The best way to ensure customer retention is to become an integral part of the user experience.

The value of Tivo is derived from this very notion. The machine isn’t quite as good as other devices on the market (personally, I swear by my Beyonwiz PVR), but its users love the machine. Tivo is simple to use, continues to be free, and offers quality EPG data for the customerbase.

Despite being less than impressed by its hardware, I have considered Tivo as an option in the past explicitly for their quality EPG. What has held me back was the knowledge that if Hybrid TV (the company established to handle Tivo and other Ch 7 digital content distribution) folded and EPG data was no longer supplied by them, the machine would be effectively useless.

Today comes news that Tivo executives in the US have announced that they have scaled back operations in Australia, now only running a ‘support operation’. Hybrid CEO Robbee Minicola is reportedly refusing to comment on what will happen to the 100,000 Tivo users in Australia.

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The Register have reported that industry sources are saying Hybrid TV are seeking to offload assets to IPTV provider Fetch TV.

Should Tivo cease to provide EPG data, it leaves Ice TV as the only company currently servicing Australia with an EPG service that can be integrated into ones home PVR. Ice TV offer a reliable service and are a successful underdog, but surely there is room in the market for a competitor?

With Channel Nine having been so eager in the past to protect their EPG data (having taken Ice TV to court to protect their perceived intellectual property), I do find it odd that they don’t do more with the EPG data that they provide through the YourTV website (powered by NineMSN owned HWW). If NineMSN are really keen to get the maximum value from their EPG data, further develop the YourTV brand, and strengthen user retention, it makes perfect sense for them to take on Ice TV and offer an EPG data service for home PVR’s.

With PVR use on the rise and a new Tivo-sized hole in the marketplace, the time is right to make a serious move. Could NineMSN be the most likely of players?

UPDATE: The former GM of Ice TV, Matt Kossatz, got in contact with me to point out that Tivo’s EPG is also powered by HWW. As long as Tivo is still being supported in Australia, very little will likely change in regards to PVR EPG data in Australia. That said, I do think that NineMSN could easily take ownership of this space by extending their YourTV brand. Of course, licensing the data to third parties (like Hybrid) may simply be more lucrative in the long term.

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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