Macrovision, Now Rovi, Inks IPG Deal With Blockbuster

Macrovision Solutions officially changed its name to Rovi and announced a deal with Blockbuster to integrate the movie-rental chain's Internet on-demand service into the next version of the on-screen TV guide it sells to consumer-electronics companies.

The company, which acquired Gemstar-TV Guide International last year, will operate as "Rovi Corp." Its stock symbol effective Thursday has changed from "MVSN" to "ROVI" on the NASDAQ Global Select Market. The company announced the planned name change in May.

The "Rovi" name is the four middle letters of "Macrovision," and the company claimed it elicited positive reactions from consumers and partners.

"Today's announcement is the next step in uniting our technology and people under one shared identity, allowing us to move forward in creating a highly enjoyable entertainment experience for the consumer," Rovi president and CEO Fred Amoroso said in a statement.

The company also is touting its next interactive program guide, code-named Liquid, which will be available to CE companies in early 2010. The IPG is designed for Internet-enabled HDTVs and other devices to provide Web video content, personalized services, content recommendations and social-networking features.

"CE companies have been clamoring to answer the question of why you would need a connected TV," Rovi chief evangelist Richard Bullwinkle said in an interview. "Most of our partners are selling connected products, but they are looking for technologies to sell the story."

As part of that initiative, Rovi will work with Blockbuster to integrate access to the Blockbuster OnDemand content and services directly through the Liquid guide.

Blockbuster -- following a similar strategy as rival Netflix -- has stepped up its direct-to-TV play. The rental chain announced a deal earlier this week with Samsung Electronics to embed the Blockbuster OnDemand service in that company's HDTVs and DVD players, and also said it is working with TiVo.

For its Liquid guide, Rovi has hooked up with other Web content sources, including Google's YouTube XL site, which is optimized for watching YouTube videos on large displays, as well as Sonic Solutions' Roxio CinemaNow.

Bullwinkle said CE partners will be have complete control over which features to enable in the Liquid guide, as well as which content partners they choose to feature in their IPG implementations.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Rovi holds more than 4,000 issued or pending patents and patent applications worldwide, including key intellectual property concerning IPGs. Indeed, Gemstar-TV Guide was notorious for its litigation against other consumer-electronics companies on the IPG front.

Bullwinkle said the company hired U.K. consulting firm Heavenly to come up with "Rovi" and perform due diligence on the name.

He said "TV Guide" was not a suitable option for the company's name as a worldwide brand because it couldn't be trademarked in Europe and elsewhere. Plus, in focus-group interviews with some 400 consumers, most people in the U.S. associated TV Guide with the print magazine.

What about the issue that Rovi is apparently a European brand of suppositories? "It's not a concern," Bullwinkle said with a chuckle.

The company doesn't have rights to the Web address, however -- that belongs to Laboratorios Farmacéuticos ROVI, a Spanish chemical and pharmaceutical company.

After Macrovision bought Gemstar-TV Guide in a deal valued at $2.8 billion, it sold TV Guide magazine to private-equity group OpenGate Capital for $1 and also agreed to loan OpenGate $9.5 million to operate the magazine. It also sold TV Guide Network and TV Guide Online properties to Lionsgate in a $255 million deal this year, and sold TV Games Network to Betfair Group, an electronic-gaming services firm, for $50 million in cash.