|TiVo CEO Tom Rogers
In an effort to position TiVo as a link between passive viewing and interactivity, the company talked up a recent raft of partnerships that will enable its subscribers to buy movie tickets from Fandango; listen to Internet radio stations and talk shows; view on their TVs photos that have been posted online at Yahoo Photos; and search for particular ads. Building off the e-commerce platform that is fueling the Fandango deal, TiVo said itâ€™s trying to take its direct-response capabilities further, allow consumers to purchase other products from the comfort of their couch.
TiVo also announced at the meeting a partnership with Tad Low, the Emmy award-winning creator of Pop-Up Videos, whose production company Spin the Bottle is pitching prospective advertisers on content concepts he has created for development on TiVo.
Coca-Cola Co. Chief Marketing Officer Chuck Fruit -- also a TiVo board member -- was intrigued by Mr. Lowâ€™s presentation, saying, â€śI think of Tad as being the creative department of the future. Being in the entertainment and engagement business -- particularly for products like ours where consumers donâ€™t really care about product specifics like how many bubbles a can has -- we grow our brands through affinity and relationships.â€ť
But others believe TiVoâ€™s efforts, though smart, are too little, too late. â€śThese are the death throes,â€ť said Alex Tamayo, VP at Media Contacts, the interactive buying unit of Havasâ€™ MPG. He noted that while TiVo has put a brand name on time-shifting, itâ€™s struggling to gain subscribers and is being outpaced by cable operators who are aggressively rolling out their own DVRs.
In fact, TiVoâ€™s new developments came the same week that the 8-year-old company reported, as part of its third-quarter results, that it had added during the period 55,000 net new stand-alone subscriptions -- subscriptions independent of an agreement with a multichannel video provider such as DirecTV. The total was substantially lower than the 103,000 new subscriptions in the year-ago quarter.
TiVoâ€™s also still reeling from a blow earlier this year when DirecTV began marketing its own branded interactive DVR, leaving the future of DirecTVâ€™s relationship with TiVo unclear.
Counting on Comcast
Over the summer TiVo did strike a deal with Comcast that will offer the cable companyâ€™s 21.5 million subscribers the option of using TiVoâ€™s name-brand DVR service. TiVoâ€™s ability to leverage that agreement into similar ones with other cable operators, vastly expanding its distribution, is the key to the companyâ€™s longevity.
â€śTiVoâ€™s future hinges on the Comcast deal,â€ť said Van Baker, VP-research at Gartner, a San Jose, Calif.-based research group. â€śIf in four years from now one-third of the Comcast-installed base is TiVo-enabled PVRs, thatâ€™ll be enough to get an advertiserâ€™s attention.â€ť
Coleen Kuehn, exec VP-strategic development at Havasâ€™ MPG, said she likes TiVoâ€™s initiatives, but is discouraged by the companyâ€™s low reach. She added that advertisers and their agencies now have multiple options to choose from as they experiment with new media forms.
â€śWith TiVoâ€™s limited reach," Ms. Kuehn said, "the benefits [of recommending that a client get involved in TiVoâ€™s initiatives] are outweighed by the costs.â€ť