The FT reports that Murdoch’s DirecTV is selling its stake in TiVo; the naïve but incredibly clever personal video recorder (PVR) innovator. I’m one of the few in the UK to have a box (though you might have seen it in Sex and the City) and for the last two and a half years it’s completely changed the way we watch television. Katharine and I only ever watch the news live. We’ve told TiVo what we like and it goes off to find it (difficult though it is to find anything watch watching). Some people think TiVo is like Sky+, but we had that briefly and next to TiVo it looks like an ordinary VCR. For starters, it doesn’t have TiVo’s ability to learn your preferences and record on spec: a killer application.
Yet just as the broadcast quality Betamax (lives on in the professional world) lost out to grainy VHS (strictly home use), so TiVo is going the way of Betamax in its war with Sky+. And it’s all because TiVo licensed itself to Sky in the UK and Sky (surprise, surprise) decided to spend all its money marketing its own system instead. DirecTV’s divestment is almost certainly a sign that News Corp has learned all it thinks it needs to learn from TiVo and is ready to kill off the rump with an over hyped – but greatly inferior – copycat product.