TiVo: Saved by Comcast?

TiVo and Comcast today announced a deal that may be a reprieve for thebeleaguered digital video recorder company. One analyst, however, wonderswhat the benefit is for TiVo’s partner.

“I’m a little perplexed,” Todd Chanko, media analyst at Jupiter Research, toldTechNewsWorld. “I don’t quite know what’s in it for Comcast. It’s clear thatany kind of deal TiVo can get a hold of is good for them.”

TiVo-Branded Service

The non-exclusive deal calls for TiVo to develop software specifically forComcast, which will not use TiVo’s set-top boxes but will be branded withthe TiVo name. Comcast already offers DVRs from Motorola andScientific-Atlanta in different markets. The new service is expected to beavailable to consumers in about a year, the companies said.

The effect for TiVo was immediate: Its stock jumped almost 50 percent on thenews.

But Chanko is not convinced that consumers will be willing to pay for TiVo’sadded features.

“First of all, having a machine provide you with suggestions based onviewing, I find it kind of creepy,” he said. “The problem they have tocontend with is that every week there’s already so much television beingrecorded onto a DVR, what people haven’t been able to figure out is how do Isqueeze extra hours into my week to watch all this TV I’m recording? Comcastis going to have to do a massive education program among its subscriberbase to convince them.”

Tough Sell

TiVo, the DVR pioneer, has faced a tough road from its inception in 1997.Trying to convince consumers they should pay for the box and service hasbeen difficult. While those who have the box sing its praises, there areonly 3 million of them. It has gotten tougher as cable and satellitecompanies have entered the market with their own versions of DVRs.

TiVo suffered a blow late last year when its partner, DirecTV, announced it wouldbegin offering DVRs from its sister company, NDS Group. About 60 percent ofTiVo subscribers signed up through DirecTV.

Comcast has 21.5 million customers, and about 8.6 million subscribe to itsdigital service, through which it will offer the TiVo service. The cablecompany currently offers DVR service for $10 a month, including the box.The companies did not disclose financial details of the agreement.

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