TiVo Gains Customers, Signs Tebow

Dave Zatz —  November 30, 2012

TiVo’s out with their quarterly earnings and things are looking up after a profitable quarter, with continued patent litigation/licensing success and subscriptions growing 44% year-over-year… largely thanks to Virgin Media’s success in marketing and deploying well over a million TiVo units (versus seeing any significant gain via that awful “new” DirecTV solution). With other foreign and second tier US cable providers on deck, we expect TiVo’s footprint to expand and the company predicts reaching a point of recurring profitability in fiscal 2014.

On the retail front, assuming my math is correct, it looks like TiVo is averaging 10,000 Premiere DVR sales per month, these last three months… but also averages about 5,000 monthly cancellations or boxes that no longer generate revenue. So while this is TiVo’s best net subscription performance in four years, they’ve still got work to do. Which is why their marketing department has recruited Tim Tebow to get the word out via a multimillion dollar advertising campaign. Yet he’s a highly questionable brand ambassador given his poor presentation skills (above), status as a backup quarterback who can’t throwand spokesperson role for the conservative Christian organization Focus On The Family. Leaving us with the belief that those marketing dollars could have been more effectively allocated.

But we care most about the tech in these parts. And TiVo continues to bank on the killer TiVo Stream ($130) via retail channels as a compelling differentiator for TiVo+iPad/iPhone owners. Presumably Android support is on the way, although nothing official has been conveyed. Related, TiVo has been pushing forward overseas with more of an IPTV-esque “TV Anywhere” approach, sending live Virgin Media programming and on-demand to tablets, smartphones, and computers via the “cloud” as “those issues are a little less tense outside of the United States” – but they intend to be ready here as conditions improve. Regarding TiVo’s partnership with hardware manufacturer Pace, CEO Tom Rogers anticipates they’ll have a 6-tuner DVR ready “probably next year.” Whether or not that box, or one like it, ends up in retail customer’s hands remains up in the air. Although prior foreshadowing did indicate future TiVo DVRs may incorporate native TiVo Stream capabilities. Sadly, the only mentions of TiVo Mini DVR extenders is in relation to MSO cable partners and I have it on good authority that they’ve yet to determine their retail IP-STB strategy — and, frankly, as compelling as the tech may be to consumers such as myself, it may not make economic sense for them to launch such a product through a Best Buy or without a subscription.

29 responses to TiVo Gains Customers, Signs Tebow

  1. So if you have a software bug in your Tivo hardware, you should be Tebowing, instead of calling for support?

  2. As much as I love my TiVo boxes and want the company to succeed, bringing on a spokesperson associated with a hate group is such a bizarre, shameful, and hurtful move… I may have to look elsewhere for my service and solutions.

  3. I cancelled both of my boxes. Not going to support them anymore because of this.

  4. Member of a “hate group”?

    What? Christianity? THAT hate group?

    Liberals – They LOVE to hate. What’s WRONG with you people? So much hate for 90% of the country.

  5. Yeah – Just because you believe in traditional family and the nuclear family doesn’t mean you are part of a hate group.

    It’s like saying that because I buy Girl Scout Cookies from Girl Scouts then I must hate Boy Scouts.

    All of that being said:
    – I don’t think that you should need government approval to be married to someone you love
    – If society is going to require government approval (which is stupid) then you should accept every married group: homosexuals, polygamists, etc.

  6. TiVo may not be willing or able to heavily moderate what’s become a vile Facebook page that is unpleasant to visit. But, here, we play by my rules. So we’ll keep it civil and discuss your preferences, personal beliefs, or feelings. No name calling, no liberals this, hate groups that. Talk with an “I” not a “You”. And maybe let’s focus on core issue – will Tebow be good for TiVo sales? Will he bring on new customers or will his personal beliefs, correctly on incorrectly interpreted, lead to customer defections?

