TiVo: Let Us Guide You

TiVo, looking for ways to grow a subscriber base that's been shrinking for the last few years, has a new pitch for cable operators: It's proposing an easier way to bring the digital video recorder platform to different set-top boxes.

For Comcast, bringing TiVo to Motorola and Cisco Systems's Scientific Atlanta boxes has been a pricey prospect.

From January 2006 through October 2008, TiVo recognized $39.3 million in technology revenues from Comcast associated with the project, according to the DVR company's regulatory filings.

As a result of the development with Comcast, TiVo now has “essentially a Java implementation” of its application, according to TiVo vice president of marketing and product development David Sandford.

Earlier this month, TiVo announced a deal with set-top middleware vendor Alticast, whose software is supposed to provide hardware-independent deployment of an application.

With the Alticast partnership, TiVo can claim its software can be comparatively easily ported to a variety of set-top hardware. And that potentially opens the door for the company to pitch itself as being a cable provider's default interactive program guide.

Sandford said the software offers an integrated, well-known interface with plenty of features cable operators want to offer to their consumers, like remote DVR scheduling and over-the-top Internet video access.

“A lot of what operators are looking for is the TiVo brand,” Sandford said.

He wouldn't talk pricing, but said TiVo requires co-branding with an operator.

Jeff Bonin, vice president and general manager of Alticast, said porting the TiVo application to his company's middleware will give operators an alternative to having “to choose between expensive proprietary solutions and generic 'me-too' products.”

TiVo does have distribution deals with Comcast, Cox Communications and DirecTV, but each of those partners is positioning their TiVo offerings as a premium-level add-on.

While it's not clear these new initiatives will help TiVo get back to growth, the company has no choice but to try: Over the last two years, the company has lost 1.1 million subscribers, ending January 2009 with 3.3 million.