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Interview with TiVo CEO Tom Rogers 77

Thomas Hawk writes "Bloomberg did an exclusive interview with TiVo's Tom Rogers this week where among other things he discussed the possibility of TiVo offering a subscription only pricing model (i.e. no upfront cost to buy a TiVo box), the increasingly important role that advertising, ironically, is playing in their current business model, and details on the upcoming Series 3 standalone HDTV unit due out later this year."
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Interview with TiVo CEO Tom Rogers

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  • by otis wildflower ( 4889 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:41PM (#14751173) Homepage
    Ideally, a company like Tivo or Google (or whoever, Apple?) would offer ala carte cable programming over IP. This would be a huge win for telco broadband, since it would weaken the symbiotic relationship between cable TV and cable broadband.

    If I could get DSL speeds equivalent to what I get from Time Warner, and be able to buy only the channels I want, I'd drop them in a heartbeat, assuming it costs less than $80/mo in total..
    • by RomulusNR ( 29439 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:25PM (#14751404) Homepage
      a company like Tivo or Google

      I wish Google would buy Tivo. It would seem to be symbotic for both companies -- since Tivo is trying to get into broadband video delivery, and Google is trying to collect a corpus of video for Google Video. Plus, Tivo would elevate above PVR and into (i know, I know, but it's different this time) set-top box, going beyond the TV recording focus. Plus, the companies would then fare better against MS's assaults on both fronts.
    • good points, I agree.

      but I don't think TiVo will do content over IP until they can figure out a way to exclude non-windows users with a straight face, and then lie to them about future support.

      I understand the CEO uses a Mac? but aparently not TiVo itself or he'd know how pathetic and lame their treatment of mac using customers has been.

      I'm sarcastic, but not bitter, but I do have a comcast DVR box on order as of yesterday. my tivo doesn't do HD, and I won't upgrade it until there is mac support for tivo
    • I disagree. The telcos don't see enough revenue in being pure data carriers, especially when they're forced to beef up their physical networks to compete. They want their fingers in programming, which has a larger potential revenue stream. In fact, telcos are moving into direct competition with the cable companies, while the cable MSOs move into data and POTS and compete with them! Both are worried that pure IP program distribution, along with the continuation of network neutrality, will carve away much
    • Uh, doesn't mainstream IP television need to wait a few years for the infrastructure to catch up? I've tried playing with services like V-spot and the like, and they are spotty at best. Please let me know if I'm wrong, but is this really ready for prime time?
    • I have a Series 2 TiVo and have installed Galleon on my PC. I am able to download public domain videos (like the original DOA and the old Superman cartoons) from the Internet Archive to my PC, and pull them to my TiVo from the PC. If the video is not in the MPEG2 format TiVo needs, that's okay because Galleon can transcode it by calling external programs.

      My point is -- all the technology is here today. Hak.5 and DiggNation show up using BitTorrent (which I leave seeding for 2 weeks to show my support).
    • Broadcast TV over IP probably isn't what you want. Data networks are a little too flaky for that, though not by much. 100% uptime is all that's considered acceptable with TV. Cable companies can't afford any downtime lest people be deprived of their brainwashing, erm, programming.

      PPV movies, TV shows and the like make better sense over IP because they can be ordered, queued and displayed once sufficient buffering has taken place. It's odd that cable companies would allow such a thing to take place, as

  • by jmcmunn ( 307798 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:43PM (#14751185)

    It's only a matter of time now until Tivo will go away. I don't think they will be able to compete once the cable companies have good PVR's. (and I mean good ones, not the crappy Comcast ones)

    Look at the current state of have Tivo struggling to get their HDTV version to market and Comcast has one already in use in households around the country. The Comcast box is fine, it's the software interface that currently sucks. Once they get that nailed (and I believe they will) they are going to be the powerhouse in PVR's. Them and every other cable company out there. Drives are getting cheap, and as Comcast gets more units out there, they will improve their interface. And you have ReplayTV (who in my opinion has a superior product to Tivo). They just dropped out of the hardware business (like Tivo innevitably will) to go into software only. Their software equals Tivo's, and now we will have that available on the PC (or perhaps sold to Comcast for a new interface?)

