Mike Ramsay Denies the New York Time’s Reported Botched Comcast Deal — Does the New York Times Have a Credibility Problem? TiVoGate?


TiVo Chairman and (for the time being) CEO Mike Ramsay, photo lifted from… err… courtesy of.. USA Today

USATODAY.com – TiVo chief optimistic about future: Mike Ramsay is out today with an interview with USA Today, ironically the very day after USA Today yesterday ran a fairly negative story on the company.

What’s most interesting about the interview is that Ramsay denies what the New York Times reported on earlier last month, that TiVo was close to a deal with Comcast that was scrapped at the last minute because Ramsay wanted more money and more control over the box:

“Q: There’ve been reports that TiVo was close to striking a licensing deal with Comcast, but you scrapped it.

A: That is totally untrue. I sure as hell am not going to walk away from something that makes sense for the company and its shareholders. That rumor, wherever it came from — and God knows where it came from — is totally fabricated and completely false.”

Well for starters Mike, it is a leading misleading to say “and God knows where it came from” when I damn well hope that you are reading something in a publication as influential as the New York Times about the future of your company. Ok maybe you meant you didn’t know where it came from prior to the Times printing it.

If in fact this is not how the deal went down I think this points to a significant credibility problem for the New York Times. The Times published, “Yet, at the last minute, Michael Ramsay, TiVo’s chief executive, decided to pull out of the deal. Comcast was not going to pay TiVo enough money or give it enough control over its service, Mr. Ramsay told the company’s board, according to people involved in those discussions.”

When a newspaper reports news based on unnamed sources (do we all remember Rathergate?) they’d better make pretty sure that they get their facts straight. Now it’s hard to compare the significance of a little company like TiVo to 60 Minutes lying about a story on the President, but I do think that somebody at the Times has got some explaining to do.

I’m assuming that the Times had multiple confirms on the story — but one thing we do know is that one or more of the following individuals are lying: Ramsay, The Times, or the Times’ unnamed “sources” allegedly involved in the TiVo/Comcast discussions. Pretty serious charges and charges not to be taken lightly. I’m assuming that Ramsay wouldn’t be the guy lying because it would be a material lie and as we all know CEOs have a lot more to lose these days when lying.

However, on a second point, you wait until February 3rd to come out and call the news completely false? I mean yeah the closing price the day before the news of $4.44 a share is not much better than the $3.51 closing price of today but on a percentage basis it’s kind of significant.

If this and other “rumors” about TiVo are not true you guys need to do serious spin control and be much more responsive to the news. Here’s an idea for you. Have someone at TiVo responsible for getting an RSS subscription and subscribing to both Yahoo news on TiVo as well as a pub sub search for TiVo. You will have much better insight into what people are saying about your company. That’s what I do and I’m just an amateur.

This is one thing that has hurt your company over the years — a complete lack of transparency especially with the biggest TiVo evangelists out there.

My own recommendation is that when the New York Times reports something negative about your company, come out the next day and say it’s not true if it’s not true. If it really isn’t true you shouldn’t be afraid of lawsuits. Just come out and tell everyone. Instead of letting something like that spread and fester, deal with it.

Rather than come out and deny a fairly serious allegation (and it’s nice to know that the Comcast deal is still on the table by the way) instead you come out and issue a press release extolling the virtues of outgoing FCC Chairman Michael Powell? Huh?

Well, now that I got that off my chest.

Other significant details in the interview include Ramsay’s statement that TiVo is still scheduled to produce positive earnings by fourth quarter of this fiscal year. Ramsay also notes that while Yudkovitz held the title of President, he was never really a serious contender for the CEO job and his real role at the company was less general leadership and more a very specific narrowly defined position.

If everything Ramsay says in the interview is true this may finally be some pretty positive news out on the company — but sheesh, somebody with some PR skills give Ramsay a call.

Update: George Hotelling over at PVRblog reports on the interview here. Phillip Swann discuses the story here. Also of note is that TiVo did file an 8-K with the SEC this morning stating both that they see 4Q finishing within prior guidance and that they see adding 200,000 to 275,000 new TiVo owned subscriptions. We will see how things pan out when they report on March 4th.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Before you get too excited, I would take the promise of profitability by Q4 with a grain of salt. That was mgmt’s guidance before they reported the Jan Q4 – in which the standalone biz fell short of expectations. They are likely to lower guidance, and back off from the promise of profitability on the Q4 call (around Mar 10th)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Couple of comments:
    TiVo has a significant problem with sensitive information being leaked and / or fabricated by unnamed sources. The ad skipping story that PVR Blog / USA Today broke a couple of months ago is another great example. The biggest problem is that it feels like all of the information that is being leaked and / or fabricated is being totally miscommunicated and winds up blowing the underlying issue totally out of proportion.
    Company’s need to adapt to the realities of how information is being disseminated in a world with blogs, RSS feeds, etc. Its not good enough to have a public spokesman issue a no comment. If the Comcast rumor was totally fabricated, then TiVo should have posted a blanket refutement on a company blog immediately. Ramsay has now openly denied the story, so obviously it has the legal clearance to speak publicly. TiVo can maintain all they want that rumors fabrications dont warrant reply, but it sure feels like the miscommunication has the ability to impact public perception negatively and in turn impact the business (lost sales).
    Marty’s departure must have been on terrible terms. Ramsay took a clear, pointed shot at him. And in my opinion, rightfully so. He spent 2 years getting absolutely nothing done. But Im not very optimistic about TiVo ever striking the right deal with cable. Monetary issues aside, feels like the terms will always be restrictive, and those deals feel incredibily canibalistic if you believe TiVo will ever be able to release a dual-tuner, cable-card box.
    The cable companies clearly rushed product to the market prematurely (from a development standpoint) – I read something new everyday about how unreliable the MOT / SA boxes are. Personally, I would never trade HD for reliability. What good is a high def recording if its only a partial recording because the box crapped out, or you cant ff / rw because theres a glitch in the software. Ive had my TiVo for about 2-3 years now and it just works. I havent ever turned it off, or rebooted it (save for the 7.0 upgrade). Cant say the same thing for my set-top box (which craps out once every other week) or my computer (which I reboot almost daily).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Since we all know the company is not reporting the 4Q until March 10th, how do you know that the company failed to meet expectations?

    The 8-K that TiVo filled this morning stated the company will report sub adds within guidance. Until the company reports earnings for the FY on March 10, we have no way of knowing if sub adds were dissapointing and if the company will lower guidance.