NEW YORK -- TiVo Inc. says it's building a tru2way version of its new interface for Comcast Corp. and other cable operators, but it's also pitching major MSOs on using the company's new "Premiere" boxes -- unveiled Tuesday night -- as their primary DVR for cable subscribers. (See New TiVo DVRs Built for Web & Cable Content.)
"Would we like to see the big guys ultimately gravitate to this kind of solution? Yes. Realistically, we think the tru2way path is the way they're going, and we have to be geared toward translating what we're doing here to a tru2Way opportunity. And they're funding us to do that. But it's going to take a long time," TiVo CEO Tom Rogers told Light Reading Cable after unveiling the new boxes here at Rockefeller Center.
Comcast has already confirmed that it intends to offer TiVo as its primary DVR option in a yet-to-be announced tru2way market. TiVo's confirmed plans involving tru2way software suggest that Comcast won't offer the Premiere box, but might instead offer DVR hardware from other suppliers that's outfitted with TiVo's coming tru2way-based user interface. Comcast has tru2way deployed in Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta, with Boston expected to be among the markets next in line for the upgrade. [Ed. note: We've asked Comcast to clarify.] Some of the top six "incumbent" MSOs are still upgrading thier headends to support tru2way. (See Cable's Tru2way Build Continues.)
UPDATE: Comcast said it is eying TiVo's new guide, but was noncommittal on when it might actually deploy it. "We think the new guide is innovative, and while there are no immediate plans, we are talking with TiVo about how we might use it with our tru2way software platform. We don't have any updates on the Comcast-Tivo service as the primary DVR in a tru2way market at this time," a Comcast spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Light Reading Cable.
RCN Corp. is the only large U.S. cable MSO that has agreed to lease the Premiere DVR to its subscribers. And the competitive cable overbuilder -- which competes against Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and other operators in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and parts of Pennsylvania -- is looking to use the high-end DVR to woo new customers. (See RCN Makes TiVo Its Dominant DVR.)
"We'll have basically, hands-down, the highest-quality digital product and robust digital video experience available. It'll be better than [Verizon] FiOS, and miles ahead of Time Warner Cable," RCN CEO Peter Aquino told reporters at the TiVo event.
Evolution Digital LLC, which has a deal to market TiVo set-tops to Tier 2 and 3 MSOs, will pitch Premiere DVRs to its cable operator partners, Evolution president Brent Smith confirmed to Light Reading Cable via email. (See TiVo Covers Its Cable Bases .)
By marketing its high-end Premiere DVR directly to MSOs, TiVo is looking to grab market share in the set-top business from Cisco Systems Inc. and Motorola Inc.. It'll begin selling the Premiere DVR in Best Buy and other retail outlets in April, with prices ranging from $300 to $500. (See New TiVo DVRs Built for Web & Cable Content.)
The Premiere platform integrates Web content from Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Blockbuster Inc., and Pandora Media Inc., and also allows users to add Web video content to the user interface through RSS feeds from sites like The Onion and The New York Times.
The new platform won't be available to DirecTV Group Inc. subscribers, since the satellite TV giant uses an older version of TiVo software in its DVRs. But Rogers said TiVo is creating a new software for DirecTV DVRs that will add some new functions.
"Their [DirecTV's] next implementation of us is not going to have this look and feel. It's based on the classic TiVo," he said.
While selling DVRs remains a core part of TiVo's business, Rogers said the company remains focused on generating revenue from the software for its user interface.
"We're about getting a monthly fee for defining the user experience. We don't make money on hardware. Hardware is really a way for us to get out our user experience."
While TiVo has never competed head-to-head with over-the-top Internet video firm Boxee, its Premiere interface contains some similarities to Boxee's new navigation system, which allows users to watch Web video content on a TV. The Premiere DVR also comes with a remote control that has a QWERTY keyboard similar to the remote control that Boxee will ship with its new Boxee Box set-top this spring. (See Boxee Urges TV Nets to 'Experiment' and Ronen: Boxee Isn't a Cable Killer.)
â€” Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable