RCN Expects To Offer TiVo DVRs For Additional $3-$5 Per Month


RCN is aiming to begin offering TiVo high-definition DVRs to customers as early as Jan. 1 for between $3 and $5 per month beyond its regular HD DVR fee, while the operator claimed the TiVo boxes will cost less per unit than the Motorola DVRs it offers today.

Mike Sicoli, RCN's executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the main rationale for offering TiVo boxes as the primary DVR to customers is to be able to capitalize on bringing broadband-delivered content to the TV (see RCN Picks TiVo As Its Primary DVR). He said the goal is to launch the TiVo DVRs in the first quarter of 2010.

"Companies that are beholden to Motorola and Scientific Atlanta are not truly going to be able to embrace the convergence of TV and the Internet," Sicoli said. "This leapfrogs that and gives us the best platform that costs even less than what we have today."

Sicoli declined to provide pricing details for the deal with TiVo other than to say, "It's a pretty substantial savings as it relates to the upfront box" compared with the DVRs RCN currently offers, Motorola's DCX 3416 DVRs running the Aptiv guide (now part of Rovi). He added that RCN will pay an ongoing per-subscriber fee to TiVo, which the operator expects to recover by charging the $3-$5 premium (in addition to the regular HD DVR monthly fee of $14.95).

"We hope TiVo continues to give us choice relative to the Motorolas of the world," Sicoli said, adding, "I'd love to see [TiVo] make an HD-only box [without a DVR]."

Unlike Comcast -- which has undertaken a multiyear project to rewrite the TiVo software to run on Motorola set-tops -- RCN is offering the same basic HD DVR that TiVo sells at retail.

RCN will integrate the TiVo interface with its video-on-demand infrastructure, provided by SeaChange International. The operator will provide access to broadband-delivered services made available through the DVRs, including the Amazon.com VOD store and Rhapsody's music-subscription service.

Sicoli said RCN's own VOD will be displayed prominently in the integrated search, and he said the company has the latitude to negotiate deals with other broadband content providers.

"It's a portal-like platform that gives us new revenue opportunities," he said. "This is stuff we've been drooling over on our roadmap and the applications are launched on day one."

When RCN is ready to launch the TiVo set-tops in early 2010, new RCN customers who order an HD DVR and also have broadband will receive CableCard-enabled TiVo HD DVRs, with some limited migrations for existing subscribers from a "customer-retention" standpoint, senior director of video operations Jason Nealis said. The TiVo HD DVR model RCN expects to launch will have 250 Gigabytes of capacity.

About 27% of RCN's video customers today have a DVR and 10% have an HD DVR, according to Sicoli.