Sigma Designs (NASDAQ:SIGM) is a frustrating company.

Sigma always seems to be on the cusp of breaking loose from the pack thanks to a leading position in several really hot markets. Its chips go into high-powered set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, and home automation systems. In other words, if you need a high-octane digital video solution, Sigma probably has a chip for you. The company is in the right place at the right time, with all the right products.

But somehow, that pop never comes. Sigma did advance to $70 a share for a brief moment in 2007 to cap a year of nearly triple shareholder returns. But that wasn't the start of something great -- instead, Sigma far underperformed the market ever since, despite the S&P 500 tanking hard in 2008.

And the latest earnings report doesn't change that sad picture. Sigma reported GAAP earnings of $0.18 per diluted share, down from $0.35 per share a year ago.

Management noted that sales in the IPTV segment, which is Sigma's largest source of revenues, jumped 25% this quarter due to the timing of large orders. Customers in this segment include heavyweights like Motorola (NYSE:MOT) and Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), and the set-top boxes they build go out to giant telecoms like AT&T (NYSE:T) and Vodafone (NYSE:VOD). But that pop wasn't strong enough to overcome weak sales in Sigma's other divisions, and total revenue fell 12% to $51.3 million.

CEO Thinh Tran said that AT&T is starting a hard marketing push for its U-Verse IPTV service, and that the company hopes to ride that wave to stronger results in the fall. "Our target markets should experience growth and we remain dominant in the IPTV market," he said. But somehow, I'm not convinced that this growing market will translate into growth for Sigma Designs.

Maybe we should be looking at rivals like Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) and Conexant (NASDAQ:CNXT) instead. Broadcom at least knows how to get me returns on my investing dollar. Please mosey on over to CAPS and explain to me why Sigma rates five stars and Broadcom just two. In my eyes, it should be the other way around.

Sigma Designs is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.