    Tivo is fine and dandy...they road ReplayTV's coat tails in the beginning and then took the forefront, and eventually became "the PVR" that everyone knows. But honestly, their business model is going to have to change very significantly soon...there's no reason at all to buy a Tivo anymore when I can get a free box from Comcast (which is why they are going to go to the service only option) and once Comcast has a decent software interface, that's just one less box I need in my entertainment center if I have one built into my cable box!
    • Comcast & other cable providers will win because of cost.

      $5 a month is nothing compared to the price of a Tivo + service.

      My guess is that is why Tivo is considering going with a subscription only business model & dropping any up front costs for the hardware.
    • Comcast has one already in use in households around the country. The Comcast box is fine, it's the software interface that currently sucks. Once they get that nailed (and I believe they will) they are going to be the powerhouse in PVR's.

      Well, you have that part right, and the first part wrong. Their interface sucks. As referred to in the article, their interface is going to be fixed by Tivo porting their software directly to the Comcast box. Therfore, Comcast stays as a major player, running Tivo's softw

    • by diamondsw ( 685967 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:10PM (#14751312)
      This is such an OSS view of things:

      The Comcast box is fine, it's the software interface that currently sucks. Once they get that nailed (and I believe they will) they are going to be the powerhouse in PVR's.

      The interface is the hard part, not the hardware. Any schmoe can slap together the hardware; it's making it work and work well that is the lion's share of the effort.
      • Well, any shmoe may be able to slap together the hardware, but to do it in any quantity takes an initial investment. The point is that Comcast has made that investment, and any further investments can only go toward improving the software interface. And it makes perfect sense that Comcast would continue to invest in that way, because it's a smaller outlay than the initial cost of designing, prototyping and manufacturing the hardware, and improves the return on that earlier investment. It's the only logical
      • And yet comcast has been able to make a significant dent in profitablity of tivo. How? By offering a similar device with a crappier gui for free.

        I think there is a lesson in there someplace.
    • One problem that Comcast might have are the patents. I believe Tivo and Gemstar has pretty much all the significant patents on PVR user interfaces. It could be even though Comcast could develop better GUI if they really wanted to, they are simply being cheap.

      So, in fact you could be right. Tivo could get out of hardware business and simply license their technology and/or patents to Comcast.

      Actually, it might be even more profitable for the shareholders of Tivo if it gets out of the entire business and be

      • Comcast could get the ReplayTV software/interface. In my opinion, it is better than Tivo. Even the several Tivo owners I know like the ReplayTV interface and admit it rivals Tivo (although naturally they side with Tivo overall).

        But regardless of which interface Comcast ends up with, either one is great and would be fine by me. More power to Tivo if they can stay around by selling their software. I have nothing against Tivo, I just don't like paying for a box AND for service anymore. It's time for the c
    • by jherber ( 179099 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @07:47PM (#14752148)
      It's only a matter of time now until Tivo will go away


      1. Tivo showed their HDTV box at CES 2005, and again at 2006. It isn't a technology issue, it is a wait for the Cable Card standards and certifcation (2.0 which allows up and down stream still isn't finished!)

      2. Comcast and Tivo are working together. Comcast is paying Tivo to port their software to the Comcast Motorola box. The status as of CES 2006 was that key functionality was working. Tivo will get recurring revenue for every subscriber that chooses Tivo interface and Tivo and Comcast will split advertising revenue generated through Tivo's advertising services.,+Comcast+reach+DVR+deal/2 100-1041_3-5616961.html []

      3. Business is fine. Rogers (CEO) said during last Growth Conference in December that the company could ad 500k subscribers on break even cash flow. There are plenty of other networks besides Comcast/Dish/DirecTV that cannot afford to build and design their own DVR.

      DVR is evolving. Tivo SA2's all have broadband through USB. Series 3 (shown at CES 2006 and rumored to be in beta) will have built in broadband. Generic DVRs do not talk to your network. Play your MP3s, show your picture collections, let you view RSS feeds, etc...

