Series 3 Tivo, Comcast, Pay-Per-View: Truth and Warning

A while ago I finally got my first HD TV.  To go along with it, for my birthday I got a Series 3 HD TiVo.  This thing doesn’t hook up to the cable box like the old TiVos, but rather uses CableCards instead of a cable box.  CableCards are provided by the cable company and are plugged into the TiVo to serve in lieu of a cable box.

Overall the CableCards work great – no latency when switching channels, great picture.  However, I’m a big UFC fan and I’m known to order Pay Per View events from time to time.  Would I be able to order PPV’s without the cable box?  I admit I hadn’t fully thought this through before getting the TiVo.  I searched around on the internet, but didn’t find a convincing answer either way.  Here’s what I found out when I just went ahead and tried to order an event (I live in Atlanta, BTW):

  • Called Comcast first to ask if I would be able to order the PPV even though I had CableCards and no Box.  I knew I couldn’t do it using the on-screen menu, but I thought maybe it would work if I called.  The rep I got said “no” because CableCards don’t support two-way communications and therefore it wouldn’t work.  She didn’t sound that convincing though.
  • I rigged up an older smaller TV to a cable box and tried to order it on there.  I had some trouble so I called Comcast again (this time a local number).  This guy said that the benefit of calling in (vs. using the on-screen controls) is that you should get the event on all of your TVs.  If your order through the box, you only get it on that TV/Box.  Thanks dude.
  • Once the event came on, I got curious and went to see if it was coming in on the new TiVo TV.  SURE ENOUGH IT WAS.  “Excellent” I thought – this will work out just fine, and I started recording it and working on dinner (it was a replay).
  • Then, all of a sudden, I looked up and saw that the paused screen had gone blank and a little bubble popped up saying something to the effect of “the copyright owner says you are no longer authorized to view this content.”  Wow, this is utter bullshit.
  • I fast-forwarded a bit and saw the picture resumed.  I inferred that you’re allowed about one-hour of lag time and then the content disappears from your TiVo.  No warning, just gone.
  • When I later looked in my “now playing” list, the recording never even showed up.  Vanished.  No evidence that I had ever tried to record it.

So I didn’t realize that these new-fangled fancy-pants TiVos are in bed with the content providers like that.  I have to admit it’s kind of unsettling.  And it sucks that I now can’t watch PPV’s on my time.  Hopefully this post will be found by others like me who have a similar question and you’ll at least be able to make an informed decision.  TiVo & Comcast, if you’re reading, this sucks!

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