March 23rd, 2012

Gizmo Lovers

Has TiVo’s Deal With Canal Digital Sunk?

TiVo Logo Two years back, in March 2010, TiVo announced a deal with Conax “to offer a next generation DVB set-top box platform for deployment by television operators around the world.” The two companies planned to “put the TiVo experience, including its revolutionary integration of IP-delivered video into an off-the-shelf package that can be quickly and easily deployed by operators using Conax-certified platforms in Scandinavia, mainland Europe and India, among other geographies.” At the time Conax said that interest in the new solution was already high and the solution was expected to be available to operators in 2011.

Later, in November 2010, the first customer for the solution was announced – Telenor’s Canal Digital. (Telenor also owns Conax.) The plan was to introduce TiVo to Canal Digital Direct-to-Home (DTH) satellite customers in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The announcement called TiVo “one of the key pillars” in Canal Digital’s strategy, calling it “the most compelling solution”. Christian Albech, CEO of Telenor Broadcast Holding AS, said “After considering many partners who could help us deliver this promise, we concluded that TiVo was head and shoulders above the rest.” TiVo again cited the deal during CES 2011 alongside their deals with Virgin Media in the UK and ONO in Spain. Virgin Media and ONO have since had successful launches, but nothing more has been heard about Conax or Canal Digital. So what happened?

Well, it seems that things may have not have gone quite so smoothly with Conax, and the romance might be gone with Canal Digital, according to this article from Broadband TV News:

[Director of digital product management at Conax, Tor] Helge Kristiansen admitted there had been difficulties with the March 2010 announcement that would have combined the Conax conditional access system with features from the TiVo platform. However, he said the co-operation remained were a suitable customer found.

Canal Digital had announced the launch of a TiVo product, but this has now been put firmly to one side, with neither side wanting to comment publically.

The article is primarily about Conax’s new effort to provide and end-to-end ecosystem so small operators. They’re working with middleware developer Cubiware and content management system provider MPS Broadband to provide all of the components. This would seem to offer an alternative to the integrated TiVo solution they’d been working on. But, as the article states, the TiVo option is apparently still on offer should a customer be interested.

I don’t think this is a major blow to TiVo, but it is a setback. Canal Digital is the largest satellite provider in Northern Europe, so having them deploy TiVo would’ve been a nice boost to subscriber numbers and another feather in TiVo’s cap. But having the largest cable operators in the UK and Spain, Virgin Media and ONO respectively, deploying TiVo is hardly a consolation prize. So TiVo’s doing quite alright, thank you very much.

I’ve emailed TiVo to see if they have any official comment.

EDIT: After I posted this I remembered something else, the Conax deal was also related to TiVo's deal with Technicolor announced in May 2010. Technicolor was to port TiVo's software to their DSI803 satellite DVR, and as the press release stated "The initial implementation is to support the initiative reported earlier this year between TiVo and Conax." Given the work with Conax appears to be back burnered, and the Canal Digital deal is on ice, does that have implications for Technicolor's porting work as well? Without a launch customer is the work proceeding?

Technicolor is the hardware provider for the recently launched DirecTV THR22, but it is hard to say if that has any bearing at all on the other work given DirecTV's unique specifications and the different hardware involved.

Mirrored from Gizmo Lovers Blog.

Gizmo Lovers

Is The TiVo Premiere Getting A Bump To 500GB?

TiVo Premiere Since launch the TiVo Premiere has been model number TCD746320 and sports a 320GB drive which yields up to 45 hours of HD recording. The TiVo Premiere XL, with 1TB and 150 hours, is model number TCD748000. And the Premiere Elite is TCD758250, with 2TB or 300 hours of HD.

