TiVo News:

--Signs New HD DVR Deal with DirecTV
--Signs Deal to Bring TiVo Services to BlackBerry
--Launches High-Capacity HD DVR
--Partners with Entertainment Weekly

TiVo and US satellite TV provider, DirecTV, have extended their existing partnership with a new, non-exclusive deal that calls for the companies to develop, market and distribute a new TiVo-powered HD DVR service to DirecTV customers. The deal also extends various mutual intellectual property arrangements between the two companies. DirecTV has offered a version of the TiVo service, branded as "DirecTV with TiVo," since 2000. However, since 2005 it has not been actively marketing the service, instead pushing a DVR service based on the XTV platform of interactive TV and conditional access technology provider, NDS. Nevertheless, DirecTV and TiVo have continued to collaborate on some level, signing in April, 2006 an extension of their commercial and advertising relationship (they say that relationship will be further expanded via their new agreement), and earlier this year deploying a software update to existing DirecTV with TiVo boxes, that enables various new features including DirecTV's Remote Booking service.

Under the terms of the new deal, DirecTV and TiVo will work together to develop a version of the TiVo service for DirecTV's broadband-enabled HD DVR platform. The companies say that the resulting offering will support the latest TiVo and DirecTV features and services, including TiVo's Universal Swivel Search and TiVo KidZone. The new platform is scheduled to launch in the second half of 2009, and the companies say that they will release information on its pricing and packaging in conjunction with the launch. DirecTV says that it will continue to develop and offer its own portfolio of set-top boxes as "primary offerings" both for new and existing customers and that the new TiVo-powered box will be offered to those customers as an "alternative choice."

According to a regulatory filing by TiVo, as part of the new agreement "DirecTV will pay a substantially higher monthly fee for households using the new high-definition DirecTV DVR's with TiVo than the fees for previously deployed DirecTV DVR's with TiVo service...The fees paid by DirecTV are subject to monthly minimum payments that escalate during the term of the agreement starting in 2010," the filing continues, "and those minimum payments are substantially higher than in the prior agreement." The filing also states that, under the new agreement, 1) "DirecTV is...obligated to annual marketing commitments, including significant cross-channel promotion of the high-definition DirecTV DVR with TiVo service to be developed by TiVo"; and 2) "DirecTV is entitled to most favored customer terms as compared with other multichannel video distributors in the United States to whom TiVo grants a license to distribute certain TiVo technology in the future." "We have had a very successful history with DirecTV," TiVo president and CEO, Tom Rogers, said in a prepared statement. "Together we brought the TiVo experience to millions of DirecTV customers and now we look forward to launching a next-generation product that uses TiVo's latest features to truly showcase DirecTV's broad selection of high-definition programming--all stitched together with the elegance of TiVo's renowned user experience. This agreement demonstrates our continued embrace of mass distribution opportunities in cooperation with major multichannel operators who recognize the value of giving their customers a choice of compelling user experiences." Added Chase Carey, president and CEO of DirecTV: "As the industry's content and technology leader, DirecTV has a long-standing reputation for developing innovative, advanced products and services, including our highly successful series of DVR's and HD DVR's. We will continue to work with TiVo and make this new product available to all new and existing DirecTV customers who may want to add TiVo on top of our industry-leading experience."

In other TiVo news:

