TiVo Inc., the interactive TV company that launched its
"personal television" service in March, received a major boost last week with
the announcement of $32.5 million in equity investment spread among several media
The companies that took stakes of unspecified amounts in
the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based outfit include CBS Corp.; Comcast Corp.; Cox Communications
Inc.; Discovery Communications Inc.; The Walt Disney Co.; Liberty Media Group subsidiaries
Liberty Digital Inc. and Encore Media Group; Advance/Newhouse; and TV Guide Interactive.
A TiVo representative would not divulge the equity
percentages among the new backers. They join an already impressive list of investors,
which include NBC, Philips Electronics, DirecTV Inc. and Showtime Networks Inc.
"Our intent is to build the TiVo brand," said
Stacy Jolna, TiVo vice president of programming and media partnerships. Jolna would not
comment on whether that would include an aggressive national advertising campaign to
increase consumer awareness.
With all of the current hue and cry about cable's
deployment of digital set-top boxes, TiVo is a service that is available now on a
narrowband platform. "One of the things we're impressed with is that it works
perfectly well in today's traditional, narrowband TV world. I think it will
dramatically alter the way people use television," said Lee Masters, CEO of Liberty
Masters characterized Liberty's investment as
"both financial and strategic." He went on to say that it was too early to
speculate on any potential alliances with TiVo, but did acknowledge its technology
"could have applications with our own interactive channels or our relationship with
MTV Networks Online, " in which Liberty Digital holds a 10% stake.
On July 22, TiVo also filed for an initial public offering
with the Securities Exchange Commission. The company hopes to raise $80 million for
research & development and marketing purposes. The company was formed in 1997 by two
former Silicon Graphics executives, Mike Ramsay, president and CEO, and James Barton,
chief technology officer.
The TiVo service, in effect, serves as a digital VCR,
allowing consumers to customize and control their viewing habits. TiVo will enable
consumers to pause or rewind live broadcasts, get instant replay or play shows back in
Another feature of the service the company hopes will be a
carrot for consumers is the automatic culling and filing of programming selected based on
the viewer's tastes.
For example, if a viewer likes cooking shows, TiVo will
pull together programs with that theme for the viewer. The service comes in a box,
described as a little thinner than a traditional VCR, with a hard drive that hooks up to
the TV. The content stored on the hard drive is transferable to VHS tapes and is
compatible with all platforms including cable and direct-broadcast-satellite.