How do I love thee, TiVo? Let me count the ways.
Looking to move a little inventory and boost its brand recognition, TiVo is
giving away at least 10 digital video recorders each day until Halloween.
The catch: Those who want one of the devices, which records TV shows onto a
hard disk drive, are being asked to write an essay in
250 words or less on why they want one. Winners receive a TiVo recorder with 14 hours of
disk space, a model that has been heavily discounted recently as machines
with larger hard drives become standard. TiVo created the service, but
Philips Electronics and Sony manufacture the units.
"All of these units probably would have been reduced," said TiVo spokeswoman
Rebecca Baer, who added that the contest units are coming from TiVo's own
inventory, not leftovers from retail outlets. Instead of adding to the sales
racks, TiVo came up with the contest, which kicked off last Friday.
Contest winners are required to sign up for the $9.95 monthly TiVo service
for at least a month. Because of laws that prohibit contests with a
mandatory purchase, residents of Arizona, Florida, Maryland, North Dakota
and Vermont aren't eligible for the contest.
Initially, TiVo fans on various message
boards reported that almost everyone who entered was winning.
One early winner wrote a multi-verse song. Another wrote a rhyming poem.
Another person, a message board user by the name of Agamemnon, said he
simply got straight to the point.
"I love my Tivo," Agamemnon wrote. "Please give me another. If you give it
to me during this contest, you can deduct the full retail cost of the
machine as a marketing expense. If, however, you simply discount the price
and dump them on the market, you can't."
• "It was a hot day in Dallas...The weatherman said it reached 112 degrees at the airport and it had
to be that hot at my house as well. All I could think of was getting home to
my three window air conditioners, cracking open a cold beer and parking
myself in front of the TV in my underwear," started the essay from Pismo,
who said he won. "'Hmmm,' I said to myself, 'What to watch today...Nascar or
• "I am in desperate need of a TiVo! I work at the Denver zoo, and through
some screw-up, I got promoted from my monkey house cleaning job to head zoo
keeper. I'd fix this, but I need the extra money for my 9 endangered species
• "I need a free TIVO/ To put here in my den/ So when I want to watch a show
/ It will be on right then/ There are lots of good shows/ I never get to
see/ X-Files, Star Trek, Millennium/ And good ol' MST."
However, as word of the contest has spread, reports of the unsuccessful are
trickling in as well. Baer said the company was more lenient in the early
days but has beefed up its standards now that it is getting hundreds of
entries a day.
While sales of the TiVo units and those using the rival ReplayTV service
have been relatively modest, TiVo has built somewhat of a cult following, in
part because of its hands-off
approach toward hackers.
According to the contest rules, TiVo is judging entries based on three
criteria: originality and creativity, use of TiVo's brand and exclusive
features, and humor.
Baer also offered a little advice for entrants. Although knowing about
TiVo's service is a plus, parroting its own marketing materials won't score
too high on the creativity scale.
"We've seen a lot of kind of cut and paste, " Baer said. "We appreciate that
they are looking at our Web site but reiterating our language isn't
necessarily the best formula."