reported this afternoon that Amazon is deep in development of its own DVR, which is codenamed “Frank.” The device is being designed by the Lab 126 team behind the Echo and a rumoured home robot.
Frank doesn’t seem to be anything particularly revolutionary, but as with all things Amazon, it’s about the big picture of keeping users in the ecosystem and reinforcing other products. A feature that would allow viewers to stream recorded shows to their mobile devices is apparently also being considered, but Bloomberg’s source said that no decision has been made on whether it will ship with that option. There’s also no information on a possible ship date.
We reached out to Amazon for comment on the story and to confirm its details but did not receive an immediate response.
Despite this only being a rumour from a mostly reliable reporter, TiVo’s stock dropped as soon as the report was published—the firm hasn't sold its recording devices in the UK since 2003. It fell by as much as 10 per cent before rising to a 4-per cent loss at the end of the day. Those are crucial points that the company can’t afford to lose. In the last 12 months, TiVo has lost 30 per cent of its value. Finding out that the Amazon beast is slouching towards its business has to sting—especially when the news comes a few months after TiVo announced it would no longer manufacture its devices and will merely act as a distribution channel.
Amazon can handle manufacturing, distribution, have it at your door in hours, and actually make the product work for profits. Bloomberg frames the move as another step in Amazon’s efforts to take over your home. You’ll pick up food at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, hit a dash button to reorder the common items, control your smart home with Alexa, give the company’s delivery drivers a key to your house, stream the web to your TV with the Fire Stick, and record your cable TV with Frank.
As far as immediate benefits Amazon could have in mind, it’s likely very interested in your TV viewing habits. It could offer to sell viewer data to content providers, and it could reap all sorts of benefits by using the info itself. Like Netflix, it crunches the viewer data on its Prime Video service to make decisions on original content it wants to order. It’s already indicated that it plans to be more data-driven in that regard when it killed off its system of letting viewers vote on potential TV pilots last month. Grabbing more viewer data from cable TV would really bulk up its knowledge base.
There’s also the fact that cable TV has commercials. Amazon could track what commercials get skipped on which programs and use that data to refine its rumoured plans to offer a free Prime Video that’s supported by ads. It could also use that data to make decisions about products it sells on its core site or to gain leverage with company’s that sell their products on Amazon.
You had a good run, TiVo. Most people are surprised to hear you’re still around, but that’s a hell of an accomplishment. And if it’s any consolation, Donald Trump still loves you.