TiVo Culls It Some Cable

11:55 AM -- TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) made some progress this week with its bid to win more distribution deals with MSOs and help shore up its eroding subscription base.

Although TiVo's existing deals with major MSOs Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Cox Communications Inc. will be vital to the DVR company's future, this week's tally involved smaller game that TiVo's chasing through its partnership with Evolution Broadband LLC , a Colorado-based firm that's pitching digital video systems to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cable operators.

The first was with Compton Communications of Canada, which is in line to offer TiVo's broadband-connected, CableCARD-capable HD-DVRs, marking the first MSO north of the border to take advantage of the Evolution-TiVo offering. (See Canadian MSO Fires Up TiVo/Evolution Combo.)

Compton, which operates a system in Uxbridge, Ontario, already offers video on demand (VoD) using SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC) gear. The TiVo box could complement that with over-the-top VoD fare TiVo offers from Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), and other partners, but access to content is limited by Canadian rights issues.

SeaChange and TiVo have figured out a way to connect SeaChange's cable VoD system with the TiVo environment by using the DVR's Ethernet port as the communications path, but, at this point, the TiVo hardware is not integrated with Compton's legacy on-demand platform, Brent Smith, president of Evolution Digital, told Cable Digital News via email.

TVMax of Houston, Texas, has also jumped on the Evolution-TiVo partnership with the offering of TiVo HD-DVRs outfitted with Evolution's own CableCARD, which uses the Conax conditional access system. TVMax is already using Evolution's Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices for an all-digital conversion the operator completed in May 2009. (See CableLabs Blesses Evolution's CableCARD .)

TVMax doesn't have a legacy VoD system, but it will be using the TiVo devices to deliver on-demand services over high-speed broadband connections. The operator, which specializes in serving multiple-dwelling units (MDUs), claims to have about 90,000 passings.

Comporium Communications was the first operator to take advantage of the Evolution-TiVo partnership, and is already offering the devices in Charlotte, N.C. (See TiVo Covers Its Cable Bases .)

According to Smith, Evolution has at least seven TiVo reseller agreements in place so far, "with a bunch more coming." In the meantime, Evolution is in the "final stages" of developing an operator portal with training and marketing materials, as well as tools that allow MSOs to activate and de-activate TiVo subscriptions.

Among recent MSO deals outside the Evolution connection, TiVo is on board with Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) in the U.K., and with cable "overbuilder" RCN Corp. . (See TiVo Coming to Virgin's Non-DVRs, Too, Virgin Presses 'Play' on TiVo, and RCN Picks TiVo as 'Primary' DVR.)

But TiVo would do well to see any of these deals start to shore up its sub base. The DVR pioneer said it had 2.7 million subs as of Oct. 31, 2009, 800,000 off the 3.5 million it had in the year-ago period.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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