Did TiVo Just Become Relevant Again?

The DVR pioneer rolls out a new device that could be a game-changer.

Rick Munarriz
Rick Munarriz
Oct 1, 2015 at 3:42PM
Consumer Goods

Image source: TiVo.    

TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) is turning heads with a new device. TiVo Bolt is the DVR pioneer's first set-top box that offers 4K Ultra HD resolution, but that's not the feature that finds folks talking about TiVo again.

TiVo Bolt's SkipMode and QuickMode options give TV buffs something far more valuable than a crisper display -- time.

SkipMode allows a viewer to skip commercials with a single push of a button. Many DVRs offer the ability to quickly zip through 30 seconds or more, but SkipMode uses the actual start and stop times of commercial blocks. It's not compatible with all content. It currently only works with about 20 different channels, but that number is expected to grow over time. 

QuickMode is perhaps even more intriguing. It speeds up a recorded show by 30% without distorting the audio quality. Some shows and movies may not lend themselves to that kind of replay, but if a viewer can handle the new speed, it increases consumption by nearly a third. Between SkipMode and QuickMode, we're talking about a lot of time a binge-viewing TV junkie can spend elsewhere. Is TiVo Bolt the answer to enhanced productivity, or merely a gateway drug to the consumption of even more programming?

TiVo is in a funk. It has fallen out of favor as investors assume that recording TV shows was merely a transitory technology until we got to the golden age of streaming and on-demand consumption. It doesn't seem to matter that TiVo Bolt -- like most of the company's recent gadgets -- does a pretty good job of combining linear television with on-demand offerings.

Even fellow Fool Anders Bylund -- who had patiently held on to his stake in TiVo through five challenging years -- finally got fed up and sold the stock last month. The straw that broke the camel's back was TiVo filing yet another patent infringement lawsuit. Instead of bracing for the future, TiVo seems to be living in the past as it tries to continue to get more pay-TV providers and hardware makers to respect its intellectual properties. 

Then again, could the oddly shaped TiVo Bolt be proof that the DVR pioneer is trying to be a disruptor again? 

It's not as if TiVo is broken. Revenue and adjusted earnings moved higher in its latest quarter. Its global subscriber count keeps inching higher. Analysts see growth at both ends of the income statement through the next few quarters and years. This isn't a company going away, even if its stock hit another three-year low just last week.

"Bolt" is what investors have been doing, but it's also the one thing that could turn an out-of-favor company that's growing slowly into a market darling again.

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