TiVo Seeks to Prove Why It Still Matters

Educating Consumer on TiVo's Functionality Will Be One of CMO's First Priorities

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Ira Bahr was at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1999 when TiVo made its debut.

"I remember thinking this would change how people watched TV and advertised," said Mr. Bahr, who was leading marketing at Sirius Radio at the time.

And that it did.

But 15 years later, TiVo's original technology -- the first to let viewers digitally record, pause, rewind and fast-forward programming -- has been replicated by most cable and satellite operators. Adding to the competition are over-the-top boxes such as Roku and Apple TV, which stream content from digital platforms like Netflix and Hulu to TV sets.

In his new role as TiVo's head of marketing, Mr. Bahr is charged with proving that the company still has a competitive and valuable proposition in the market. The biggest issue he faces has nothing to do with the quality of the product.

"TiVo is really good at innovating, rolling out technology you don't see at some of the biggest cable providers," said Tony Wible, an analyst at Janney Capital Markets.

The problem is, consumers aren't aware of Tivo's capabilities. "Consumers accept the set-top box the cable company sends and aren't aware there are other options to consider to receive their cable," Mr. Bahr said.

Educating the consumer on TiVo's functionality will be one of Mr. Bahr's first priorities as the company's chief marketing officer, a role previously shared by several executives. Mr. Bahr was hired in March from Inspirato, a luxury travel planner. More relevant to his current role, he served as CMO of Dish Network from 2009 to 2011, where he oversaw product planning and marketing for the Hopper, Dish's DVR, as well as the company's first mobile applications on iOS and Android. As the 12th employee of Sirius Radio (before it merged with XM), Mr. Bahr led strategic marketing and was responsible for the creation of the Sirius name and corporate identity. He began his career at BBDO, spending 13 years working with clients like FedEx, Pepsi and General Electric.

TiVo's primary focus over the last three to four years has been on the corporate side, monetizing intellectual property and establishing relationships with cable and satellite operators, Mr. Bahr said.

Ira Bahr, TiVo marketing chief
Ira Bahr, TiVo marketing chief

In its most recent quarter, TiVo added 319,000 subscribers, 313,000 of which came from its cable- and satellite-TV business. The quarter marked the first increase in six years of the number of people that bought the service directly from the company. In total, the company has 4.2 million subscribers.

Still, TiVo has spent very little on measured media. In 2013, it spent just $5.9 million, according to Kantar Media. That's up from $4.8 million in 2012, but down from $8.9 million in 2011.

"As a company, TiVo has been a little better on the technology side than they have on the marketing," Mr. Bahr said.

The category is ripe for TiVo to ramp up its marketing, as the industry becomes increasingly interested in making the set-top box consumer-friendly, Mr. Bahr added. That's a positive for the Roamio, which launched in August. It's the company's first consumer-product launch in nearly three years.

The device, which starts at $200, combines the functionality of a cable set-top box along with the streaming power of a Roku or Apple TV and the ability to push recorded content from the DVR to other devices like Dish's Slingbox.

Mr. Bahr explained that subscribers don't need to switch inputs or devices to watch cable alongside Netflix and Hulu, and the Roamio's advanced search functionality highlights in real time the most popular content being viewed. By delivering content from all these platforms, consumers can pick how they watch their favorite shows -- live, on-demand, streaming or by purchasing a season.

"If people only see us as a DVR, we lose," Mr. Bahr said.

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