Cox Tees Up TiVo Test Bed
What is it about TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), cable, and the New England region?
The three are meshing again now that word’s out that Cox Communications Inc. has launched a tech trial of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)-made digital boxes outfitted with the TiVo digital video recording (DVR) service.
TiVo announced the Cox trial Wednesday afternoon in concert with the release of its fourth quarter numbers.
In addition to being the site for the tech trials, the New England region will also be home to the first “market launch” of the Cox-TiVo combo, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers said during the call.
He did not say exactly when or where Cox will launch the service on a commercial basis. As for location, the going bet is that the MSO will introduce it first somewhere in Rhode Island. “Cox has scattered systems in New England, but Rhode Island is its flagship property,” said Matt Stump, VP of One Touch Intelligence .
Cox officials were checking into any additional details involving the status or launch plans with TiVo. Cox and TiVo announced the deal in August 2006. (See TiVo/Cox Deal: Is It Enough?)
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) also selected the New England region for its TiVo-cable debut. Comcast introduced the TiVo product on a commercial basis in Boston in January, selling it for an “up-charge” of $2.95 above the monthly nut for the MSO’s more “generic” DVR offering. (See Comcast to Kick Off Boston TiVo Party, Comcast Boots Up TiVo, and Bells 'n' Whistles .)
Rogers has previously suggested that any rollouts with Cox would lag behind those with Comcast by about six months. (See TiVo Set-Tops Trickle Out .)
“With both Comcast, a reality, and Cox moving toward launch, our mass distribution strategy is making significant strides,” Rogers said.
TiVo is not yet specifying how much the Comcast deployment is contributing to the bottom line, but the MSO is starting to tout the DVR service in its marketing, including some new TV spots. (See Spotting TiVo .)
Rogers noted “there isn’t much by way of Comcast” in terms of subscriber contributions in the DVR pioneer’s fourth quarter, which concluded Jan. 31, 2008. TiVo ended the period with 3.95 million DVR subscriptions, and added 109,000 “TiVo-owned” gross adds during the period, down from 163,000 in the year-ago quarter. Of its grand total, 1.74 million are “TiVo-owned” subscribers, while 2.2 million come way of partnerships with MSOs and broadcaster, primarily DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV). (See TiVo Posts Q4.)
“We expect marketing... to increase as Comcast gains greater experience with the offering,” Rogers said, adding that recent surveys in the market show “there is a significant wiliness” for Comcast subs to take the TiVo service at the current price point.
He also believes adoption will ramp up once Comcast is able to offer TiVo via automatic software upgrades to the set-top. Today, those installations require a truck roll.
TiVo’s cable deals will continue to complement its stand-alone DVR strategy, which is starting to center on a $299 high-def version with dual CableCARD slots. (See TiVo Courts Cable With New HD-DVR.) Although that box is inherently “one-way,” the cable industry and TiVo are working on a “Tuning Resolver” that will enable the device to tune to linear programs offered in an operator’s “switched” tier. (See CableLabs Spec Brings SDV to the Masses.)
On the litigation front, Rogers said TiVo is “very skeptical” about Dish Network Corp. (Nasdaq: DISH)’s claim that it has a work-around for TiVo’s “Time Warp” patent. In late January, an appeals court upheld that the satellite TV service provider had infringed on the TiVo patent. (See TiVo Digs DVR Ruling .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News