Rovi's bread and butter: The technology behind these onscreen TV guides. Source: Rovi.

What: Shares of Rovi (NASDAQ:ROVI) ended Thursday's trading 23% below the Wednesday close, torpedoed by a weak third-quarter report.

So what: The technology licensor, holding a portfolio of patents related to media management and TV guide services, saw sales fall 11% year over year, to land at $115 million. Rovi reported adjusted earnings of $0.29 per share, down from $0.42 per share in the year-ago period.

Analysts had been looking for something more like earnings of $0.36 per share on $126 million in top-line sales. Rovi missed both of these Street estimates by a country mile.

Now what: Looking ahead, Rovi reaffirmed its existing full-year guidance figures. These target ranges are centered on sales of $515 million and adjusted earnings near $1.48 per share. Wall Street analysts have already set up camp near these targets, because the guidance numbers were simple holdovers from last quarter.

However, by falling short in the third quarter, Rovi certainly made it more difficult to reach these full-year goals. To hit the midpoint of its own full-year guidance, Rovi must muster earnings of $0.42 per share in the fourth quarter. Analysts currently see only $0.38 per share happening.

On the top line, Rovi would need to hit sales of $138 million to satisfy its own full-year ambitions. That would be a 3% increase from the fourth quarter of 2014, and analysts are only expecting $128 million.

In other words, Rovi is kind of setting itself up to fail in spectacular fashion unless management has some unseen tricks up its sleeve. The company is negotiating license deals with several major cable broadcast companies that use TV guide services, and landing a few of those might indeed lift the fourth quarter to the desired heights.

But I'm not at all sure that it will work out that way. Keep in mind that Rovi recently closed major license agreements with European cable giant Sky, as well as the second-largest U.S. cable firm, Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC). Time Warner is a true giant in the industry, sporting annual sales of $23.2 billion and $6.5 billion in operating cash flows. If anyone could afford to move Rovi's needle with a generous license deal, Time Warner would be it.

But the deal closed, and Rovi still fell far short of every conceivable third-quarter goal. Honestly, if a Time Warner contract fails to make a difference, I'm not sure how Rovi plans to stay afloat in the long run.

Rovi shares have now lost 62% of their value in 2015 alone. Any turnaround from this level would come with spring-loaded shares built right in, but that's only because the chances of actually getting there are vanishingly small.

Anders Bylund has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.