Mergers & acquisitions

Tivo Might Sell Off Its Products Business

Tivo's future is still clear as mud.

While the company insists that all options remain on the table as TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) moves its strategic review forward, it appears that a sale of the company in full or taking the company private are the dark-horse options.

Instead, it's become increasingly likely that the company could divest its products and/or intellectual property/licensing businesses.

Tivo, which announced in February that it was exploring alternatives, said Wednesday that it's "open to strategic acquisitions," but stressed that, for now, the company is not convinced that using capital for a "significant acquisition" is going to drive shareholder value.

But it said the review does indicate that the company has valuable assets in the product and IP licensing areas (Tivo has an installed base of about 22 million subscribers), and that other parties yet unnamed also see strategic value in those businesses, at least on an individual basis.

But among those options, combining Tivo's products with another company seems to be the idea that's getting the most traction.

"I think [that option] is a very strong possibility, and that is certainly something we are evaluating," Raghu Rau, Tivo's interim president and CEO, said on Wednesday's earnings call, but again stressing that Tivo's "not ruling anything out at this stage."

"It appears clear that there's a real opportunity in the marketplace for a well-scaled, next-generation video products business with good growth potential," he explained, adding later that Tivo's Experience 4 platform is getting some traction in the pay-TV sector. (See RCN Rolls Out Advanced TiVo Experience and Tivo Touts Network Flexibility in Latest Video Win .)

Analysts on the call expressed some concern that splitting up Tivo's business, perhaps selling off the products unit and retaining the IP business, could lead to dis-synergies.

Rau, who became interim CEO after former CEO Enrique Rodriguez left to become CTO of Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), said he's committed to staying in that role to see the process through. Tivo has retained a firm for the permanent CEO search, but that effort is essentially on pause at this stage. (See Rodriguez Bolts Tivo to Be Liberty Global CTO.)

On the IP side of the business, the overhang is Tivo's failure so far to secure a deal with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), and litigation between the two companies are ongoing. The decline in IP licensing revenues in Q2 primarily came from CE makers that work with Comcast as the MSO remains out of license. Revenues tied to Tivo's expiring Time-Warp Patent are also going away.

Tivo still hopes that it can get Comcast to do a new deal while also pointing out that MSOs that are syndicating Comcast's X1 platform have recognized the need to have an active patent license with Tivo to cover those X1 deployments. (See Rogers Sparks 'Ignite TV' Using Comcast's X1.)

Tivo also confirmed that it has completed a deal to outsource retail hardware to a still-unnamed third-party. From this point on, Tivo's guides to retail consumers will now come on hardware from that company, and Tivo will only recognize hardware revenues from sales coming through Tivo.com. (See Tivo's Done With Hardware.)

That move, CFO Peter Halt said, gets Tivo out of a non-competency area while reducing costs and taking advantage of the hardware partner's retail acumen.

Tivo posted total Q2 revenues of $172.86 million, down 17% amid declines at its legacy licensing and hardware businesses. Licensing revenues to US pay-TV providers dropped 28% to $49.21 million. (See Tivo Issues Q2 Results, Updates on Strategic Alternatives .)

Tivo shares were up $0.60 (4.94%) to $12.75 each in after-hours trading Wednesday.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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