Video services

TiVo Shores Up End Run

TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) is still trying to separate itself from "generic" digital video recorders (DVRs) after seeding the wires Tuesday with news that customers can tap their broadband-enabled Series 2 and Series 3 boxes to order movies directly from the Amazon Unbox on TiVo service.

Unbox has been out since February, but customers initially had to order downloads via the PC. The "news" is that customers can now place those orders on the TV screen using their handy-dandy TiVo remotes.

Hmmm… ordering a movie via the TV. What a concept! Quick, someone needs to tell the cable industry about this all-important, emerging trend before the sky falls and crushes it into a fine powder!

Oh, cable does that already, you say?

OK, I tend to kid TiVo now and then. Then again, who can resist kidding such a cuddly creature?.

TiVo boss Tom Rogers, who isn't quite as cuddly, spent some time talking up the potential of Unbox and its library of 10,000 titles at the C-COR Corp. (Nasdaq: CCBL) Global IP Summit in Cannes.

Noting that cable VOD offers about 300 movie titles on average, while Amazon is digitizing flicks at a rate of 1,000 titles per month, Rogers said 60 percent of TiVo's customers connect to the service via a broadband connection. At last check, there were 1.7 million "TiVo-owned" subscribers out there.

"We're moving to an era of consumer control," he said.

But Rogers also lamented that the power of the TiVo brand is both a "blessing and a curse," sometimes causing consumers to confuse TiVos with generic DVRs. Consider Unbox yet another attempt by TiVo to differentiate itself.

Although the latest Unbox-related move is viewed as a competitive one toward cable, recall that TiVo also has flesh in that game, too, thanks to agreements with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Cox Communications Inc.

At the confab, Rogers said a simple software upgrade could turn a generic cable DVR into a box powered by TiVo with all the bells and whistles that go along with that.

Comcast is expected to introduce set-tops with TiVo on-board as early as this August in the MSO's New England division. (See Comcast to Kick Off Boston TiVo Party.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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