    So let’s keep it civil, because I’d rather not delete comments and I’d prefer not to shut the discussion down. I’m merely the emcee here – the good stuff comes from your guys down in this area. Let’s keep it that way. Thank you for your cooperation.

    Personally, I don’t believe a sports figure (and of Tebow’s current caliber) would be the best choice for TiVo. They are in desperate need of some national advertising, if they intend to stick with retail, but I’m not sure he’s the most effective way to get the message out. Especially given reports that TiVo is producing the commercials in-house — for a multimillion dollar campaign, hire the experts. Beyond that, Apple’s commercials showing the iPad in action have been very effective and are more along the lines of what I’d have liked to see from TiVo. The ‘My TiVo Gets Me‘ campaign a few years back wasn’t too shabby but check out Virgin Media’s stellar TiVo ad:

    I doubt they’ll lose or turn off many potential customers with Tebow but, by the same token, this is a missed opportunity and whatever gains they receive via national television exposure could potentially have been larger with a different approach or spokesperson. And a little more color regarding TiVo teaming up with Tebow… Remember TiVo previously partnered with the PTC for Kidzone and their head of corporate communications, who is presumably intimately involved with TiVo marketing, handled communications for conservative politicians on Capital Hill prior to TiVo – so this is apparently their corporate DNA.

  7. If Shelly Adelson, Grover Norquist, and the Koch brothers teamed up to make the best DVR on the market, I’d buy one…

    —–

    “Personally, I don’t believe a sports figure (and of Tebow’s current caliber) would be the best choice for TiVo.”

    Hell, something like a third of the country are evangelicals.

    Still don’t know if it’s the correct marketing play or not, but if they do want to market to that third, doesn’t seem too crazy to me.

    Plus, as OTT becomes a notch more important every year for movies and TV, sports will always be a backbone of CableCARD cuz of all the rights issues.

  8. I don’t know about all this political stuff, but just from a sports standpoint, getting Tebow to rep the company is beyond weird. The guy is a back-up quarterback on a terrible team that no one outside of NY cares about. The only relevance is that Tebow rhymes with TiVo. I can’t believe TiVo marketing would be THAT juvenile. Someone with an MBA thought of that?

  9. I just rolled my eyes when I saw the Tebow star on the menu. I doubt it’s a good move, but I can’t deny that he is a popular figure, regardless of his football ability. His values seem to be in the right place, even if I don’t agree with the group(s) he associates with.

    My son plays tackle football (he’s 9 YO) and I was extremely surprised by the overwhelming support the other parents had toward Tebow. I don’t even remember what brought it up, most likely me ragging on Tebow, but it was almost a majority that stood up for him. Not for his football ability, but for who he is and what he stands for. I had to respect that. I, of course, continued to point out that sucked at the QB position. Now, move him to TE….

    John

  10. @Jimmy – good points.

    You also have people that will be put off because Tebow is a devoted Christian. Will they be put off enough to not buy a TiVo? I’m sure you could find one or two that would say, “TiVo hired Tebow which means he and they must hate (insert group here)! I’m not buying a TiVo.”

    Most people will just think it’s odd other than the TiVo-Tebow rhyming similarities. It probably won’t affect them either way. I can’t see it adding to their sales because of him. Even in the NY area it would seem to me that you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’d say, “Oh, Tebow likes it! I’m buying a TiVo!” So, in that respect I don’t think he brings anything to the party.

    Just having regular TiVo commercials to keep the name in people’s heads would have probably been the better call.

  11. So I hear thru the grapevine that TiVo’s data indicates Tebow is known by 75% of the population (!) and with a highly positive connotation. The number seems high to me. So I checked in with my mom, who I often use for litmus tests, and she knows who he is:

    In addition to all the national publicity about Tim Tebow’s demonstrations of his Christian faith on the football field, his being a Floridian in a state filled with forever loyal Gator fans … have likely resulted in his being even more renown here … even with my demographic.

