TiVo Subscriber Losses Accelerate In 2009

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TiVo may have scored a major legal victory against Dish Network last week -- worth $300 million or more in damages -- but the DVR company is still struggling to retain subscribers as it lost 730,000 over the last 12 months, a decline of 22% for the period.

By comparison, TiVo lost 611,000 subscribers for the 12-month period that ended Jan. 31, 2009.

The company overall had 2.605 million subscribers as of Jan. 31, 2010, of which 1.140 million are via service providers including DirecTV and Comcast. That's compared with 3.335 million overall and 1.681 million through service providers last year.

TiVo's revenue for the quarter ended Jan. 31 was $68.4 million, up 15.7%, while the company reported a net loss of $10.2 million (it had expected a net loss of between $13 million and $15 million) compared with a net loss of $3.6 million in the year-ago period.

While TiVo's MSO/broadcaster subscribers in the fourth quarter fell by a net 59,000 from the previous quarter, that was an improvement over prior quarters. The company attributed the relative improvement on this front to lower churn among legacy DirecTV subs and subscriber increases across all of our other mass distribution platforms, both domestically and internationally.

"As we cap off another strong period of operational and financial progress for TiVo, we look at the year ahead with high expectations that the host of key growth drivers we have set in place with cable and satellite operators and our retail alliances will begin to bear fruit," TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers said, in announcing the company's earnings Monday.

For the current quarter ending April 30, TiVo expects a net loss of between $19 million and $21 million, with the company citing increased litigation expense, higher research and development costs due to increased product development and distribution efforts, and higher marketing spending relating to the launch of TiVo Premiere.

Rogers highlighted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's decision denying Dish's request to overturn a lower court ruling finding it in contempt of an order to disable DVRs that were found to infringe a key TiVo patent. He noted that Dish has been ordered to pay TiVo another $300 million and that TiVo "will seek additional compensation for continued infringement for the period after July 1, 2009, and will continue to protect our intellectual property from infringement."

The company last week launched Premiere, TiVo's next generation of set-top boxes that have a 16:9 interface optimized for HD displays. RCN plans to release the TiVo Premiere as its primary DVR in the second quarter, with the ability to access content from broadband sources as well as VOD.

With respect to its deals with Comcast, Cox Communications and DirecTV, Rogers said Cox "continues to progress in its New England market and our aggressive development activities continue for both Comcast and DirecTV."

Also Monday, TiVo announced a partnership with Conax, a subsidiary of Norwegian telecom operator Telenor that provides conditional-access solutions for digital TV to operators covering 100 million households in 80 countries. Under the agreement, TiVo plans to pre-integrate its software and service for use on Conax-enabled set-top boxes, with the aim of making it easier for operators outside of North America to deploy a TiVo-based solution.

"Increasingly, time-to-market is becoming a major issue for operators, both domestically and internationally," Rogers said on TiVo's earnings call.

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