      Tivo defends their "Time Warp" patent in Texas this March against Dish. That is one of the patents in the Patent Office's Museum.

      Tivo has a 1% churn rate, a rare feat in cable and television services.

      Tivo is going worldwide (TGC).

      • hmmmm... somebody's on top of their TiVo news!
      • >FUD!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Yeah but TiVo does have a lot of problems at the user level. I have one. I like it, but for the following reasons I'm willing to junk TiVo and build my own box:

        1. Subscription model is expensive for what you get, nothing more than TV Guide listings delivered over a digital feed. For $30/year I can actually get TV Guide printed, and the HTML version is free (if I could somehow get it into my tivo...see below).

        2. Macintosh-like Cult of TiVo prevents hackers from tackling this problem.

        • 3. Listings are often wrong, which is just sad.

          Listings come from Tribune Media Services which has a national monopoly on the service of collecting all the local listings around the country. TMS claims copyright over them so you aren't allowed to edit them to make corrections for yourself. (I believe the copyright truly only covers the episode descriptions and not the collection of facts of what is on when, but I'm not up to speed on the latest changes in database copyright law.)

          My TiVo still insists on r
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why I am RedHot Mad at DirecTV []

    DirecTV used to be my favorite Satellite provider. When they launched TiVo service I got even more excited. However, it looks as if DirecTV has gotten "too big for their britches". In my opinion their parent company Murdoch's News Corp. is a bunch rich bastards who couldn't care less about their customers. News Corp. also owns NDS which is a competing DVR company. Naturally, not caring about the wants or needs of their customers they are trying to force NDS down our throats
    • by mustafap ( 452510 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:07PM (#14751298) Homepage
      >In my opinion their parent company Murdoch's News Corp. is a bunch rich bastards who couldn't care less about their customers.

      This comes up time & time again. You have to remember, you are *not* the customer. You are the product. The customer is the companies buying advertising space.

      I hate it, but it's true.
      • Wow. You are so right! I didn't realize that but you are so right!
      • That's not entirely true. Calling consumers the "product" infers that they have no choice in the matter. The product is sold, it has no control over who it's sold to.

        Really, there are two customers. They must provide quality entertainment to you or you will not continue to watch the adverisements. You pay for the ability to watch the TV programs you want, and the advertisers pay for the ability to get people to see their product. The TV company is what brings both of these customers together.

        It m

        • I follow your argument, but overall I would disagree.

          for example:

          >It is still your choice whether to participate in the transaction.

          I dont think that point applies here. In a given population, some are subscribers, and some not. The ones who are subscribers are the product. People may leave, people may join, but overall there is a (large) group of subscribers, and it is that mass of subscribers that are being marketed to the advertisers.

          And regarding quality viewing - ah, don't get me started!
        • YOu have the perception of choice but that's not really true. When you go into a burger king you only have the choice of which coke product to drink, you are not allowed to choose pepsi. There are hundreds of other situations like this.
          • What are you talking about? To use your example, you still have the choice not to go to Burger King if you don't like their drinks. Personally, I don't really care that much about soda brands, but my father only drinks Diet Pepsi. So, he always gets his drinks from Taco Bell, even if he gets his food from Burger King (with drive-thrus at your standard freeway rest stop, this is not hard to do). You always have the choice, though companies may put forth some effort to make one of the choices less conveni
      • This is a defeatist mentality. Ultimately, we are the customer - not only for News Corp but News Corp's advertisers. The reason why you can make this claim is that media corporations and major advertisers are more organized around a common goal - selling us stuff. The minute enough of us decide that something sucks, we have become the product and vote with our money to purchase something else - News Corp and their advertisers stand up and take notice. If they don't, they go out of business.

        We are the bo

      • Yeah, I know what you say is true for ad-supported TV. And so it's true for Fox News.

