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TiVo lifetime transfers

Here's a point to remember if you transfer lifetime subscriptions, TiVo does not cancel the monthly plan unless you explicitly tell it to do so.


TiVo's making a big push with its TiVo HD unit. That's understandable. The company's original foray into high definition, the TiVo Series3, carried a $799 price tag (now $599) that priced it out of the range of all but the most fervent TiVo fan. At $299 or so, the TiVo HD is much more in line with what typical audio and video gadgets go for and therefore something that it actually makes sense to promote.

I finally took the plunge to HD when TiVo offered to transfer the lifetime subscription from my Series2 for $199. I bought my lifetime before they switched to offering only perpetual monthly payment plans and figured that I ought to get some money out of it while I still could. Plus I got an HDTV last year so I had started thinking about upgrading to digital cable service. Finally, TiVo was just in the process of releasing a software upgrade that lets you use external eSATA storage on your TiVo. That was the decider.

I called to make the transfer today and I thought my experiences worth sharing.

After a long wait on hold, I got a very personable customer service representative who knew what my old TiVo's "Goldberry" name referred to. (You typically setup TiVos with a name to identify them on your home network and for other purposes.) Definitely not your typical customer support experience.

He tried to do a (gentle) upsell to the $399 lifetime service fee that TiVo just reintroduced. (In other words, I would have lifetime on both old and new units.) This isn't a great deal for a few reasons.

When you transfer subscriptions, you already get to keep a subscription on your Series2 for 12 months. Therefore, it only makes sense financially if you think you would get over $200 worth of subscription service out of your old TiVo after a year from now. Based on monthly service rates, that's the equivalent of almost two years. Therefore taking the offer of a second subscription makes financial sense only if you think you'll still be using your Series2 three years from now.

There may be some games you can play on eBay with respect to selling your old unit with lifetime that might make the numbers work better, but this seems iffy.

Furthermore, if you have or are moving to cable that requires a converter (or a CableCARD in the case of the Tivo HD), your Series2 isn't going to be all that useful unless you pay more money to your cable company.

There's one last point you should be aware of if you transfer subscriptions. The way things apparently work is that TiVo effectively keeps your existing lifetime and adds a monthly plan to your account, for which they don't charge you for 12 months. At some point--the support rep said 60 days--they swap the subscriptions on the TiVo HD and the Series2 so the TiVo HD now has the lifetime and the Series2 the monthly plan.

Note that, according to their rep, TiVo does not cancel this monthly plan unless you explicitly tell them to do so. My point isn't to raise this as a bad policy. I can imagine various reasons to implement things this way besides just TiVo looking to make more money. But, if you do a transfer like this, it probably wouldn't hurt to put a tickler on your calendar to cancel your monthly subscription a year hence if you don't want to start getting a bill.