    She wasn’t aware of his work for Focus on the Family or who they are. Regardless, not sure Tebow would be able to convince her to get a TiVo. But if her son, the TiVo blogger, couldn’t get her to use one for more than a few months, she’s obviously a lost cause. ;) Oh, and she says Ernie Davis remains her favorite Heisman winner.

  12. “So I hear thru the grapevine that TiVo’s data indicates Tebow is known by 75% of the population (!) and with a highly positive connotation.”

    Seems about right to me. Dude can’t play football very well, but he’s got a crazy high Q score.

    And like I say, a good third of the country is hardcore evangelicals, so if TiVo wants to market to them, as well as to non-evangelicals who have a positive vibe about Tebow, seems like a non-crazy plan to me.

    This isn’t targeted at folks like us, but Tebow isn’t saying objectionable stuff for non-evangelicals. He’s not Chick-fil-A. So, again, seems non-crazy to me.

    If we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s that if you’re trying to hit the mass market, you shouldn’t write off 47% of the population, whatever that particular 47% might be…

    (Of course, one could make the argument that evangelicals skew down-market, which isn’t TiVo’s demographic, but I could be wrong about that skew.)

  13. And, to repeat myself once more, as sports slowly becomes more and more of the backbone of CableCARD due to rights issues preventing the thing from ever really going OTT, sports stars seem like a good place for TiVo to base marketing…

  14. How much TV does Tebow watch? I would think that he would find much of the programming on TV unacceptable. And the same goes for the people who could be influenced by Tebow.

    What are Tebow’s credentials for endorsing consumer electronics? I don’t have anything against Tebow, but I’m not going to make a decision on consumer electronics based on what Tebow thinks.

    I think that many customers who purchase Tivo based on Tebow’s recommendation might regret it because of the obtruction and bureaucracy that the cable companies create when trying to use a Tivo.

  15. In addition to your mom validating the 75% number, here are some additional Tebow metrics. :)

    According to Nielsen and E-Poll’s N-Score ranking, which measures factors including name and image awareness and appeal, as well as attributes such as sincerity, approachability, experience and influence, Tebow has a score of 180. (Sanchez has a score of 12 just for reference.) He ranks in the Top 10 in the endorsement category of all celebrities, according to Davie-Brown Index (DBI), which measures nearly 3,000 celebrities, including current and retired sports figures. Each celebrity is evaluated by respondents and given a weighted average score across eight attributes — appeal, aspiration, awareness, endorsement, influence, breakthrough, trendsetter and trust.

    It appears that Tim Tebow is mass popular. I’ve been told that Jockey bumped sales 37% with him in 11 months. Granted Tebow probably knows more about underwear than TV technology!

    I’ve also heard that Tebow has nothing to do with Focus on the Family.

    Finally, I’ve also heard that TiVo is a very liberal company that leans left of center.

    Regarding your metrics, TiVo’s 1.4% churn for the quarter equates to a loss of 15,000 customers per month although a large percentage of those users were probably using series 2 and 3 boxes. The company has disclosed that the churn rate on series 4 (Premiere platform) is much lower.

  16. Eh, not sure that Jockey stat means anything. A small investment in some undies versus a pricier and more complex consumer electronics purchase, requiring a long term commitment in the form of recurring fees or large up front lump sum payment doesn’t really compare. Not to mention, that number has been presented in a vacuum. Perhaps Jockey’s numbers are up due to expanded Target and Kohl’s distribution?

    Also, regardless of how positive Tebow comes across in polling, we need look no further than TiVo’s own Facebook page to see there’s a percent of the population who just don’t like the fellow. And if Tebow has nothing to do with Focus on the Family then he equally has nothing to do with TiVo… just another job?

    Have any of the national TV spots been posted? I haven’t seen anything on television yet. Then again, thanks to TiVo, I don’t usually watch commercials… just like Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott taught me:

  17. I don’t believe any of the spots have aired yet. Last time I checked in with my sources at TiVo, the commercials were still in final editing so I expect we’ll see the results pretty soon.

