TiVo CEO: Netflix Rises To ‘Must-Have’ Status

The idea of integrating Netflix with the set-top box has been met with mixed interest among U.S. cable operators, but the growing popularity of the subscription video service has made it a must-have from the over-the-top video world, TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers said Tuesday on a call covering the company’s  third quarter results.

“Our view has been that the merger of linear and television and streaming over-the-top TV is where the future is, and Netflix has clearly risen to the level of a must-have on the over-the-top side,”  Rogers said. “I don’t think consumers feel as if they have a full package of options until Netflix is included.”

TiVo’s integration of Netflix has mostly been limited to its retail lineup of DVRs. Overseas, that’s been a different story, as U.K.-based operator Virgin Media and Com Hem move ahead with plans to offer TiVo-powered leased boxes that integrate Netflix.

In the U.S., some of TiVo’s MSO partners, mostly notably RCN, have a shown a strong desire to offer Netflix in TiVo boxes they lease to customers as Netflix clears hurdles that have historically prevented it from offering its service on MSO-distributed boxes in the U.S. Netflix is also trying to negotiate set-top box integration deals with operators such as Comcast, but so far has met some resistance partly due to Netflix’s insistence that those operators join Open Connect, its private content delivery network.

“Increasingly, we’re hearing operators wanting to include Netflix in their distribution,” Rogers said, acknowledging that Netflix’s approach in the U.S. has historically been hampered by studio restrictions. “And to the extent those restrictions get worked out, we'll be in a position to help our partners implement on that front,” Rogers added.

TiVo Eyes RDK Strategy

In a separate interview with Multichannel News, Rogers said TiVo is considering whether to develop products for the Reference Design Kit (RDK) and will spend some development dollars next year as it weighs the strategy.

“We have had a number of [cable operators] ask us to think about the RDK and talk to them about how our plans could dovetail with RDK deployments,” Rogers said. “It’s becoming more part of our overall R&D planning as we continue with those discussions.”

The RDK is a pre-integrated software bundle for IP-connected set-tops and gateways that’s being pursued by some of the world’s largest cable operators, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global.

Liberty Global, which has a relationship with TiVo coming way of its recent acquisition of U.K.-based operator Virgin Media, plans to lean on the RDK for a new cloud-based interface that will work with its IP-capable “Horizon” video platform.

“Obviously [the RDK] is an area that Liberty Global is particularly focused on,” Rogers said. “Therefore, it’s a very important way that we can look to foster a further relationship with them.”

The RDK, now managed by Comcast and Time Warner Cable, has already attracted more than 80 licensees, including box suppliers such as Arris, Cisco Systems, Humax and Pace.

More analysis of TiVo’s interest in the RDK will be covered in the December 2 issue of Multichannel News.