But what’s this on Amazon? A TCD746500? Yep, it is listed as a TiVo Premiere with 500GB, or 75 hours of HD recording. And it shows as “Usually Ships in 2 to 5 weeks”, so it may be about to launch. The price is $149.99, which slots in between the current 320GB model’s $99.99 MSRP and the Premiere XL’s $299.99. So perhaps this will be a new family member and not a replacement/upgrade of the current Premiere? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Personally, if this is really coming to market, I expect it to replace the 320GB model. There isn’t enough differentiation between 320GB and 500GB to keep both models in production. And the branding on the Amazon page is simply ‘TiVo Premiere’, just like today’s 320GB model. Having two units with the same branding with only the drive being different would seem to be too confusing for consumers.

I’ll note that in my post last week on TiVo’s pitch to cable operators I linked to TiVo’s one-sheet on the TiVo Premiere as offered to MSOs, and it has a 500GB drive. Perhaps they’re seeking to simplify their supply chain by just producing one 500GB model for both retail and MSOs? It could also be 320GB drives are getting harder to source, it has been a while since the Premiere first launched.

Based on the specs given this is a revised Premiere, and not based on the Premiere Elite – it still lists antenna support. But it could have other internal revisions, past models of TiVo have had minor board re-spins during their lifespans. Note that the images on the Amazon listing aren’t anything to go by. The front photos of the unit are a TiVo Premiere, the box is clearly from the 320GB model as it states “45 Hours”, and the rear image is of a Premiere XL prototype/beta unit – the “TCD7F8″ serial is a giveaway. (Pre-production TiVo units replace a digit with a letter.)

I’ve emailed TiVo to see if they have anything official to say about this 500GB TiVo Premiere. But I suspect Amazon jumped the gun in listing this. I did look for other sites and found some that also listed this – but on further investigation they all tied back to Amazon in some way.

Spotted via FaceBook.

Mirrored from Gizmo Lovers Blog.

Gizmo Lovers

Microsoft And TiVo Bury The Legal Hatchet

TiVo Logo Over a year ago, in the midst of TiVo’s legal battle with AT&T over patents, Microsoft also filed suit against TiVo. This was seen as largely a move to support their customer, AT&T, which uses Microsoft’s IPTV platform for their U-Verse service which was the target of TiVo’s lawsuit. TiVo, in turn, filed a counter-suit against Microsoft, as it common in such matters.

Well, as we know, AT&T settled with TiVo in January. Yet the spat with Microsoft continued. Microsoft even ratcheted things up after the settlement, filing a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC) seeking to block importation of TiVo units for sale within the US. EDIT: This was my bad – as I wrote this I was thinking the ITC complaint was filed in January 2012, when it was January 2011. The late hour probably had something to do with it, but either way I apologize for my mistake.

However, it seems that with the primary impetus for the fight removed both sides thought better of spending resources on the legal battles. In a terse SEC filing Thursday, TiVo announced that both sides had decided to dismiss their legal claims against the other. TiVo also explicitly stated that they’d granted no patent rights to Microsoft as part of the agreement:

On March 21, 2012, TiVo and Microsoft reached an agreement whereby Microsoft has agreed to dismiss all of its pending litigation against TiVo, including its action in the United States International Trade Commission and both of its cases in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. In conjunction with these dismissals, TiVo has agreed to dismiss its counterclaim against Microsoft in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. No patent rights were granted to Microsoft by TiVo.

That seems to be all either side has to say on the issue, I couldn’t find any mention of this from Microsoft.

This is good news for TiVo, it removes the distraction of these legal issues. And they were always a sideshow to the AT&T suit anyway. TiVo only filed against Microsoft as a defense to Microsoft filing against them. TiVo’s strategy has always been to go after the service providers, like AT&T and Verizon, and not their technology providers. (EchoStar was an exception since that whole legal saga started before DISH Network and EchoStar split into separate companies.)

Mirrored from Gizmo Lovers Blog.

Gizmo Lovers

TiVo Really Seems To Be Pushing Stop||Watch Lately

TiVo Logo I’ve been noticing something recently, TiVo really seems to be pushing their ratings data service, Stop||Watch. Not necessarily directly, but it seems like there have been a number of direct and indirect marketing moves tied to the service recently.

