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Why TiVo's Founders Crashed and Burned With Qplay

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the have-you-ever-even-heard-of-this? dept.

Businesses 50

Velcroman1 (1667895) writes "Michael Ramsay and Jim Barton created a revolution with TiVo, a device that challenged the notion that we had to watch TV shows when they aired. And they hoped to do it again with Qplay, a device that challenged the notion that short-form videos had to be consumed one at a time, like snacks instead of meals. Qplay streamed curated queues of short-form Internet video to your TV using a small, simple box controlled by an iPad app. So what went wrong? Unlike TiVo, the Qplay box was difficult to justify owning, and thevalue of the service itself is questionable. And as of last week, Qplay is closed."

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15 years... (-1, Offtopic)

Gainax (127325) | about 3 months ago | (#47577853)

for a first post.

Re:15 years... (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 3 months ago | (#47578365)

And, what with score 1, your fame doesn't even last you 15 minutes.

Nothing went "wrong" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47577859)

He just got really lucky the first time.

Trying to predict what people want is impossible outside of the basics of life:food, water, shelter, ....

Re: Nothing went "wrong" (1)

UpLock (640192) | about 3 months ago | (#47577893)

Tivo has been a financial disaster from the start for everyone but the founders, ipo underwriters and employees. QPlay repeats that pattern but spares public shareholders' pocketbooks.

Re: Nothing went "wrong" (1, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47578009)

nothing says disaster like 289 million dollars a year and a constantly trending upward stock price

Re: Nothing went "wrong" (4, Informative)

UpLock (640192) | about 3 months ago | (#47578289)

16 year old company has had two profitable years--both due to patent settlements. It has half the subscribers it had ten years ago and four times the employees. It may be a great device but it has always been a lousy business for post-ipo investors.

Re: Nothing went "wrong" (1)

robstout (2873439) | about 3 months ago | (#47580879)

TIVO needs to do more partnerships. I love their DVR for DirectTV (DirectTIVO). Now if they did this with other vendors, they would be sitting pretty.

Re: Nothing went "wrong" (1)

AuralityKev (1356747) | about 3 months ago | (#47584405)

Mediacom has a partnership with TiVo - I got it 6 months ago and it blew my old "generic" DVR away. Never looking back.

Re: Nothing went "wrong" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47580337)

Ur snark adds nothing. Try shutting up.

Re: Nothing went "wrong" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47585063)

nothing says geek-failure like someone who puts down others but never takes up the helm, geekoid. Get out there and do something rather than bitching. Yr a noid.

Re: Nothing went "wrong" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47578499)

Tivo has been a financial disaster from the start for everyone but the founders, ipo underwriters and employees.

Wait, who exactly is left that it's been a financial disaster for?

Re:Nothing went "wrong" (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 3 months ago | (#47579155)

He just got really lucky the first time.

Trying to predict what people want is impossible outside of the basics of life:food, water, shelter, ....

I think sex would make a good growth industry...

What? (3, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 3 months ago | (#47577947)

I love my Tivo, but - I also owned a VCR for the twenty years prior to my first Tivo. Time shifting has been around for 40+ years now.

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47577985)

I think he meant:
"...a device that challenged the notion that we had to watch commercials when they aired. " :)

Re:What? (1)

fermion (181285) | about 3 months ago | (#47579405)

You know, my tivo adds additional commercial content to my viewing experience, content that cannot be turned off or skipped. I like my tivo, but have come to realize that maybe the company is not so efficient given that it needs to engage in promoting content in addition to a monthly fee.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47582799)

huh? Never experienced this in any TiVo I've owned or currently own, including the new Roamio I currently use daily...

Re:What? (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | about 2 months ago | (#47601619)

Umm, I used VCRs for a long time before Tivo, to fast forward through commercials.

(I am a huge Tivo fan, btw... but strongly consider it evolutionary rather than revolutionary.)

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

erice (13380) | about 3 months ago | (#47578137)

I love my Tivo, but - I also owned a VCR for the twenty years prior to my first Tivo. Time shifting has been around for 40+ years now.

True, but limited device intelligence and limited tape capacity made time shifting an exception rather than the rule. Most VCR owners, even those who used the time shifting feature, still watched most of their TV programs at the time that they aired.

With Tivo and other DVRs time-shifting becomes the norm and real-time an exception generally to be avoided.

Re:What? (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 3 months ago | (#47578595)

But Tivo was convenient time shifting. There are still no DVRs that match the ease of use of Tivo.

Re:What? (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 3 months ago | (#47585819)

No argument there. I was simply pointing out that it was possible. I used to regularly schedule recordings on my VCR, back in the old days... but yeah, it was a royal pain compared to Tivo.

