Round-Up of Recent News from TiVo
--New Zealand Launch, Blockbuster and Alticast Deals, New Search and More
[itvt] recently reported that DVR vendor/service provider, TiVo, had 1) published new data from its StopWatch ratings service that apparently show that timeshifting of early primetime shows erodes live viewing during the 10:00PM timeslot; 2) announced plans to increase the sample size for the StopWatch service from 100,000 to 300,000 DVR users; 3) teamed with Innerscope on a study that apparently shows a "clear and strong" correlation between TV viewers' emotional engagement with advertisements and their subsequent fast-forwarding behavior; and 4) integrated its CableCard-equipped HD DVR's with VOD technologies from SeaChange International. Here is a round-up of some other recent news stories from TiVo:
--Last month, the company announced that TiVo service will launch in New Zealand later this year. Through an agreement with Australia's Seven Media Group, Television New Zealand (TVNZ), New Zealand's largest national free-to-air broadcaster--which is in the process of reinventing itself as a multiplatform digital media company--has taken a 33% ownership stake in Hybrid Television Services, the Seven subsidiary that holds exclusive TiVo rights in Australia and New Zealand. TiVo says that TVNZ's investment will enable the broadcaster to launch TiVo service to consumers throughout New Zealand, where it will be offered as an enhancement to that country's free-to-air digital TV service, Freeview (note 1: TVNZ is a member of New Zealand's Freeview consortium; note 2: New Zealand will be the second market where TiVo service is available in conjunction with a national free-to-air DTV service--the first being Australia). According to the company, broadband-connected TiVo DVR's in New Zealand will offer digital broadcast channels from the Freeview service, and will also enable consumers to access TVNZ's online catch-up TV/VOD service, TVNZ ondemand (note: TVNZ recently signed a deal with Disney that gives it rights to offer a selection of the latter's content on TVNZ ondemand). In addition, TVNZ has promised (on its Web site) to use TiVo as a platform for various interactive TV services, including "pizza ordering, shopping and weather forecasts." However, according to reports in the New Zealand media, TVNZ plans to disable TiVo's ad-skipping functionality. "TiVo's ongoing efforts to expand its global footprint through strategic alliances with international broadcasters and cable companies is taking another step forward," TiVo president and CEO, Tom Rogers, said in a prepared statement. "Our successful roll-out in Australia has piqued the interest of others in the media industry across the globe and essentially provided a blueprint that outlines how the TiVo value proposition can help protect their competitive position in their own markets. We are extremely gratified to have TVNZ as a partner and are eager to have Hybrid TV begin making the TiVo service available to New Zealand's millions of free-to-air TV customers." Added TVNZ CEO, Rick Ellis: "The TiVo media device is a global success and our investment in Hybrid Television Services will ensure that its arrival in New Zealand supports TVNZ's transition to a digital media company." Following TVNZ's investment in Hybrid Television Services, the latter's board will consist of James Warburton, chief sales and digital officer at Seven Media (who will serve as chair); TVNZ CEO, Rick Ellis; TVNZ CFO, Rodney Parker; and Seven Media commercial director, Bruce McWilliam. While TVNZ is hoping to launch TiVo service in New Zealand in advance of the Christmas shopping season, a dispute between TVNZ and MediaWorks, the company that owns New Zealand national free-to-air channels, TV3 and C4, threatens to keep those channels' information off the TiVo EPG--which would most likely result in a delay of TiVo's New Zealand launch.
--Last month, the company announced a deal with struggling video-rental chain, Blockbuster, to make the latter's Blockbuster OnDemand service (offers both sales and rentals, and features around 10,000 titles) available on its broadband-connected Series2, Series3, TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL DVR's (note: TiVo also supports over-the-top delivery of content from Blockbuster rival, Netflix, as well as Amazon, Disney, Jaman and YouTube). As part of the deal, TiVo DVR's will be sold at Blockbuster stores throughout the US, as well as on Blockbuster's Web site. "We are excited to be teaming with TiVo, the company that created the DVR, to make Blockbuster's entertainment content readily available to their millions of subscribers," Blockbuster chairman and CEO, Jim Keyes, said in a prepared statement. "Ultimately, our vision is to work with TiVo so that their subscribers can access movies not only through our OnDemand service but also from our stores and through our by-mail service as well. Regardless of a film's availability--through VOD or on DVD--we want to work with TiVo to provide their subscribers unprecedented access to movie content." Added TiVo's Tom Rogers: "Joining with Blockbuster further distinguishes TiVo as a true universal solution for content providers, making it a one-stop shop for any content through broadband or linear distribution straight to the TV. When consumers walk into one of the thousands of Blockbuster stores, entertainment for the home is on their minds--it could not be more natural to have them exposed to the world of millions of entertainment possibilities for the home that the TiVo service provides." The companies say that they expect to have Blockbuster OnDemand service integrated into TiVo DVR's by the second half of the year.