        But it isn't true for DirecTV. You are the customer for DirectTV, not the content providers. This is true for several reasons, among them that you can get the same content from other companies. Also, because you are PAYING DirectTV. Also because DirecTV doesn't sell ads.
    • All that griping because of the lack of the home media option? You can get another DirecTivo for about $15 [] with no more commitment from DTV. I paid $100 for the home media option when it came out on the stand alone Tivos and wasn't really impressed with it. Plus you can easily install 4.x or 7.x software onto the DirecTivos (hey, you are posting to slashdot, so hacking shouldn't be an issue). Check Dealdatabase for the info on that.

      In order to make it "seem" like they are making things better for us

      • We got a crippled 6.2. Let's at least be honest about it. No HMO, no media options.. no networking capability. Then there are those of us with the $1000.00 HD-DTivos that are still sitting here with 3.1. I paid $1000.00 to get a box that hasn't gotten any software updates other than a bug fix and is slow as molasses and now with DirectTV going to a lease only business model, I won't get one of their HD PVRs to replace it that I will actually own. DirecTV screwed their customer and Tivo.. I hope Tivo has r
        • I hope Tivo has retribution

          AMEN!!! :)
        • We got a crippled 6.2. Let's at least be honest about it.

          Just because Tivo makes software for the standalone players doesn't mean that they have to deploy it to every derivative Tivo that exists. HMO would be nice to have, I agree. But there might be issues with the agreement between Tivo and DirecTV that's preventing its deployment. If I were in Tivo's shoes when that deal was struck I surely would have excluded any new feature deployment from the deal with DirecTV. That way Tivo can differentiate t

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:22PM (#14751389) Homepage Journal
    "About a year or so ago TiVo was a real pariah in the view of the advertising industry," said Rogers. "Today we find that has totally changed. Yes, TiVo does allow people to fast forward through ads and yes that's an important feature of TiVo, but the advertising industry has come to understand that that's going to happen no matter what. And the issue now is how do you create a new relationship with the viewer so that advertising messages get there and they are looking at TiVo as that platform increasingly as potentially the way to do that."

    "Now we find ourselves embraced rather than a pariah and consequently my old friends in the advertising industry are still my friends."

    For advertisers, switch from pariah to embraced. For customers, switch from embraced to pariah. Advertisers and (most) customers are ultimately in a zero-sum conflict, and you can't please them both.
  • What I don't understand is since Tivo holds a bunch of patents [] why aren't they going after the other PVR producers? I figure they must have some legal angle to pull a "SCO" on Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, Dish and other companies that are edging them out of the marketplace. At least in the case of Tivo they were one of the first, the best, and shouldn't be upstaged by second rate monopolist-funded copycats.
  • I think subscription only pricing is their best bet. At this time, I can get a DVR from my cable company for my digital cable service for about 5 dollars more a month. How does TiVo plan to compete with that with their current price structure? I understand that people like the features that come with tivo more than other boxes, but I think mine is just fine, works like a charm, and I don't have to pay 100+ down and 10+ a month. If TiVo wants to truly compete, they need to either just focus on providing the
    • Don't know where you are, but the comcast microsoft software DVR sucks ass, among its many flaws:
      1) No 30 second skip
      2) No ability to send content to my psp or computer
      3) Frequent crashes
      4) No upgradeable drive
      5) Frequent "forgetting of series" and forcing me to re-enter them
      6) And most importantly, that it's a microsoft product.

      At this point I'd pay at least $1000 for a tivo.
      • I have Adelphia. Normally crappy, but the DVR is not bad. You listed not having the follow features:

        1) No 30 second skip [Got it.]
        2) No ability to send content to my psp or computer [Don't know, but there are some connections in the front so it may be possible. Don't care about this feature, personally.]
        3) Frequent crashes [Crashed maybe 10-20 times total in heavy usage over the p
    • or on other pricing schemes (such as, pay 500 dollars get TiVo for life--or until we go Bankrupt--as well as cheap upgrades to future boxes/software updates) or no cost for the units, can get an upgrade free every two years, and a minimal monthly cost (as in 10 dollars--120 a year is reasonable).

      I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. TiVo already offers lifetime subscription -- $300. The only problem is that the subscription is linked to the TiVo box, instead of to me, and is not transferable.
  • TiVo UK still exists, operates, services, updates, rocks... but for some inexplicable reason one piece of the puzzle is now missing...

