My Thoughts on TiVo’s First FY Quarter Analyst Conference Call Today

Uneventful. And disappointing — not from a financial standpoint, they did great last quarter, but from a technology standpoint.

The highlight of the call, with TiVo’s Chairman and CEO Mike Ramsay and TiVo’s EVP David Courtney, was that in financial terms as a company TiVo kicked ass last quarter.

Last quarter TiVo lost a mere 1 cent per share or about $857,000. In the comparable quarter last year they lost 11 cents a share or $9.07 million. Analysts had expected them to lose 10.5 cents per share and instead TiVo just about broke even. This is good news for a company that just recently was put on a “death watch” in part due to the massive financial losses the company was suffering. At this point, TiVo is almost profitable. Last quarter, this was in large part to strong sales of TiVos combined with TiVo ending their rebate program.

On the subscriber front, TiVo ended the quarter with 3.3 million TiVo subscribers. Of these subscribers, 2.1 million are DirecTV customers and 1.2 million are standalone customers. This represented about 247,000 new DirecTV customers and 72,000 new TiVo standalone customers.

So what was missing from the call? Serious innovation to delight their customers. There was no talk about a new HDTV standalone TiVo. There was no talk of the Netflix deal that seems to have gone into a big black hole. There was no new interesting technology to discuss. In fact, if anything from a technology side at all came out of the call it was this, get ready for the ads.

Regarding advertising, CEO Mike Ramsay said he was “clearly excited about the opportunity.” “We haven’t’ pushed it super hard because we haven’t had the scale,” said Ramsay. Ramsay said that it was too early to say how significant an impact advertising will have to their short term bottom line. However, he did say that TiVo has created a “large available market that we will take advantage of.”

Great, another exciting thing to look forward to. Take advantage of indeed.

Some other tidbits to come out of the call included that TiVo sees the Comcast deal less of a niche offering and more of a “broad deployment” product for Comcast subscribers. This would be consistent with TiVo’s expectation to increase advertising revenues going forward as they would potentially have a much larger install base.

On TiVo’s CEO search Ramsay said that a search for his replacement was still underway — although he subsequently added that he was feeling “really in charge,” for the time being. Certainly Ramsay’s personal stock in the eyes of his Board and shareholders may be improving with the Comcast deal behind them and the stock price up significantly in the last quarter.

Ramsay was asked about losing DirecTV’s business as DirecTV begins to offer competing DVR products to their customers. While acknowledging the upcoming competition, Ramsay said that he still expected to see “good growth there.” TiVo seems to feel that they still can compete in the satellite world.

One little gem that did find it’s way into the call was when Ramsay was asked about the status of TiVo’s Tahiti initiative. When talking about Tahiti Ramsay said that TiVo was positioning itself to offer on their standalone boxes broadband content distribution in addition to traditional broadcast television. This is exciting as it leads the way and could open the door for micro content long tail internetworks to begin broadcasting to the TiVo platform.

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