TiVo: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

MSNBC – TiVo Toy Story Brad Stone of Newsweek is out with kind of a high profile piece (Newsweek, MSN, get it, high profile) that puts a pretty negative spin on TiVo. Stone writes about an initial personal love affair with TiVo that has ended due to irreconcilable differences as TiVo has not been able to keep up with the technology of television.

Specifically Stone seems to feel that by not keeping up with the HDTV market (at present there is no standalone HDTV TiVo unit, although one is supposedly coming out later this year) TiVo has made a colossal misstep that has cost it dearly. I’m not sure why Stone didn’t reference the HDTV TiVo model that is available, the Hughes HR10-250 DirecTV offering, but it doesn’t seem to appear in the article.

In the end Stone concludes:

“No wonder TiVo’s stock has lost two thirds of its value in the past year and its pioneering CEO, Mike Ramsay, decided recently to step down. Thousands of other TiVo fans, like myself, find that they have little choice but to accept the cable company’s alternative.

And my TiVo? It has ended up alone, forgotten, way up on the shelf.”

Ouch — sharp words and certainly not good for the company from a PR perspective coming from a publication with such wide mass distribution — but then again sometimes the truth can hurt a little.

By the way Brad, don’t feel too bad for Ramsay, he managed to unload an awful lot of his stock on the way down at a much higher price than where it is today.

It’s ironic that Ramsay would allow himself to be quoted in Fortune magazine’s piece, “You Bought, They Sold,” as being something of a standout from the rest of the greedy corporate executives that dumped stock personally as their companies fell to the ground. The article described a “moral divide between the CEOs and the CEO speculators.” Ramsay was quoted as saying, “by and large for the people doing it [selling their shares], the financial component of being in those companies outweighed the executive responsibility.” Ramsay goes on in the article to say “it all comes down to your personal set of rules about what being an executive of a company really means.” Very warm and fuzzy words Mike.

Of course since July 2003 Ramsay personally has dumped over 400,000 shares according to EE Times. This represented almost 25% of his position in the company.

Not that I’m down on executives selling their stock. It typically makes huge financial sense to diversify. It might appear to some, however, just a tad bit hypocritical for someone to reference “executive responsibility” in an article critical of insider selling and then see the same CEO go out and dump 400,000 shares prior to their stock taking a huge drop.

Another unrelated TiVo user defects as well.