  • The company has formed a partnership with Research In Motion (RIM), a developer of technologies for the wireless mobile industry and the company behind the BlackBerry family of smartphones, to bring customized TiVo services to the BlackBerry platform. According to the companies, the partnership will see them developing a range of mobile entertainment services that "marry" the BlackBerry with content delivered to consumers through TiVo's service. The first of these planned services--which is scheduled to be available later this year--will enable BlackBerry users to access an EPG and schedule TV recordings on the go, the companies say, and their future collaboration will focus on software applications that further simplify mobile access to video content. "TiVo subscribers will soon be able to wirelessly control their TiVo DVR's using a BlackBerry smartphone--anytime, anywhere--and that is a powerful example of how our respective technologies can complement each other to serve our mutual customers," RIM's co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, said in a prepared statement. "As the BlackBerry smartphone continues its evolution as a modern lifestyle device, the importance of home entertainment integration will continue to grow and TiVo will be the key in providing consumers with greater flexibility in accessing television content."
  • The company has launched a new, high-definition DVR, called the TiVo HD XL, which it claims offers more recording capacity than any other DVR available today. The new box, which is priced at $599 and which can currently be purchased through TiVo's Web site and through Amazon.com, Magnolia Home Theater and a number of other retailers, offers 150 hours of HD recording capacity and is THX-certified. Other features include dual tuners, a backlit remote control, an HDMI cable, standard TiVo features such as Season Pass recordings, Universal Swivel Search and WishList searches, and support for the various broadband services now offered by TiVo, such as movie and programming downloads, on-demand music videos from Music Choice and songs from Rhapsody, and the ability to browse and watch YouTube videos. According to TiVo, extensive video analysis and performance testing by THX will ensure that the new box always records and plays back content at maximum quality and resolution. "TiVo pioneered the DVR category, and they are maintaining that position with the new high-performance, high-capacity TiVo HD XL," Michael Rudd, chief AV Architect at THX, said in a prepared statement. "As more consumers adopt high-definition programming, they will expect their recorded content to reflect the same level of quality and consistency as the original broadcasts. With a Terabyte hard drive, the TiVo HD XL lets users enjoy more HD movies, sports and other programs in high definition than ever before, and THX certification ensures that the quality is always superb."
  • The company has signed a deal with Entertainment Weekly magazine, under which programs recommended in the latter's "What to Watch" section will be automatically recorded by broadband-enabled TiVo boxes. According to the companies, the new service--which they are billing as allowing "two powerful properties to work together to create a more seamless television viewing experience for their respective audiences"--will launch in the fall, and will be jointly marketed. The companies' deal will also allow TiVo subscribers to download broadband video content from Entertainment Weekly's EW.com Web site, including such original programs as "Just a Minute," "Ausiello TV" and "Idolatry," and behind-the-scenes footage from photoshoots. "We are pleased to have an opportunity to work with one of the most respected entertainment brands to help change the dynamic of how a franchise like Entertainment Weekly and the TV world can be combined to create a whole new level of service for the reader and the viewer," TiVo's Tom Rogers said in a prepared statement. "TiVo is all about providing easy solutions so that television viewing can be molded to an individual's lifestyle and Entertainment Weekly's development of this complete solution for its readers is just what TiVo stands for."
  • According to news agency, Reuters, US District Judge David Folsom has delayed his ruling on whether DISH Network owes TiVo additional damages in the so-called "Time Warp" patent case between the companies. (Note: The patent dispute between TiVo and DISH dates back to 2004, when TiVo sued the then-EchoStar, alleging that it was violating its US patent, #6,233,389--i.e. the "Time Warp" patent--which was granted to the company in May, 2001. The patent describes methods for recording one program while playing back another, and for watching a show as it is recording, as well as a storage format that supports "trick-play" capabilities, such as pause-live-TV, fast-forward, rewind, instant replays, and slow motion.) TiVo, which was awarded $74 million in damages in the case, claims that it is owed an additional $220 million in damages for the 18 months during which the verdict in the case was stayed while DISH/EchoStar unsuccessfully appealed it (DISH claims that it only owes TiVo an additional $16 million). Judge Folsom said that he would try to rule on the issue by October 1st, but cautioned that his ruling might come as late as November. News of the delay caused a 16.5% decline in the price of TiVo's shares.
  • In its most recent earnings release, the company included an update--presented as a quote from an unnamed "top Comcast executive"--on the current status of its relationship with Comcast: "We are pleased with the progress of the TiVo service and have broadened its footprint in our New England market to Connecticut," the Comcast statement read. "Refinements to optimize the product's performance have been mostly completed, significantly improving the user experience. Importantly, we intend to light up a full marketing campaign around TiVo in September and, upon this occurring, we will be announcing multiple additional markets to which TiVo will be rolled out through next year. We will also continue to fund development work for the TiVo product, which will include expanding the feature set and adding support for tru2way infrastructure." TiVo also stated in the earnings release that "the TiVo service on Cox, which is currently in trials, is on track for a launch in Cox's New England market later this year."