Originally Posted by Kelson
TiVo is non-subscription if you pre-pay up front.
The fact that you can pre-pay doesn't change the fact that you are still being charged, unfortunately.
Originally Posted by phildaant
How come there are no non-subscription DVRs that can do name-based recordings? I always avoided those subscription ones.
I suppose there are several possible reasons for this. One of them is that, to my knowledge, TiVo has several DVR patents in the United States which prevent other companies from making competing DVRs. If other companies try, TiVo will sue them. TiVo and Dish Network recently reached a DVR settlement on this very subject.
Another potential reason is that the monthly fee is the only way for TiVo to make money, and even though they're charging that fee, TiVo is still doing very poorly financially. The consumer electronics field has developed so quickly that people expect to pay unrealistically low prices for things, and the only way companies can still make money by selling gadgets is to subsidize the hardware cost by making people pay extra fees after the fact. That's why you can buy an expensive cell phone for less than $100; the carrier loses money when selling you the phone, but they make up the loss by making you pay through the nose for your coverage and data plans. Without the contract, you'd need to pay three times more for the same phone.
In the same way, a DVR has to have relatively decent hardware to do what it needs to do, since HD content requires quite a bit of processing power to decode during playback. I would imagine that TiVo sells each DVR unit at a substantial loss, but they recoup most of that loss through the monthly fee. Any company wanting to sell an OTA DVR without a monthly fee would have to charge what consumers would consider a ridiculous price, because they would have to make all their money selling the hardware, which is hard to do. If you combine the economic disincentives with the specter of litigation from TiVo, it's not very surprising that there's essentially one DVR maker in the United States.
On a side note, a friend of mine in the UK told me that TiVo tried to pass their "monthly fee for something that should be free" system there, and they essentially got laughed out of the market, because nobody would pay a recurring fee to record TV shows there. Unlike the US, Europe has a wide variety of DVRs available that have no monthly fees. Unfortunately, since Europe uses DVB and the US uses ATSC, you can't import a European DVR for use in the United States.
I find it surprising that people find it such a hassle to have to "set the timer" to record their programs. To me, time-based recording is just fine, because I'm not going to pay a fee every month for TiVo to read the TV guide for me. I'm perfectly capable of doing it myself, and while it would be nice to have an OTA DVR that was smart enough to do name-based recording from PSIP or TVGOS information, I don't think it's worth paying such a large amount of money for a minor feature.