Following a free "Movie of the Week" trial, TiVo now lets users download new releases for $5.95, initially with around 20 to choose from. Older movies can be downloaded for $3.95, plus there are a handful of free movies along with free trailers of upcoming releases.
Once a movie is downloaded you've got 7 to 14 days to start watching it (depending on the free space on your hard drive) and, once you press play, you have access to the movie for 48 hours before it is automatically deleted.
Hiring movies requires creating an online account with Blockbuster, entering your credit card details and then linking the account to your TiVo account. Initially $35 is deducted from your credit card, which is automatically topped up when you get down to $10. Any unused credit is returned if you cancel your account. As part of the setup process you get to set a 5 digit PIN which must be entered before you can hire a movie.
Now you can browse and hire movies using nothing but the TiVo remote control, although the menus are sluggish compared to the rest of the TiVo interface. The service is not quite Video on Demand, taking a few minutes to appear under the Now Playing menu. If your connection is fast enough, such as our 3 Mbps link, you can now watch the movie without interruption. You can pause, rewind and fast forward movies as with standard TiVo recordings.
Download can be scheduled to start at 2am, which is handy if your ISP offers extra off-peak data. All TiVo downloads are unmetered for Internode customers, and the ISP has started selling TiVo via its website.
TiVo claims the movies are "DVD quality with 5.1 surround sound", and we found them barely distinguishable from DVD on our 46 inch Bravia hooked up via HDMI. Playback is very smooth, although the service has experience teething problems with corrupt files and our first movie refused to play correctly.
Movie trailers are the most problematic, with many failing to play in full or even download at all. The help desk line is open from 10am to 10pm and is surprisingly helpful.
At the moment TiVo's Blockbuster service is hampered by a limited range and teething issues, but it is easy to set up, easy to use and offers very good picture quality. The pricing is also on par with its closet competitor, the Australian iTunes store (which also had teething issues).
The Blockbuster movie service, along with the recently launched TiVo 1TB external drive, certainly makes the oft-maligned TiVo a better value proposition for your lounge room.