PVRs may be the future, but the business models aren’t here yet

Simon Waldman has a good article on Personal Video Recorders, although I disagree with his conclusions about why they haven’t taken off yet.

Why don’t PVRs dominate the market yet? Simple. Too many technologies and too much cost. TiVo, which dominates the US market, tried to crack the UK market a while back and pulled out when it couldn’t make money.

I’d be a natural for a PVR. There’s all sorts of programmes I’d be watching if I didn’t have to set a video and I didn’t have to remember to tune in at a specific time. Yet I don’t have one. Why? I’ve been a Sky subscriber for over a year. That means I can’t get Sky+ installed for free: it’ll cost me £150 to buy a Sky+ box. If I ever move house and switch to Freeview or NTL, it’ll be completely redundant since it won’t work with those providers. Then there’s the £10/month extra I’d have to pay to get the programme guide (without which it’s useless), since I don’t subscribe to any of the premium channels. That’s a whole lot of money just to have a video with built-in VideoPlus numbers.

It’s not much rosier on the Freeview side. Getting a Freeview receiver with built-in hard drive costs £150 or so, although I suspect costs will come down thanks to the competition among vendors on the Freeview side (no such thing on the proprietary Sky+ side). NTL and Telewest don’t have PVRs yet.

But Freeview has only a small selection of Sky’s channels so I’m reticent to switch; and in a first floor flat on a shiny new development, cable isn’t really option. So, ultimately, I’m PVR-free and that’s the way it’s likely to be for some time – unless Sky change their Sky+ pricing and installment policy or Freeview get a few more channels.