Comcast to Take TiVo National by Year End?

Dave Zatz —  September 13, 2009

twitter-comcast-tivo

My eagle-eyed blogging partner Davis Freeberg caught this juicy nugget yesterday from a member of the ComcastCares Twitter support team:

@knolaust we are working on a more Tivo-esk experience. This is already being tested in the Boston area. hope to roll out na’l by end of yr

As TiVo (TIVO) investors are aware, TiVo linked up with Comcast (CMCSA) to deliver their DVR experience onto third party cable company hardware (Motorola). And while the initial fruits of their labor began deployment as a Comcast offering in New England in late 2007, we’ve yet to see a broader release to other markets. Making ComcastMelissa‘s tweet, a response to a customer request for an improved DVR interface, notable.

However, I suspect she will be proven wrong. I seriously doubt Comcast intends a nationwide TiVo roll-out in the few remaining months of 2009 and doubt their ability to execute on such a plan, should it exist. Most likely, “ComcastMelissa” is good intentioned but misinformed of the Comcast TiVo deployment strategy. Anyone who’s followed Comcast and TiVo statements on the matter would probably agree that the parties have a more conservative market-by-market deployment plan in place. Some supporting evidence from TiVo CEO Tom Rogers at their recent earnings call, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha:

They continue to work through in Boston the infrastructure issues that particularly relate to the installation in individual homes. And I can’t say they are where they want to be yet; there are clearly things that Comcast needs to solve for both TiVo and for themselves so the product can be more smoothly installed. They are totally committed to solving those issues and we believe they will be solved in the near future. Obviously, there’s frustration on both their part and ours that it’s not quite solved yet. But I think, as Mark Hess’s quote indicated, the commitment to continue to roll TiVo beyond the two named markets that we’ve mentioned, they indicated in last quarter earnings that they were focused on a market rollout where TiVo would be the primary DVR and then again today have announced yet another yet to be soon-named market.


12 responses to Comcast to Take TiVo National by Year End?

  1. I don’t know, Comcast Cares is at the top of the Comcast Customer service food chain and they’ve been asked this question a thousand times since I’ve been watching and this is the first time that they’ve ever given any type of timetable. I think that they’d still be stopping after saying coming soon or available in Boston if they weren’t actually planning to go national by end of the year.

    What I find even more interesting about this, is that if it’s true, then the timing would coincide with the Tru2Way launch. What this suggests to me is that Comcast has abandoned their generic set top box download plans, in exchange for a more robust machine. Six months ago TiVo said that they’d be offering the box and that Comcast would be testing with it, but this may mean that they want to aggressively push the new box out with so much pent up demand. Probably bad for Motorola and Cisco, but good for TiVo, Comcast and customers who want a DVR that still has the same glitches that it originally shipped with.

  2. “juicy nugget” = Information being distributed using Twitter *first*, before formal press releases?

    Is this a new corporate procedure for Comcast?

    If “yes”, its of great interest to me:

    http://www.arcticstartup.com/2009/09/11/the-web-at-a-new-crossroads/

  3. Licensing agreements like this generally have benchmarks that each party must meet. TiVo almost certainly has some conditions in their contract regarding deployment.

    I have not heard anything on the subject, but it is entirely possible that Comcast told its support personnel that a nationwide TiVo rollout was planned by the end of the year. That could be a condition in the contract that allows Comcast to avoid fees on its own DVR and DVR software.

  4. Could they just mean I-Guide A28? While it might add “some” Tivo-esque features, it looks like the same bland boring SD interface we’ve had for ages now.
    http://www.comcast.net/newguide/

    It adds DVR History (to help prevent re-recording stuff you already recorded then deleted). Suggestions, folders, search by keyword, web based my DVR manager.

    Some great core features that should of always been included with the product, but by far no Tivo like experience. The UI is unchanged, and this needs to be updated. If you take a look at every other product out there that appeals to Gen-Y, there’s always a catchy, pleasing interface between the user and the product/service being offered. Take a look at what this generation (who are now going out on their own and getting TV service) use… Were talking IPhones, android phones, blackberries, xbox 360’s, playstation 3, wii’s, the whole web 2.0 experience, social networking, i want it now information, Mac OSX, Windows 7, etc… If they want to captivate this up and coming generation, they need to develop a product that will get them captivated and WANT to use their service. Otherwise Gen-Y will all flock to people with more “icing on the cake” per say, such as FIOS and U-Verse, or even DirecTV / Dish Network.

