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TiVo, Inc.
Re: TiVo's Future

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By mcreilly
August 9, 2005

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GOOD: Tivo has a lot of patents on key features. This means they should be able to maintain unique offerings. It also means the potential to go after competitors and get settlements.

NOT SO GOOD: Unfortunately such lawsuits can be expensive and there are no guarantees. It's also difficult to sell people on the benefits Tivo has over other DVRs.

GOOD: Tivo has a deal with DirecTV who is responsible for 2/3 of Tivo's user base. Although DTV's contract expires in 2007 (still nearly 2 years away), they have 2 million+ users who are presumably in love with their Tivo's, so DTV can't just drop support for Tivo at that time.

NOT SO GOOD: In addition to DTV's contract expiring, a company owned by NewsCorp, same company that owns DTV has been working on a DVR. The assumption is DTV will switch to offering this, but I'm not sure that is confirmed. I'm also not sure if it will be the only offering or not, or if the existing DirecTivo users will have an influence on those decisions.

GOOD: Netflix still has majority market share on the mailorder DVD rental market. But eventually broadband to the home will become common and we won't need the DVDs anymore. Netflix has this on their mind and has signed a deal with Tivo to work together on such video distribution ideas. Unlike ReplayTV, Tivo has successfully offered this new capability while not getting into legal trouble over it. They even managed to get away with transferring recorded video to a laptop for portable viewing.

BAD: Although video on demand is coming, it is still dependent on having high speed connections to everyones house. There are still plenty of areas with no broadband access available, much less broadband installed. And not all of those broadband offerings will be fast enough. As it gets closer, expect the MPAA to become concerned about content control, and some studios will be hesitant to license their movies for distribution in this manner. The same was true of DVD though, there are plenty of titles now. Some of that will depend on how the DVD-HD vs BluRay fight goes. If the industry doesn't pick one standard, people won't adopt either one and it could potentially fail as DVD-Audio and SACD did for the same reason. If people don't adopt it, there will be that much more interest in video on demand. And SBC has installed Fiber to the house in a nearby city here in Texas, and with unbelievable speeds available it would be awesome if they roll it out everywhere.

GOOD: Comcast came out with their own DVR a while back and apparently it was really bad. So bad, that Comcast returned to the table after failed negotiations with Tivo and signed a deal. Within the next two years, a jointly developed Comcast Tivo box will be rolled out. With any luck it'll be the standard box for comcast and not an option.

BAD: Tivo may only get $1/box/month, but Comcast is the biggest cable TV provider so it would represent a lot of boxes. Two years is a long ways off, but the fact that they're putting so much joint development work into it, makes it seem like it might be more than just a DVR option. We can hope...

GOOD: TV networks have a growing concern about DVRs and their impact on advertising. Tivo is working to head off concerns. They have partnered with Neilson to provide viewer watching preference data to networks, including things like which scenes in a special show were rewound and watched the most. In addition to selling this analysis, Tivo is working to develop advertising that both satisfies the networks but doesn't piss off their users. It's a delicate balance, but I think it is possible. Theoretically they said they could replace commercials in recorded content with current commercials, etc. They have already been advertising on the main menu for movies and cars. You can choose to watch a special video on it, and for many things, you can request that Tivo send your contact info to the company so you can get more information. I have tried it and got a few car brochures as a result.

BAD: It will take a while for advertisers to come around to new advertising methods and measuring the success of those ads. Still, Tivo is trying and I think that is more than the other DVR manufacturers.

GOOD: Ramsey stepped down from the CEO role to take a more active role in hardware development.

BAD: Investors painted Ramsey's decision as an indication that he was getting out, but I believe it's a good thing. Technical people who create a great product, don't necessarily make great CEOs. The idea that he has decided to leave operation of the company to a pro and return to the roots that created the company can only be a good thing in my opinion.

I'm sure there's more... but that's all I can think of at the moment.


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