In January, during CES, they put out a press release about OTT content and recorded TV overtaking Live TV viewing. They reported that, on web-connected units, live viewing was only 38%. And among users who use OTT services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video it is only 27%. The source for this data? Stop||Watch. That’s a bit of indirect marketing – “Look at what we can do with this data. Imagine what you could do with it.”

Last month they made a direct pitch when they announced the launch of ‘Next Day’ data services in Stop||Watch. Of course, they used the Academy Awards as a ‘hook’ for the announcement, as they released it the next morning and included viewing data from the previous night’s broadcast. Which is a clever marketing move as the popular press doesn’t care about the next day data service, but it got a lot of press because of the Academy Award data that was included.

Last month also saw the announcement of the deal with AT&T AdWorks to incorporate their data into Stop||Watch. Last week we had CEO Tom Rogers’ letter to the editor in The New York Times. And while he never mentioned Stop||Watch by name, it was obviously a stealth pitch for the service.

But that’s not all, over the past few weeks TiVo bloggers at MediaBizBloggers.com have really been beating the drum. MediaBizBloggers’ target audience is made up of industry members, not the general public, so the posts are tailored accordingly. Back on March 5, Jonathan Steuer, TiVo’s Vice President, Audience Research & Measurement, blogged in response to the same NYTimes article on the Modern Family ratings that Tom Rogers’ letter was in response to. It basically says the same thing Rogers said, only in much more detail with the data and graphs to back it up. All of it pulled from Stop||Watch, of course.

Then on Monday Greg DePalma, TiVo’s Vice President of Audience Insights, blogged about marketing executives basing their ad buys on gut feeling and historic behavior patterns instead of hard data. He never mentions Stop||Watch by name, but he does call out “TiVo and other STB data” in making the argument that buying based on the data produces better results for advertisers.

On Wednesday Alex Petrilli, senior manager of audience research at TiVo, blogged a very tongue in cheek post entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Nielsen. The whole post is a little bit snarky in a fun way, relating stories about lessons he’s learned via the examples set by others. As in, what not to do so you don’t end up like them after they screw the pooch, as it were.

For example, he snarkily points out how ridiculous Nielsen’s rating system is, in areas such as sample size:

I discovered that 1,200 diaries can accurately represent the viewing of almost seven million people in the San Francisco DMA. Nielsen taught me that 500 household meters will equate to the two million plus households for the same DMA. And when people meters arrived, 800 was the magic number to capture both household and demographic viewership. As far as Nielsen’s NTI sample goes, 21,000 will be sufficient to represent the 114 million U.S. households thank you very much.

He later goes on to, of course, extol the virtues of Stop||Watch:

Thanks Nielsen, lessons learned. Here at TiVo our anonymous daily Stop||Watch sample consists of 350,000 set-top boxes. We also recently signed a licensing deal to incorporate the more than 8 million AT&T U-verse set-top boxes into our system which will significantly increase our sample size. In terms of DVR playback, based on TiVo’s 4th Quarter Stop||Watch data, 44% of all programs viewed were time-shifted. 54.6% on broadcast television and 37.8% on cable. In prime those figures jump to 63.4% for broadcast and 46.5% for cable equating to 56.1% overall. Based on other information I have seen regarding DVR usage, these figures appear more realistic than Nielsen’s 16.7%. But in the end, it is all about sample size, and Nielsen will be the first to tell you they have it covered.

It is nice to see a non-dry tone from a corporate blogger, honestly.

I know there have been other direct and indirect Stop||Watch pitches I’ve encountered, but I think these will suffice. Maybe it is just my unusual travels on the net; I do cover TiVo as a blogger (obviously), so I have various agents scouring the net for TiVo news and I monitor many different sources of TiVo info. But it definitely feels like activity surrounding Stop||Watch has picked up as of late.

End users may wonder what this means for them and really – not much. But services like Stop||Watch are part of TiVo’s diversified business model and success in selling these services is good for TiVo’s overall health. In the longer run, data-based advertising can lead to more meaningful ads. And evidence of problems reaching audiences who time shift can steer advertisers toward TiVo’s related offerings in interactive advertising and on-box promotions.

