Well, it seems we finally know why TiVo was waxing poetic about software in recent months -- it's the way the company primarily plans to charge for its DVR hardware from now on. Following a week-long experiment of free-on-contract DVRs conducted last month, TiVo's opening up subsidized and partially subsidized pricing tiers to the entire US for those willing to chain themselves to a pricier $20 monthly fee. You can now get a TiVo Premiere for $0 on a two-year contract or $100 with a one-year arrangement, or pick up a TiVo Premiere XL for $300 on a one-year deal -- the same price the regular old 45-hour TiVo Premiere cost originally. TiVo's also kept the original $12.95-a-month plans around in case you want to pay full price for your hardware, which would normally make better financial sense after about three years, if not for the fact that there are still lifetime subscriptions available for $400 if you're truly in it for the long haul.

We're all for expanding our buying power in this arena, but there's one group of customers who are liable to get mighty pissed at the new arrangement -- the regular Joes and Janes headed to Best Buy right now to pick up a $99 TiVo Premiere "on sale." You see, retailers apparently didn't get the memo about the new tiered pricing and are advertising the arrangement as a $200 discount instead, which leaves TiVo's fine print the unenviable role of explaining that they're going to pony up $20 a month from now on.
2.1.2 When purchasing a TiVo Premiere box from a third party retailer at $99.99 (includes an instant $200 savings off MSRP) for the TiVo Premiere box or $299.99 (includes an instant $200 savings off MSRP) for the TiVo Premiere XL box, you may only subscribe to the TiVo Service on a monthly basis for $19.99 a month with a one (1) year commitment (renews monthly after one year).
Choices, choices.

[Thanks, Daniel and Chris R.]

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TiVo Premiere now free on contract for $20 monthly, as TiVo introduces (and enforces) tiered subsidies