    The Hardware...

    What on *earth* is going on at TiVo UK?

    Which deal with which devil leaves the UK market uncontested like this?!
  • Now, I assume we're all pretty good with computers, so I have to ask; Why would any of you buy a tivo? you pay monthly for it, are limited by tivo hardware, and it's got a gay name. Why not build or use one of those computers you have in storage, put two 500gb hds in raid0 and install media center edition? Works just as well, and when u need more space, pop in a new harddrive. You can even burn your movies straight to dvd... what more could you ask for?
    • You're absolutely right... or would be *if* that was a TiVo. But it isn't...

      TiVo put in thumbs up/down buttons to train it to what you like, Amazon stylee. It then checks against a database at TiVo HQ and finds things other people watch who like what you like, then it records them when it has nothing to do.

      Also, and don't underestimate this bit.. It all *just works*. No farting around. Shortcuts for common stuff. Execellent and I meand EXCELLENT remote. Seamless updating.

      In short, Quality.

      That's why I still
    • Why do I use TiVo?

      1. I got mine for $134.
      2. It just works.

      I also have two MCE computers. They require constant attention to keep working. And they often just don't. One day I realized that it was supposed to have switched channels and started recording a show, but hadn't. I switched to the channel and there was the show. I hit the guide button and there was a red dot on it. But it wasn't recording and there was no red dot in the systray. The history page said "This episode will record." I don't know
    • I'll add my reply to this as well. I did a lot of research when I bought my Tivo. I really wanted to make my own MythTV box, but I didn't (and still don't) have a spare box lying around. That's the key. *IF* you have a spare box around then it's cheaper to build a MythTV box (assuming you have the know how and patience).

      A Tivo @ $50 (which is what mine cost) + $12/month for three years comes out to the same price as building my own (again because I'd have to buy all new hardware).

      So now that price i
  • My unit started switching me to infomercials during primetime. I called tech support several times. At first they denied it could even do that then they finally admited it but said it was doing that to down load updates. I asked them how do I stop it? They said you can't. It was supposed to do it late at night but mine was doing it during primetime. I said stop it from switching or I drop the service. They said they can't so I dropped the service. I'm not paying $13 a month to be force fed infomercials. The
  • I love TiVo's interface and teh 30-second skip "hack". I will not take a PVR AND a Cable box. So several years ago I got a Sony SAT-T60 DirecTV/Tivo unit and loved every minute of it, it was bliss. Hacked in a larger drive and the varible bit rate recording, two tuners!

    I have seen ReplayTV and Cox's (Scientific Atlantic) and they but suck interface wise. My wife love the 30 second skip, so she would like Replay's commercial skip, but the TiVo interface takes the cake.

    So I move to where I cannot have a dish
    • You should check out mythtv. You can put together your own DVR that not only does not have a monthly subscription but allows you to auto skip most commercials. And mythtv allows you to have multiple front end systems that can view any of the shows recorded by the backend systems.

      I currently have four encoder cards running and have 1TB in a file system for recordings.
  • anyone else remember that ill-fated sony software pvr from 5 years ago, that got rolled into the airboard-renamed-locationfreeTV?

    if that had been offered EVERYWHERE rather than on vaio only, would've beaten the MCE to the punch by a fair bit

    now, however...

    interesting mod, btw, if you've already set up tivotogo, over at (i hear it was tivoanywhere until tivo decided that it was time to stop embracing their mod community)

  • Until Tivo can beat zero dollars a month and zero dollars up front for a mythtv box, I'm not interested. Plus my mythtv box actually lets me skip commercials and record HBO.
  • For much more information on the series 3 TiVo, with demos and all, check out this video interview [].
  • I gave up on TiVO after they wouldn't let me transfer my lifetime subscription to a new unit (only a referb at my cost) after their software upgrade turned it into a paperweight.

    However, there's a standards group called Open Cable that will roll out later this year. It will allow development of new applications across all cable box platforms, and make it easier for retail set top boxes. This is how TiVO will get back in business, in my opinion. There is no way they'll be able to beat Motorola and Scientific

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.