CES: TiVo Expects DirecTV HD DVR This Year

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More than a year behind schedule, the TiVo-based HD digital video recorder for DirecTV will launch sometime in 2011 -- a development the DVR company is hoping will help it stop the tide of subscriber losses.

The development of the DirecTV box, which runs on a Thomson hardware platform, has "taken longer than we expected for a variety of reasons," said Naveen Chopra, TiVo senior vice president of corporate development and strategy. He declined to provide a more specific launch window for the product.

TiVo has been steadily losing customers over the past three years. For the quarter ended Oct. 31, 2010, the company had 2.27 million subscribers, down from 2.74 million a year earlier.

The company expects the distribution deals with DirecTV, as well as RCN, Suddenlink Communications, Virgin Media in the U.K. and other operators to start to show meaningful growth in 2011, according to Chopra. TiVo also has an agreement with Cox Communications, which is supporting retail DVRs with its VOD service.

"This is the year those deals will hit the market, in terms of real products... That will help us get back on a positive subscriber trajectory," Chopra said.

Under their previous deal, DirecTV launched a TiVo-based DVR in 2000, but five years later said it would market its own DVR developed by NDS Group. "The challenge we've had is that we've been dependent on the legacy DirecTV deal, and those subscribers have been peeling off," Chopra said.

Under the new agreement, announced in September 2008, the companies expected to launch an HD DVR in the second half of 2009.

Chopra said DirecTV subscribers who are still using the older standard-definition TiVo boxes are ideal targets for the new DVR. "That's the low-hanging fruit, because they've stayed with TiVo even with the SD interface," Chopra said.

Meanwhile, TiVo's original initiative with Comcast "has stalled somewhat," Chopra acknowledged. "Both we and they recognize that the technical approach they pushed us toward was very complex. It didn't let us put our best foot forward." Comcast currently offers TiVo service, running on Motorola set-tops, in its New England markets.

On the international front, Virgin Media in December soft-launched its TiVo service, running on a Cisco Systems set-top with a built-in DOCSIS modem. The Virgin service combines TV, DVR and Web-delivered video into a single interface, and features a "catch up" feature that lets users scroll back in the guide to find shows available on-demand.

The MSO allocates 10 Megabits per second for over-the-top content, said Josh Danovitz, vice president and general manager of TiVo's international group. "That's something their satellite competitor [BSkyB] can't do," he said.

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