TV Prediction’s Phillip Swann is Down on Tivo

Is TiVo Dead? TV Prediction’s Phillip Swann asks is TiVo already dead and we just don’t know it yet? Swann points to a lack of publicity in the mainstream press as an indicator that the company is not doing well and particularly posts out the lack of major media attention over TiVo’s singles mixer in San Francisco on Feb. 13.

Personally I think it’s a little premature to talk about the demise of TiVo based on the fact that the mainstream media is not picking up on a singles mixer in San Francisco.

From Swann: “According to a search of Google News, which posts articles from thousands of publications across the globe, the TiVo event was mentioned only by CNET’s News.com (based in the San Francisco area) and a few blogs.”

It might be worth noting also that a major financial publication (Bloomberg) just spent a half hour interviewing CEO Tom Rogers that I blogged about here (oh and also that was picked up by one of those minor “few blogs” out there, a little site called Slashdot).

Swann suggests that the demise of TiVo also has to do with lack of a viable presence in the cable/satellite world. “With the exception of Comcast, other cable and satellite TV operators have decided to use non-TiVo DVR services. (And Comcast’s deal with TiVo is non-exclusive and won’t begin until late 2006, if then.)”

With the exception of Comcast? Huh? Comcast is certainly one of the heavyweights and I’m not sure that the fact that the build out won’t be until later this year is indicative of anything. TiVo is putting significant company resources behind these efforts and I suspect that it will in fact finally turn their advertising revenue into something more than an insignificant footnote on their analyst conference calls.

Bloomberg’s recent story on TiVo also pointed to the fact that TiVo very well may be changing strategies shortly in order to better compete with the cable and sattelite generic freebie DVRs by offering a subscription only pricing model.

And then you’ve got the Series 3 TiVo which will generate a lot of buzz with the high end crowd.

And also it’s worth noting TiVo’s sizeable library of patents at the moment. Although Echostar, DirecTV, and the cable providers can make their own DVRs there are still patent issues to contend with and TiVo has some of the more lucrative patents in this market place. TiVo in fact is scheduled to go to court this Spring vs. Echostar on patent infringement and suing generic DVR providers very well could provide even more cash for the company.

By way of buzz though, TiVo still actually has quite a bit of buzz out there. Technorati (which covers blog posts, mostly over the past six months) currently shows 84,577 blog posts out there about TiVo. While they are not blogged about as much as Apple and Google for sure, at a market cap of only about $468 million vs. Apple’s $58 billion and Google’s $108 billion I think it’s fair to say that there is still quite a bit of buzz relative to their size. I’m not sure that citing the death of a company based on getting less mainstream media attention on a dating mixer than companies 100 to 200 times in size is the best analysis.

A better comparison might be with a company like Netflix (who still also has plenty of buzz) and clocks in at Technorati with about 50,877 posts about them, over 30,000 less than TiVo.

Although it’s easy to take potshots at TiVo with their stock being down and indeed fierce competition from the cable and satellite providers, I wouldn’t write their obitiary just yet. Swann would do well to remember the last highly publicized prediction of TiVo’s demise, Engadget’s TiVo death watch. Remember that? Over a year ago. Still ticking.

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  1. Dave Zatz says:

    Ultimately, his logic is flawed. The number of media outlets covering a promotional event does not correlate to business success.

    The jury is still out… the second half of 2006 and into 2007 will be telling. How many people buy up a Series 3 and how large a rollout Comcast has of TiVo-enabled boxes will be more directly related to business success. I’m also interested to see how TiVo approaches the analog phase-out. For example, about this time next year they won’t be able to sell the Series 2 in it’s current form. They’ll have to introduce a new product or yank out the analog tuner.

    The loss of DirecTV is significant, but I’m not sure how it impacts the ultimate success or failure of the company. I als wondeer if DTV will try to extend their relationship another year instead of buying customers new units.

  2. Carl says:

    Swann has been predicting the death of TiVo for years. Google cache if the same prediction almost a year and a half ago:

    http://72.14.207.104/search?q=cache:KLqCixrhweoJ:www.tvpredictions.com/tivodie081204.html+tivo+site:tvpredictions.com&hl;=en≷=us&ct;=clnk&cd;=21

    TinyURL in case the above doesn’t work:
    http://tinyurl.com/gurym

    It’s the same old story with that guy. Nothing to see there.

  3. Peter Rojas says:

    In defense of our Death Watch, TiVo still has yet to report a profitable quarter, except for that one where they basically broke even. Sooner or later they have to start making money if they expect to stay in business.

    That said, it seems like their situation has changed since we announced the Death Watch. They shuffled their senior management and cut some very important deals (like with Comcast). I don’t pretend to know what will happen, but I’m cautiously optimistic that they’ll either report a profitable quarter soon or get acquired by some bigger player.

  4. Joost says:

    I’m a DirecTV subscriber and when the dreaded time comes when they stop supporting my DirecTiVo’s, the Series 3 will be out and fully competitive (dual tuners, HD) to anything the DirecTV models have to offer and more on top of that.

    I will have no qualms dumping DirecTV and going back to cable, if I have to to keep using TiVos even if it means a slight price increase.

  5. Thomas Hawk says:

    Peter,

    Points very well taken and in defense of your Death Watch TiVo is a different animal today in many ways than they were then.

    Rogers seems to have invigorated the company in some important ways especially culminating in the Comcast deal. Series 3 seems closer to reality now and the future does indeed look brighter for the company than it did when Engadget instituted their death watch.

    Of course you note their break even quarter, which is not exactly profitibility, but much of TiVo’s profitibility picture has to do with their choice to grow (more specifically rebate costs on boxes in the form of marketing dollars) and is easier to control than we might suspect.

    I guess the thing that I’m not getting about Swann’s prediction is that since your death watch the company has actually (in my mind at least) improved quite a bit.

    The most recent news of the possibility of a subscription only pricing model may be just what the mass market needs.

    My useage of the death watch analogy with Swann perhaps should have been better expounded. I just found it ironic that with the improvement he issues his TiVo is dead prediction — especially on what seemed to me to be based on not enough press coverage of a clearly orchestrated fun and silly event.

  6. Peter Rojas says:

    Totally.

    TiVo realized (and realizes) that it needs to hustle if it wants to stick around, and in the past year I’ve seen some positive signs that they’ll pull it off. The mere fact that they realized that they needed to turn things around is promising — there are tons of tech companies that never understand that they need to change or die.

    I hope that the Death Watch played some small part in getting TiVo’s ass in gear (though I doubt it!). It would not bring me any pleasure to see TiVo go out of business, and I’ll be very happy to suspend the Death Watch when TiVo reports a solidly profitable quarter.