Top Reasons to Own a TiVo

Since I’m working on my sixth TiVo convert at the moment I was thinking about TiVo’s (lack of) marketing. So I thought I’d help them out with what I think are the best reasons to own a TiVo (or some other PVR). Back when they used to advertise they’d always harp on the fact that you can pause live TV and do instant replays. While those features are nice, they are by no means the best reasons to own a PVR. Here’s my list of reasons:

  1. Get your money’s worth out of your cable/satellite bill. – This is hands down the top reason to own a TiVo. How much do you spend on your cable bill per month? Probably between $50 to $80. And how many times have you sat down in front of the TV, flipped through all 4,080 of your channels and didn’t find a damn thing to watch? So you’re paying all that money for??? Well with a PVR you’re likely to have the opposite problem — too many things to choose from, and they’ll all be things that you like. Before I had a TiVo I had no idea how much good programming airs every day. Unless you study the TV Guide you’d never know all this stuff was on. My TiVo has caught so many movies (there’s some great stuff on Starz, IFC, AMC, TCM…), documentaries, specials, performances by my favorite musical groups, appearances by my favorite actors on talk shows, etc. Within a couple of weeks of owning a PVR you’ll feel like you’re underpaying for cable… OK, maybe not to that extreme, but you get the idea.
  2. Use your time more efficiently. – Anyone that knows me knows that I hate wasting time. I love the fact that I can speed through shows that I’ve recorded. At the most basic level you can watch a 60 minute show in about 45 minutes just by skipping commercials. But for some programming, a PVR can save you a hell of a lot more time. For example, I watched the 3 1/2 hour Academy Awards show in about 45 minutes. There’s just no reason to watch stuff like that live. I’ll generally wait until the show’s about 2/3 of the way through then start watching it. By skipping commercials, performances you don’t care to see, and acceptance speeches you don’t want to hear you’ll save an incredible amount of time. How about watching a football game in 30 minutes? This is a great use for the 30 second skip button. Start watching the game about 90 minutes after the start time. As soon as a play ends hit the skip button and instantly the teams are just about to snap the ball for the next play. Before you know it the game’s over and you didn’t miss a thing, and you can go on with your day. I also use the 30 second skip button liberally during basketball games. Shooting foul? Skip. Injury? Skip. Refs need to review something at the scorer’s table? Skip! Game’s becoming a blowout? FF to see if it gets closer, otherwise delete the game and move on.
  3. Watch TV according to your own schedule (timeshifting) – This is what PVRs are all about. Why be a slave to when the networks say you should watch a certain show? I know my TiVo is always working for me so I never have to worry about getting home in time to catch a show. Record the Tonight Show and watch the parts you want to see while eating breakfast the next morning. Do you get home too late to catch the local news? Put your PVR on the job, and then spend 15 minutes watching only the parts you care about.
  4. Season Pass™ and WishList™ – These two are TiVo specific, although I think ReplayTV now has a feature similar to a Season Pass (SP) . A SP will allow you to choose your favorite shows and the TiVo service will automatically record every episode, whenever it airs. With a WishList you can find and/or record shows by favorite actor, movies by favorite director, games by sports team or programs about a subject matter that interests you. ( I’ve written about how great WLs are before.) I find so much good stuff with my WLs, even the ones that aren’t set to record automatically. For example, I have WLs set up for each of the late night talk shows. Once a week, I’ll take a look at them to see the guests and decide which of them I want to record. Or if I want to travel to a certain country, I’ll create a WL to catch any relevant shows.
  5. Trick Play (Pausing Live TV and Instant Replay) – Both of these are great features. Once you use the instant replay button, you’ll want it everywhere — on your radio, at the movie theatre, and maybe even during live conversations. I really wish my DVD player had one. It’s so nice to be able to just tap one button and go back several seconds to catch some missed dialogue (or an exposed nipple). The reason I’ve always thought it was silly for TiVo to promote pausing live TV so much was because, like me, most TiVo owners never watch live TV. So while it’s nice to be able to press ‘pause’ for an interruption/bathroom break, etc., I rarely use it because I rarely watch live TV. Of course, I do pause my recorded shows, but that is one thing that even a VCR can do. 🙂
  6. No, your VCR can’t do what a PVR can do – There’s a contingent of people out there who have been saying ‘my VCR can do everything a PVR can do’. Those people are fooling themselves. Trust me, I was one of the most hard core VCR users for many years. A VCR has nothing on a PVR! Sure you can timeshift with a VCR, but not as effectively or efficiently as with a PVR. A VCR won’t allow you to watch a program from the beginning while it’s still being recorded. Or allow you to watch a show in the middle of the tape, erase it, and reclaim that space. With a PVR you don’t have to worry about having enough space on your tape for your recordings, nor do you have to worry about whether you put the right tape in the machine. Or how about wondering if you put the VCR into ‘Timer’ mode? I don’t know how many times I’ve forgotten to do that. Or what about when the network decides to air your favorite show on a different night and/or time? Did your VCR automatically catch the change? I doubt it. One thing I always hated about VHS tapes was trying to find a show that I recorded. I’d often find myself searching through a couple of tapes to find a certain show. With a PVR all your recording are listed by name, making it trivial to find what you want.

I think that covers all of the major reasons to go with a PVR. Hopefully TiVo will do a better job of making these things known to the masses.


  1. I was very much a geek and gadget freak for many years and haven’t really kept the pace over the past few years. I still have no idea what TIVO is even though I’ve heard about it and have at least skimmed your posts on the topic. Shoot, I don’t even have a DVD player yet — I’m still using my ol’ VCRs. My cell phone is still archaic, too. The only things I’ve managed to keep up to date on are my computers and camera/camcorder equipment. Some of the things you list, though, make me want to explore this TIVO thing further…

  2. Deb,

    In a nutshell just think of a PVR/DVR (Personal/Digital Video Recorder) as a specialized computer that records TV programs onto a hard drive instead of tape. The good ones, like TiVo and ReplayTV, download TV Guide listings and allow you to do the types of things I described above. (Some lesser PVRs only record based off of timeslots, like a VCR)

    This ‘What is TiVo’ page may help you out – , and there’s even a little demo of some of the features –

    Let me know if I can answer any questions for you.

  3. Aaaahh! I think you might have nailed it with this. After we move I think I’m going to look into a TiVo/Direct TV hookup.

    My last concern is nothing you can answer. I hate commercials. With a passion. However, the only thing I hate more than commercials is *product placement* and I think that is going to be advertisers’ response to PVRs. In fact, you can already see it happening.

  4. TiVo ROCKS!!! I love, love, love my TiVo! I got it back in September, 2000 and have never once regretted it. I actually bought a second one, because 30 hours was just not enough!

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