TiVo Wins, Comcast Loses
I've been using TiVo for the past five years, first with two Series3HD's and then two Premieres (Elite and basic). I've always had two multi-stream CableCARDs from Comcast, for which I was paying a grand total of $1.50 p.m.; together with the two customer-owned equipment (COE) credits of $2.50 each, I was actually accumulating a balance in my account of about $4.00 p.m. (including tax and fee credits). Since I get my service via my HOA's bulk services agreement, there were no other charges on my account.
Then, in July 2012, Comcast changed my billing by removing the CableCARD line items and substituting a "Digital Service" charge of $9.95. Even though, with the COE credits, I was still only paying about $5.00 p.m. (the IMHO quite reasonable equivalent of $2.50 per CableCARD), the duplicitous manner in which Comcast had rewickered the billing just stuck in my craw. Instead of having the honesty to list the actual equipment I was renting and the per-item charges, they were pretending that there was no accounting or assessment for the CableCARDs but that I was liable for "digital service" charges of $9.95 for each digital device on my account after the first one. As we all know, this was done to allow them to charge us $10 a pop for each additional digital device running off of a CableCARD, while circumventing any FCC challenges regarding unfair card fees. Thus, customers who had three or four cards could be billed as much as $25 more p.m. without any change in equipment or services.
By complaining and negotiating offsets plus additional free services (HBO/SHO), I was able to avoid actually paying these charges until this last August when I finally used up the accrual in my account. So in September I took advantage of the new inclusion of product lifetime service (PLS) in the TiVo Mini pricing and picked one up at Best Buy for only $82.60 (including tax). Yesterday--having had time to test out the Mini and satisfy myself that it would substitute admirably for the seldom used Premiere in my bedroom--I sold my basic Premiere w/PLS for $375 and returned the second CableCARD to Comcast (very friendly and competent CSR in the retail store, BTW). Now I'm back to running a monthly accrual of about $3.00 on my Comcast account, and TiVo gets an additional box in service. The basic Premiere, which I purchased in March 2012 for $459 (w/PLS), wound up costing me the equivalent of $2.80 p.m. to "rent" (exclusive of the new "digital service" fee)--not a bad investment compared to Comcast's $15 to $20 DVR rental charges.
Ironically, I would have been glad to give my money to Comcast if they had just been aboveboard with their billing. I am happy with the cable TV service (in fact, I was the one who arranged for my HOA's 10-year contract with them) but their DVR is inferior to TiVo and not worth what they're charging for it. IMHO Comcast has done a great job in the past several years improving customer service, but their consumer ratings will remain below par until they make their billing services more uniform, transparent, and reliably honest.
TiVo has been a great product for me and my wife and I can't recommend it highly enough. Even at the current MSRP pricing of $150 (w/PLS), the Mini is a handy and (thanks to MSO greed) cost-effective DVR extender. Paired with a Roamio Pro (which I can see myself upgrading to at some point), it should satisfy most consumer demands.