OnScreen Summit: Rogers: TiVo's an 'Underdog' Just Like Tim Tebow

New York -- Although TiVo is certainly getting more TV playing time these days than its new spokesman, Tim Tebow, the company identifies with his persona as a talented underdog, president and CEO Tom Rogers said.

Tebow, the New York Jets quarterback who’s largely been sidelined this season, is “a real underdog who performs when he gets out there… We identify with him,” said Rogers, speaking at the fifth annual Multichannel News/B&C OnScreen Media Summit here Thursday.

At the event, Rogers screened two of TiVo’s new television ads featuring Tebow chatting on a couch with precocious children. The spots began airing this week.

After the cable industry “outright rejected TiVo” several years ago and some had written off the company, “we’ve obviously turned that around and proved it wrong,” Rogers said.

TiVo now has deals with nine of the 21 biggest cable MSOs in the United States, after recent wins with Cable One, Mediacom Communications and Midcontinent Communications. Those join its roster of other partners including Suddenlink Communications and Charter Communications.

Keeping with the Tebow theme, Rogers said that like the controversial QB “we were being accused of being a one-trick pony with just DVR… Obviously we are more well rounded than that,” he said.

Rogers said he decided to enlist Tebow after his teenage son came home and told him about listening to a radio talk show discussing the genuflecting quarterback and thought they were talking about TiVo.

“His name has become a verb and we identify with that, as the only brand in TV that has become a verb,” Rogers said. “Tebow-ing” refers to the ex-Broncos player’s ritual of kneeling in prayer in the endzone after a touchdown.

So far, TiVo’s biggest cable partner is the U.K.’s Virgin Media, which has about 1 million subscribers with TiVo-based DVRs representing 30% of its video base. While other pay TV providers have not delivered anything close to that number, TiVo says other MSOs have attained double-digit penetration.

For the quarter ended Oct. 31, TiVo gained 225,000 net subscribers (240,000 from operators with a net decline of 15,000 TiVo-owned subs). The company had 1.898 million operator subs and 1.042 million TiVo-owned subs at the end of the period.

TiVo has about 2% share of the DVR market, according to Leichtman Research Group. Most DVRs in the U.S. supplied by Cisco Systems and Google’s Motorola Mobility -- both of which TiVo is suing for patent infringement.

Addressing TiVo’s patent-litigation strategy, Rogers noted the company has scored more than $1 billion in cash settlements with Dish Network, AT&T and Verizon Communications payable over the next six years.

“We have cleaned up our birthright in terms of… our patent litigation to date,” he said.

The DVR company currently has legal action pending against Time Warner Cable, Cisco and Motorola.

Today, network-based DVRs are “not really ready for primetime,” Rogers said. But TiVo is positioned as a software and services provider, whose business model isn’t based on hardware sales, he said.

That said, Rogers opined that “I don’t think you’ll ever get to the point where you don’t have a box in the home.” That’s partly because the hardware in connected TVs will not having full capabilities to render TV services, he said, but also because operators have an interest in providing that hardware to deliver an integrated service.

Overall, the TV industry has lagged in providing a dynamic user interface compared with tablets, smartphones and laptops, Rogers said. “It’s due for an upgrade to the look and feel,” he said. “The kind of television we represent… increasingly focuses on search rather than channel flipping.”

Rogers was interviewed by Multichannel News editor in chief Mark Robichaux.

Robichaux introduced Rogers by thanking the CEO for flying in on a red-eye from Los Angeles -- whereupon Rogers, who was holding an iced coffee, thanked Starbucks.