On a side note - I recently was handed a project to "digitize" a VHS video one of our faculty uncovered. As I was doing the whole FF + RW thing (to retension the tape), the tape broke. Fortunately it broke near one of the non-tape sections that attach to the spools, so nothing significant was lost... but taking that thing apart, mending the tape, then hoping and praying it would stay together reminded me just how much I hated messing with those old things. Not to mention how annoyingly difficult a simple task like accurately scrubbing to a particular spot was!

And repairing cassettes was even worse - something I have done on more than one occasion!

Re:What? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 3 months ago | (#47586393)

Actually I had convenient recording to VCR from my DirecTV receiver, before I got the Tivo version. Ie, you would scan the programs on screen and select which ones you wanted to record. Then you placed a very small IR transmitter in a location where your VCR would see it (the VCR was right next to the satellite receiver so that was easy). Then when you're program was about to come on it would turn on the VCR and start recording. The only thing I needed to do was make sure I rotated the tapes so that there was room to record, and to catch up on my shows so I didn't run out of tapes (I basically had about 8 hours of recording).

It really was pretty convenient. Even the on-screen UI was very similar to the Tivo version, so when I did upgrade later there wasn't much new to learn.

It's hard (5, Insightful)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 3 months ago | (#47577989)

It's hard to buy something when you don't know it exists.

Perhaps they should have tried advertising.

Re:It's hard (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47578531)

Exactly, but that's always been TiVo's failure.

I find it funny when you come to techie forums where people rave about TiVo. In business circles TiVo was a gigantic flop. Yeah, they had an interesting product providing an unmet need. They designed the product to look like a black box when most consumers were already box-overloaded with VCRs, DVDs, stereo systems, etc., they priced the product way too high ($200 for a box PLUS a monthly subscription; I'll just set my $60 VCR to record my show thanks), and worst of all they spent no time in educating retail outlets so the sales clerks at the stores like WalMart and Best Buy didn't know how to sell it and help consumers get interested in the product. So I'm not surprised this product failed; I bet this entire failure was based on real bad marketing and product design.

There's a lot of TiVo fans here so try not to hate, but just read about their business compared to the iPod which debuted around the same time:

http://fortune.com/2011/04/27/why-did-the-ipod-win-and-tivo-lose/

separate hardware device (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47578015)

is why it failed.

the whole concept could have been implemented as an app or web site only.. no separate purchased hardware.

Re:separate hardware device (3, Insightful)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 3 months ago | (#47578115)

Even as a free app it doesn't seem that useful to me. Youtube already has queue. It even has publicly browsable queues.
If I really wanted to watch 2 hours of cute kittens then I'm sure there is probably a queue that I could hit play on and sit back
and watch. It's fairly simple to queue up a bunch of videos and tell them to play in sequence without interruption.
What exactly did Qplay do that ANYONE would fine useful? It seems like a solution looking for a problem.

Re:separate hardware device (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47578183)

Hell, even without a queue, if it's worth watching then add "10 hour" to the end of the name and someone has uploaded a loop of it.

Re:separate hardware device (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 3 months ago | (#47578487)

I'd be interested in an app that played movies in 10x speed without sound in multiple windows (watch 4-9 10x kittens) and tag the "interesting" ones to add to your "watch later" list. Then watch later. Scan videos at 90x real speed (9 time 10x). That's what you need when there are so many cute kittens that need watching.

any device that ... (1)

citizenr (871508) | about 3 months ago | (#47578107)

any device that can be replaced by a free app will fail.

Re:any device that ... (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 3 months ago | (#47578207)

Any device that relies on a particular service functioning in a particular way will also fail.

Redundant (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 3 months ago | (#47578171)

I've got a couple of little boxes under my TVs that: can be controlled by my phone or a tablet (and not only Apple-produced ones), can stream video (and not only from 1 specific company). Maybe there's some niche they could've marketed to, but it doesn't come to mind.

Re:Redundant (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 3 months ago | (#47578565)

This thing sort of sounds like a medis pc or s chrome cast with a monthly fee and a spiffy UI. Am i missing something?

Fuck TiVo (1)

DaFallus (805248) | about 3 months ago | (#47578221)

I used to have a TiVo, and I loved it. Then for various reasons I had to cancel my subscription. TiVo took it upon themselves to double charge me the cancellation fee. When they refunded my money, they withheld around $10 or so and claimed it was for taxes or something.

I didn't really care about the $10, it was about the principle of the matter. If you make a mistake and double charge me, you should give me back exactly what you took by accident, including any measly taxes. Instead the person I spoke to on the phone was incredibly rude to me and as a result TiVo lost a customer for life.

Re:Fuck TiVo (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 months ago | (#47580163)

TiVo was awesome, but $120/yr for a metadata stream seemed like a poor value. So we dropped it.