Lately it feels like TiVo is making a more concerted effort to raise awareness of Stop||Watch among industry decision makers. It has the feeling of an organized marketing push. It is nice to see TiVo being more aggressive in marketing these services. Of course, maybe it is just my skewed perspective.

Mirrored from Gizmo Lovers Blog.

Gizmo Lovers

500GB TiVo Premiere Confirmed – Premiere XL, Premiere Elite, And Subscriptions Get Price Cuts!

TiVo Logo Last night I posted about a new 500GB TiVo Premiere showing up on Amazon.com and I speculated that this was replacing the 320GB model in the lineup. Today TiVo emailed me a press release that not only confirms this, but also brings with it the welcome news that the Premiere XL and Premiere Elite are getting a $50 and $100 price cut, respectively. TiVo was planning on announcing this on Sunday, March 25, which is when the new unit becomes available and the new pricing takes effect; but since Amazon let the cat out of the bag they sent out the press release early.

The new Premiere family lineup will be:

  • TiVo Premiere – 500GB/75 Hours HD, 2 tuners, analog cable, digital cable, FiOS, antenna – $149.99
  • TiVo Premiere XL – 1TB/150 Hours HD, 2 tuners, analog cable, digital cable, FiOS, antenna – $249.99
  • TiVo Premiere Elite – 2TB/300 Hours HD, 4 tuners, digital cable, FiOS – $399.99

As further good news, TiVo is reducing their monthly subscription pricing from $19.99 on the first unit and $14.99 on each additional unit under the Multi-Service Discount, to $14.99 for the first unit and $12.99 for each additional unit. Product lifetime service remains at $499.99 for the first until and $399.99 for each additional unit. (Note that this pricing only applies to the Premiere family, older models remain at the $12.95/$9.95 pricing level. This reflects the different pricing model and subsidized on the older units when they were sold.)

So the Premiere gets a 180GB capacity bump and a $50 MSRP bump, the Premiere XL drops by $50, the Premiere Elite drops by $100, and monthly service pricing drops by $5 on the first box and $2 on each additional unit. Not a bad change I’d say.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – do not go monthly, buy product lifetime service. Yes, it is more up front. But you break even in 33 months with the new pricing on the first box ($499.99 vs. $14.99/month), and 31 months on additional units ($399.99 vs. $12.99/month). Odds are you’re going to be using the unit for longer than that. TiVo expects units to remain in service at least 60 months; that’s the period they amortize lifetime service revenue over. Once you break even you’re effectively saving money every month you use the box.

But there’s more – it is like buying vs. renting. If you go monthly, when you stop paying the box becomes a doorstop. And a used TiVo without any subscription has very little residual value on the resale market because of the relatively low pricing on new units – and factory refurbished units which have a full warranty unlike a used box from a user. But units with product lifetime service have a high residual value because PLS transfers with the unit. So you can resell the box on eBay, Craigslist, etc., and recoup a good bit of your initial investment. You won’t get that with monthly service – those payments add nothing to the value of the unit. So you save even more in the long run if you decide to resell the box.

Of course, you can always just give it away to someone else – a friend, the kids, etc. – or put it in another room in your home when you decide to upgrade to the latest and greatest. Since it has lifetime service it will continue to do its thing with no additional cost. And if you’re worried about it failing, which will happen to everything eventually, most failures are the hard drive or the fan – the only two moving parts. And both of those are readily replaced with very little technical knowledge required. If you can operate a screwdriver you can replace either one. Even a unit with a failed hard drive will carry value if it has PLS as people buy them just to fix them and put them back into service.

I’ve owned six TiVo units and I’ve had PLS on all of them. I’ve resold four of those over the years and recouped a fair bit. It works out especially well when PLS pricing increases between the time you purchase it and when you resell it. But enough of this – you get the point.

The full press release from TiVo is below:

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Mirrored from Gizmo Lovers Blog.