  18. Hm, Sam, USA Today said the spots would start airing nationally 11/27. And, while we’re on the topic of Tebow, the bigger news for me is TiVo’s obviously still committed to retail – something I’ve questioned. So I hope their campaign is successful enough that they continue to service those of us who’d rather bypass the cableco.

    Jimmy, George, in the same USA Today article TiVo’s CEO suggested his son in inadvertently came up with the idea.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2012/11/14/tebow-tivo-team-up/1700599/

  19. Am I just missing something? I’m thinking some TiVo marketing guru was in a corporate meeting and said: “hey, let’s sign that Tebow guy. It rhymes with TiVo”. I’m not sure that it has anything to do with evangelicals or spokesman. Rhyming. That’s the marketing ticket.

  20. I wonder how many people burned their underwear when it was endorsed by Tebow?

  21. I was musing above about how sports becoming more and more the backbone of CableCARD could be a rationale for this particular endorsee, and today I read:

    (my bolding.)

    “The average household already spends about $90 a month for cable or satellite TV, and nearly half of that amount pays for the sports channels packaged into most services.”

    I knew it was a big chunk, but I had no idea it was that big.

  22. I wish we could pick the sports channels we want. I would certainly dump 95% of them. That would save a big chunk off my cable bill.

  23. Fios is now charging $20/month for their whole home DVR. With a couple smart moves, Tivo can actually be an alternative you no longer need to pay a premium to have.

  24. Chucky,

    Yeah, that’s an impressive percentage but seems about right. I was following some blogger who was tracking these numbers but haven’t been there in ages… and cant’ remember who it was… FierceCable? VideoNuze?

    Anyway, his theory was that this was what would break the current cable pricing model. Either forcing the shifting of more and more sports programming in to tiers that people could opt in to OR NOT, or the eventual exodus of lots of people from cable or at least from the non-basic cable packages. Obviously that hasn’t happened yet, but I think the latimes article has it right. This gravy train won’t last forever.

  25. maybe Tivo is trying to break into the latin market?

  26. “Anyway, his theory was that this was what would break the current cable pricing model.”

    I’m not so sure about that. All you need is one single sports watcher in the household, and that covers a lot of households.

    In our household example, my significant other doesn’t watch sports. I don’t watch any sports whatsoever except for the NBA. I haven’t watched any other sports since my teens, but I do needs my NBA. So our household has to subscribe to an expanded sports tier just so I can get my games. And happily does.

  27. I content myself with watching whatever sports are shown OTA.

    Note that I can get our state’s NFL team via OTA from their home market (60 miles away)

    Surprisingly, ESPN 3 has a lot of the teams I want to watch.

  28. Wonder if Tebow was TiVo third choice. After his performance on Sunday TiVo should jump on the Greg McElroy train.

    THIS JUST IN :
    Fireman Ed, dropped his Tivo service for the remainder on the season.

  29. “I content myself with watching whatever sports are shown OTA.”

    You, sir, obviously aren’t an NBA junkie in need of your fix.

    Forget the fact that, like many in the nation post-digital transition, I can’t get acceptable OTA reception. But for the sake of the scenario, let’s assume I could get OTA:

    My ‘home’ NBA team plays 82 games. I can pick up the local broadcasts on OTA, however 16 of those games are on national cable broadcasts and not broadcast locally, meaning I can only watch 66 of the 82 games via OTA.

    Next comes the playoffs, which is as important a viewing experience as the entire regular season. Unless my home team makes the Finals, I can’t watch any of their playoff games via OTA, since local broadcasts of the playoffs aren’t permitted.

    And, of course, I’d like to keep up on some of the other marquee NBA teams from time to time. Very few national telecasts are available via OTA, leaving me out in the cold for most telecasts.

    In short, if you are a very casual sports, or don’t care about sports at all, you can happily get by with the type of less expensive viewing scenario you employ. However, for someone with an Association addiction like me, it’s CableCARD or bust…