Tivo is very long in the tooth... (1)

mcolgin (818580) | about 3 months ago | (#47578601)

Tivo customer since 2001. I've never heard of QPASS. In all honesty, I can't stand the tivo UI anymore. A year ago I turned off the stupid tivo "blip" sound effects, it made a huge fcking deal. As of this week, my tivo UI was updated (finally) with a more modern UI. I have yet to see it flip back to the 10 year old Standard-Definition interface that they used forever. If there was a serious contender that didn't involve using Comcast's box or building my own, I'd do it... but then again, when the fck is everything going to stream? I have no need for comcast, except that content providers seem unwilling to figure it out.

Re:Tivo is very long in the tooth... (4, Interesting)

Stuntmonkey (557875) | about 3 months ago | (#47578741)

Tivo is a story of one missed opportunity after another. Great engineering that failed to iterate. They could have easily led the industry in streaming (from the net a la Netflix, or from home servers). They could have easily worked out interactive ad formats to layer on top of recorded shows. They could have easily gone the premium pay-per-view route (like iTunes/Apple TV/Amazon). It almost makes me angry to see so much wasted potential.

Could be worse - remember Victoria's Secrets (1)

OutOnARock (935713) | about 3 months ago | (#47578639)


Dude that founded Victoria's Secrets sold it because he KNEW he could start another lingerie mail order company that would blow away VS....

I believe he jumped from the Golden Gate bridge when he went bankrupt...

At least these guys are still alive? Yes?

Re:Could be worse - remember Victoria's Secrets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47579459)

He started a children's clothing store called My Child's Destiny which went bankrupt in 86. He jumped in 93.

Re:Could be worse - remember Victoria's Secrets (3, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 3 months ago | (#47579749)

start another lingerie mail order company

He started a children's clothing store

I hope that at least one of you is wrong.

And nobody gave a fuck. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47578643)

Qplay shut down 6 days ago, and only now are people realising. I think that pretty much sums up this pointless product.

TiVo SchmeVo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47578681)

The TiVo tragedy is one thing but when will people finally look back at the sad tale of WebTV?!?

wat (1)

Georules (655379) | about 3 months ago | (#47578749)

what the hell was qplay?

Never heard of it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47578925)

That might be one of the many issues it suffered from.

Wrong goal (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 3 months ago | (#47579585)

This failure is quite simple: The Tivo solved a problem This QPlay did not.

TiVo didn't challenge any notions (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 3 months ago | (#47579733)

Michael Ramsay and Jim Barton created a revolution with TiVo, a device that challenged the notion that we had to watch TV shows when they aired.

Wow, how old are you*? Do you even know what a VCR [wikipedia.org] is?

*and by "you," I obviously don't mean Velcroman1, the story's submitter, because he didn't actually write any of it.

what's an iPad? (0)

drfred79 (2936643) | about 3 months ago | (#47579783)

Oh, I volunteered in a hospice and the octogenarian told me iPads are the coolest thing for people older than baby boomers. It's like a simpler, less useful version of an android tablet. Whenever I see a Kickstarter or product favour Apple over the other operating system that happens to obliterate the market it makes me cringe at the hypothetical stubbornness and lack of foresight that is necessary to develop for Apple.

Re:what's an iPad? (0)

drfred79 (2936643) | about 3 months ago | (#47579807)

Let me just clarify, that sure fine, Apple developers earn more money from apps. But when your developing a free app that is purely an interface for your hardware it's best not to disclude 90% of the market because you bought a first gen iPad from Steve Jobs for $900.

Re:what's an iPad? (1)

drfred79 (2936643) | about 3 months ago | (#47579819)

You're. Blaming auto type on a non-stock keyboard.

Re:what's an iPad? (1)

tgeek (941867) | about 3 months ago | (#47580173)

Let me just clarify, that sure fine, Apple developers earn more money from apps. But when your developing a free app that is purely an interface for your hardware it's best not to disclude 90% of the market because you bought a first gen iPad from Steve Jobs for $900.

Nicely said. It never ceases to me amaze me how so many app developers think the millenia old business strategy of "expand your markets" doesn't apply to them.

I really hate TiVO (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 3 months ago | (#47580217)

They took a simple idea, patented it and sued and forced all other hard disk based recorders down. Their main innovation was the revenue model of sucking 10 or 15 $ a month from the early adopters. That gave them the financial muscle to sue everyone and shut everyone down. They are basically Microsoft of hard disk based recording. I own a couple of hard disk based standard def recorders, both more than six years old.

When the DVD recorder broke, I searched and found that this is the only piece of electronics that has appreciated in value. The one I bought for 500$ brand-new was selling in eBay for 1800$ four year old, but in working condition. Integration with TV-guide listing got broken after analog broadcasts were discontinued. All the cable tv vendors are in collusion with TiVo. All of them want 15$ a month.

If the insanely stupid patent monopoly had not been granted to TiVo we would be seeing 1TB, HD-recording hard disk players with full integration with TV-listings for 100$ flat without any monthly fees.

Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47581359)

Tivo did everything they could to strangle the market.

And they strangled it to death. Congrats, you just killed your own cash cow. Enjoy fucking off & dying.

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