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Virgin Media Reels In TiVo Subscribers In Q4

Providing more fuel for TiVo's turnaround, Virgin Media more than doubled its TiVo customer base in the fourth quarter of 2011, with the U.K.'s largest cable operator packing on 273,000 net TiVo DVR customers in the period.

As of Dec. 31, 2011, Virgin Media had 435,000 TiVo users, after launching the DVR option in June 2011.

"With the number of TiVo customers doubling in the final quarter of the year, our new TiVo service is attracting both new and existing customers," Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett said in announcing the MSO's results Wednesday. "Since its commercial launch midway through the year, the number of TiVo subscribers has grown to almost half a million with a large and growing proportion now using its next generation functionality on a regular basis."

The British operator's TiVo deal has been a major part of a dramatic reversal of fortune for the DVR pioneer.

After four years of continuous subscriber losses, TiVo gained 117,000 net subs for the quarter ended Oct. 31 because of gains at Virgin Media.

Then last month, TiVo announced a patent settlement with AT&T, under which the telco could pay up to $300 million in fees over the next six years.

That came after Dish Network and EchoStar agreed to pay $500 million to TiVo last year to end the parties' long-running litigation.

TiVo is scheduled to report results for its fiscal year ended Jan. 31 on Thursday, Feb. 23. On the legal front, the company's next target is Verizon Communications, which TiVo has accused of patent infringement. Meanwhile, it may be emboldened to go after Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems, the two largest pay-TV distributors that do not currently have a distribution or licensing deal with TiVo.

In the fourth quarter, Virgin Media grew its TV subscribers 12% with a net increase of 56,100 and added 133,000 broadband subscribers. The MSO's revenue climbed 2.0% in the period, to £1.0 billion ($1.6 billion), with net income increasing 30% to £48.2 million ($76 million).

"Our confidence in the growing mainstream demand for next-generation digital services has recently led us to announce the roll out of an ambitious program to double the broadband speeds of over 4 million customers," Berkett said in his prepared remarks. "This marks a step change in the migration to superfast speeds and, combined with the continued evolution of TiVo, further differentiates the Virgin Media customer experience."