    It’s time for Cable to evolve if they want to keep up with an evolving customer base. In the past a UI was just a UI… no big deal as long as it did what it was supposed to. Well now style and form are more important than ever. Do you want to drive a 1982 K car, or would you rather have a nice bmw 330xi? Clearly the BMW style wins out, even though they both accomplish the same thing (get you from point A to point B), what would you prefer giving a closer price point? Yeah I’ll take what looks best…

  5. bkdtv, Davis and I are in agreement with your deployment milestone suspicions – he and I have discussed this at length. While the contract isn’t public, he’s seen enough in the various filings to believe timetables are in effect on both sides and most likely one reason why TiVo had to restate the deal given the delays. I wish he’d write up more of these analyses beyond my own Inbox. Regardless of what ComcastMelissa was told or knows/doesn’t-know, I just don’t see a way for them to get from 1 market/franchise to all in the next 3.5 months.

    cypher, something like that occurred to me as well. But mentioning TiVo by name and the Boston market led me down a different path. I’ve got inquiries out to both these guys for comment. Of course, I doubt they’ll reveal anything of interest.

  6. ComcasTivoRola will never make it out of New England. It is far more likely that TiVo will develop a new hardware solution.

    A Comcast branded, TiVoHD variant, with an internal (and long fabled) tru-2-way adapter for use on the Comcast network will replace Motorola as the standard DVR to new customers, and by attrition to the exsisting over the coming years.

    SoftTiVo is all but R.I.P.

    PS – Its has been a long time since anybody even mentioned the Comcast SoftTiVo solution for ScientificAtlanta boxes…

  7. I tried the comcast dvr with the tivo software and it was really bad in:
    1. major lags in interface flow and commands.
    2. dvr would lock up all the time.
    3. limited tivo functionality.

    Really put a damper on my 3 year experience with the original tivo dvr. Its a shame that more people and companies dont get behind tivo since I really find it to be a great interface with smooth functionality flow.

  8. I wonder if Tivo wrote their software on a more open Java based standard platform if they could of done more with it on the Moto box. But I don’t think the Moto OCAP layer was ready in time… resulting in much convoluted assembly and C level code, very complicated and not very optimized.

  9. the motorolla hardware was simply a non starter for anything – then add in difficulty of making it all a downloadable upgrade and it was simply smoke from someones pipe from the get go.
    SO this national rollout is either more smoke “hey it is available, but oddly not many are asking for it”
    or it is indeed just TiVo-esque changes to existing DVR software/guide
    or it is a new box for Comcast to deploy. If Comcast had to test it though in time to deploy it this year then how come no one heard of it. Comcost is only semi closed about its betas.

    I vote for some chnages to existing things and the support person was couching it in terms the person she was helping would like hearing.

  10. It’s as I suspected… Comcast just emailed me after they had Melissa send out a Twitter correction:

    “Prior tweet regarding national Tivo rollout was incorrect, no plans at this time”

    Having said that, I know Davis is an optimist. Perhaps she’s just not cleared to make such a bold announcement and it will come to pass. I still highly doubt it.

  11. Yeah I think Cypher has it…Tivo-esq experience, not Tivo itself. Comcast continuing to believe that they can polish up standard offering to make it more Tivo like…make it prettier and nobody will notice that it isn’t really Tivo…

    I concur with Robert and his TivoSoft solution is dead analysis. I always assumed they would have to partner on a cable hardware offering in conjunction with the cable cos., except I can’t figure out a deal that makes economic sense for anyone unless they build such a crappy DVR that they can effectively support it through monthly fee with no hardware subsidy, which I guess could work, but if it is crappy enough to cover hardware on a monthly subsidy does it kill the Tivo brand ‘experience’.

    I’m just not sure how you cover the more expensive hardware and still make it worthwhile to Tivo, cable company and the consumer. As a shareholder and customer of Tivo, I wish they would figure it out – well, actually as a shareholder, I hope they just pursue patent infringement claims and drop all consumer offerings :)

  12. Agree with all of this, never believed it in the first place. The fact that they haven’t mentioned the Tivo interface on Comcast hardware in A-G-E-S means its near dead.

    I’d actually make it broader than that. Given how poorly this worked, I’d be starting to tone the death knell for OCAP/tru2way at this point. The cable industry missed the self-imposed July 1 deadline, and by quite a bit at this point. Given that I don’t see any more tru2way ready TVs coming out this Christmas do you? I assume the electronics giants are going to start renegging on their end as well. And with that tru2way will die a well deserved death.

    The bad news is that this will also mean the rumored Tivo Series 4 won’t be coming to a retailer near you any time soon either, and we’ll all be stuck with these stupid rebooting tuning adapters for the forseeable future.

    I think the whole cable industry is going to be overwhelmed by the coming “Over the Top” video revolution myself.