It's always cool when two companies I own decide to work together. That's happening right now, as TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) stretched out some verbal support to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) in last night's earnings call.
TiVo's software for set-top boxes is able to work with Netflix streams, in addition to the usual cable channels and video-on-demand options. Two European cable operators have signed up to include Netflix support on their standard TiVo-powered cable boxes. TiVo CEO Tom Rogers sees this feature as a game-changing selling point, both for cable operators and for TiVo itself.
"Our view has been that the merger of linear television and streaming over-the-top TV is where the future of television is," Rogers said. "Netflix has clearly risen to the level of a must-have on the over-the-top side. And I don't think consumers feel as if they have a full package of options until Netflix is included."
At that moment, I could feel my portfolio coming together as a spontaneous keiretsu -- a bundle of separate but related companies working together toward a common goal.
But Rogers didn't stop there. He also explained why American cable operators haven't installed Netflix apps on their cable boxes, even if they have fully capable TiVo-based software. The reasons may surprise you:
"Netflix has had studio restrictions in its library agreements that have prevented it from being distributed through boxes owned by [broadcasting services] in the United States. Generally, those restrictions don't apply internationally. So Netflix is available for international distribution through a cable operator."
That's the real rub. It's not that TiVo partners like Suddenlink or General Communication don't want to offer built-in Netflix features. They'll just have to wait until Netflix renegotiates its content deals to allow cable companies as distribution partners.
"Operators have had a mixed view of Netflix over the last few years," Rogers explained. "But increasingly, we're hearing operators wanting to include Netflix in their distribution. And to the extent those restrictions get worked out, we'll be in a position to help our partners implement on that front."
There you have it. Netflix wants the widest distribution possible. TiVo would love to make it happen, as it would fulfill the company's vision to be the central hub for all your entertainment needs. The cable guys see these forces coming together, but they have to wait for proper permission from Hollywood before signing anything game-changing.
And it feels pretty good to own two of these three stakeholders in the digital-media revolution.