--Last month, the company announced an agreement with Korean MHP and OCAP specialist, Alticast, to port TiVo software to Alticast embedded software, in order to reduce time-to-market for pay-TV operators looking to offer TiVo service. "Teaming with Alticast allows global video providers to offer the unique combination of TiVo's award-winning user interface, advertising solutions, and broadband television functionality on set-top boxes running Alticast's industry-standard embedded software for ITV applications," Joshua Danovitz, VP and general manager of International at TiVo, said in a prepared statement. "We hear from cable, satellite and IPTV operators around the world that they want better middleware solutions capable of quickly bringing TiVo applications to market, and Alticast is in the pole position to fulfill this need. We look forward to their co-operation in making the TiVo experience available on a broad range of platforms, both in the United States and around the world, similar to the way that we have developed platforms for Comcast and Cox."
--Last month, the company released its financial results for its fiscal 4th quarter and year, ended January 31st. Among the highlights: annual net income totaled $104 million, compared to a loss of $32 million for the previous year (however, without damages from EchoStar that were awarded last year, net income would have totaled $300,000); net losses for the fourth quarter totaled $3.6 million, compared to losses of $6.4 million for the year-ago quarter; and, at the end of the year, the company's cash, cash-equivalents and short-term investments totaled $200 million (and no debt). However, the company lost 611,000 net subscribers over the course of the year; and annual revenues totaled $249.7 million, compared to $272.7 million for the previous year, while Q4 revenues totaled $59.2 million, compared to $74.1 million for the year-ago quarter. In a prepared statement included in the company's earnings release, TiVo's Tom Rogers provided an update on the company's relationship with Comcast: "Comcast is fully marketing our product in the New England market and is in the process of adding and sharpening offers. For example, Comcast has just introduced a DVR with free TiVo service as an option for their triple play with HD. This makes Comcast DVR with TiVo service only $9.95 (as opposed to $2.95 for TiVo on top of the regular DVR service fee) all-in for anyone subscribing to triple play with HD. They are also working to prepare for the launch of TiVo in Chicago. Further, the work Comcast is doing in the NorthCentral division has been useful for them as they roll-out the tru2way technology infrastructure across their entire footprint."
--At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, January, the company unveiled a redesigned TiVo Search functionality which it bills as offering improved search results, as well as a new design that takes advantage of HDTV. According to the company, the new TiVo Search, which is delivered via the broadband connection in TiVo boxes and which will be offered at no additional charge, enables end-users to discover millions of pieces of on-demand content not available via cable or satellite, as well as thousands of linear TV choices. "What Google did for the Internet, TiVo is now doing for the TV, bringing people a combination of excellent search results and innovative discovery that can't be found anywhere else," TiVo's Tom Rogers said in a prepared statement. "TiVo has always been known as the best way to watch what you want, when you want it. Now we're taking that to a new level, using TiVo technology to find just the right program from hundreds of channels and thousands of broadband options, all in seconds. It is clear TiVo is leading the way in providing more choice, and also leading the way in finding content quickly. TiVo Search is a new way to find what you've been missing." According to TiVo, the redesigned TiVo Search functionality takes advantage of the extra screen real estate provided by HDTV sets to show more details about highlighted programs than before, eliminating the need to dig down into each program listing and ensuring that "the most important information is surfaced right up to the screen you're already on." "One of the best things about the new TiVo Search feature is how it works as a discovery engine, helping users find content they didn't even know they could get," Jim Denney, TiVo's VP of product marketing, said in a prepared statement. "We've added a new discovery bar that gives a quick guide to relevant content, and the search experience incorporates content from broadband sources like Amazon Video on Demand and YouTube. The newly tuned search engine also displays the most popular search results of the day automatically, even when typing only a single letter. Searches work not with just the first word of a title, but any word of the program, which is especially handy when looking for programs with specific search words." TiVo bills the new search interface as not only displaying results in HD but as having a focus on finding HD content: it automatically recommends HDTV channels and episodes, when users schedule a program to record. It also allows users to browse shows season by season and select any episode they want, using a robust episode guide, the company says. The new TiVo Search is currently available in beta on broadband-connected TiVo Series3, TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL boxes. (Note: for an in-depth overview of the new TiVo Search, see [itvt]'s interview with TiVo's director of product marketing, Bob "Pony" Poniatowski, in Issue 8.27.)