IceTV and Skippa

Well what a saga!

I have been a long time user of mythtv as a PVR and Media Centre but we had a little issue with it over summer…

We get a lot of storms here (on top of the great dividing range) and although we shutdown and unplug everything sensitive from the power points, it wasn’t enough to save the mythtv box from a surge between the TV antenna and the network – both of which were still connected… Damage – the NIC no longer worked. Our mythtv box used to download the program information form the internet – so no NIC = no quality program data. I tried to setup a usb wifi module but the kernel was so old nothing modern worked.

So we lurched along with the on air guide while we thought about what to do…

Now since we have been on the NBN a whole new world of entertainment has opened up to us – notably Netflix and the Playstation Store. It seemed pretty obvious to us that FTA TV is on a long slow path to irrelevancy now (it’s not helped by the fact we only get FTA TV 4-5 days a week, something in the 130km between us and the transmitter clobbers the signal regularly). So pumping $800 into a new HTPC seemed like a bad idea.

Then Skippa was announced:

The Original Skippa Ad
The Original Skippa Ad

We found this pretty interesting timing – a commercial product that did everything we did with Mythtv but half the price and no ongoing costs. IceTV for those who do not know won a very important battle when they successfully defended claims from channel Nine that the program guide IceTV distributed was copyrightable. IceTV successfully argued that a TV program guide is a collection of facts and cannot be copyrighted.

Anyway we were interested so an order was placed with delivery expected in July, then I got this in my email:

The Skippa Boat Ad. This one unsettled me, in hindsight this ad revealed a lot about the internal state of IceTV.
The Skippa Boat Disaster Ad. Oh how prophetic.

I know they were trying to be humorous with their choice of  picture but something disturbed me. The “greater than expected demand therefore delay” didn’t make sense. (it turned out to be bollocks  anyway) but that wasn’t what worried me (nothing new about a new product being delayed a few weeks).  I couldn’t put my finger on what really disturbed me at the time but in hindsight it’s as clear as day.

Q: What company would want to associate their product with a shipping disaster?
A: One that is already suffering though a disaster 

I wish I had listened to my intuition and cancelled at this point, I might have got my money back.

Anyway IceTV communications got more and more vague, the skippas we’re constantly delayed. It was always someone else fault (another sign things are not well). A few skippas got released and they were buggy as hell. I gave up and cancelled my order at the end of Sept but it was too late. The company went into administration the following week and the Skippas are now officially defunct. Lots of people have a boat anchor, lots more got ripped off.

The thing that will always stick in my mind is what Heinz Herrmann (the CEO) chose to do with his last communication before the company went into administration. He sent out a very positive email claiming the outstanding skippas had all been sent, all the bugs were fixed and happy days ahead. It is now rather apparent that is was a string of garbage punctuated with gross exaggerations. What a way to go.

As ‘Seconds from Disaster‘ teaches us, disasters are never caused by a single event, but rather a chain of events. In time the chain will be revealed.