Archives For Satellite TV

Normally, when perusing the various legal briefs and news coverage out of the epic and ongoing TiVo v DISH/EchoStar DVR patent dispute, my eyes glaze over (see: Boredom in the Courtroom). Today’s a bit different. A ZNF reader who’s been tracking this case, and who I presume to be a shareholder, forwarded DISH’s latest filing (7/13, PACER). The document in and of itself isn’t so interesting to the casual observer. However, it does reveal some astonishing content from within TiVo’s recent sealed motion (6/27) of sanctions for contempt of the permanent injunction:

TiVo’s response on the issue of judicial economy is that the sanctions hearing set for later this month will be short because each side was allowed only 30 minutes for argument. This simplistic retort ignores the substantial work for this Court — reviewing briefing, case law, and complicated financial evidence — that will be required for consideration of TiVo’s motion, which seeks nearly $1 billion in contempt sanctions.

There’s really not much to say other than: That’s a sh*tload of money. (While I’m having NTP flashbacks, TiVo actually has a product, business partners, and customers.) One thing’s for sure, if TiVo expects to see this kind of cash award, they’re going to need to buy a few more cows.

Click screencaps to enlarge:

bearhugI hate to admit it, but I’m feeling a little foolish right now. Last week, I raised the question of whether or not Dish was researching a hostile takeover of TiVo. In my article, I concluded that they might try, but that they’d never be able to afford the $7.5 billion poison pill that came with it.

Since then, I’ve spent more time researching the pill and realize that I made a terrible mistake. Not only is there an antidote, but Dish may already have it.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this pill, but could never figure a way around it. It wasn’t until I asked myself a simple question, that the solution became so obvious. What would Charlie do?

Love him or hate him Dish CEO Charlie Ergen has a special kind of brilliance. His reputation as a fearsome litigator is legendary and more than once he has demonstrated his mastery for the fine art of negotiation. Over the years, his decisions have created huge growth for Dish (albeit at great risks.) Unfortunately, his penchant for the legal system may have finally caught up with him and now he finds himself struggling in quicksand with the prospect of having to buy rope from TiVo.

Continue Reading…


It’s been several years since TiVo initiated their patent lawsuit against DISH Network, but we’re finally reaching the endgame of what has been an epic chess match between the two companies. Between the he said/she said arguments that have played out in the press to the endless legal maneuvers by both camps, it has been a long and brutal battle for both. As a TiVo shareholder, I’ve certainly found the long delays especially frustrating.

In the latest development in this high stakes game, TiVo appears to have pinned Dish in a dangerous checkmate situation. With appeals quickly running out, Dish’s options are becoming increasingly limited. While things look pretty dire for Dish, they may try to play one more dangerous gambit before the game is up:

I believe DISH might try to buy TiVo.

While looking through my traffic logs, I came across a very interesting visitor. (pic above) In 2006, I wrote an article referencing a “poison pill” TiVo implemented in 2001. Since Google loves bloggers so much, my story somehow ended up near the top of the page for the search term TiVo poison pill. Given recent analyst chatter that TiVo could be an M&A target, I’m not surprised that people would be interested in taking a closer look at the nuts and bolts behind the agreement, but I was surprised at where my visitor was browsing from.

While there’s no way for me to know who exactly it was, someone at EchoStar’s corporate HQ’s spent nearly 25 minutes researching an article that I wrote on the topic. Their outclick took them to the legal document that contains all of the nitty gritty details on how the pill actually works. Now, there could be any number of explanations for why someone at Echostar would be interested in TiVo’s anti-takeover provisions, but the most likely one is that they’re interested in making some kind of play at TiVo.

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Photo by Zandir

After finding a few minutes to scan TiVo’s quarterly call transcript what stands out, other than hoarding $200+ million in cash, is what appears to be a slippage in the delivery of a new DirecTV TiVo DVR. 2009 has become 2010. CEO Tom Rogers, via Seeking Alpha:

DIRECTV not likely to rollout until early next year

We’ve pointed to that timeframe in early next year

our expectation is early next year that the DIRECTV new product will be available

I can’t say I’m surprised. And have been suggesting for some time that it’s unlikely we’d see the renewed DirecTV+TiVo relationship bear fruit this year. Continue Reading…


DISH has joined other DVR vendors (DirecTV, Verizon, TiVo, Moxi) by (officially) launching online scheduling. While TiVo was a pioneer in this space, they’ve begun to lag as others provide a direct connection for interactive conflict resolution and to view listings of recorded shows or scheduled recordings. As DISH now offers broadband-connected ViP 612, ViP 622, ViP 722, ViP 722k DVRs. Additionally, they’re leveraging the (EchoStar) Sling Media acquisition by embedding a web-based Slingbox player into the DISH Remote Access site, providing one-stop shopping for dual Sling+DISH customers. (And as we saw at CES, the next generation DISH Network DVR, due later this year, will ship with integrated Sling placeshifting technology.)

EchoStar at The Cable Show

Dave Zatz —  April 1, 2009


Back at CES, EchoStar came clean with their Sling Media acquisition intentions in announcing the “SlingLoaded” platform – part DVR, part Slingbox. The first model is headed to DISH Network as the DISH VIP 922 and now Echo has unveiled digital cable-enabled tru2way SlingLoaded hardware. Unlike the previously demo-ed satellite version, these tru2way devices would house a single multistream CableCARD (M-Card) and feature licensed operator interfaces – Echo has a few on display, including Digeo’s Moxi experience. While Echo could conceivably head direct to retail, I suspect they’re looking for a cable partner to get the SlingLoaded HD DVR out the door. Also, on display was a lone (and lonely) SlingModem. Echo assures me the DOCSIS 2.0 device and cable-modem+Slingbox bundled hardware initiative isn’t dead. We’ll see.

In other Sling news today, EchoStar has drawn the line in the sand. Slingbox Solo, Pro, and Pro-HD models will be the only units capable of running the upcoming iPhone client. Classic, AV, and Tuner owners are out of luck. Having said that, they’ve launched an upgrade program that knocks $50 off the price of new hardware. Which probably still comes in higher than Amazon. I assume Sling wants or needs folks on more capable platforms as they move to H.264 encoding and with Clip+Sling still waiting in the wings.

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Sirius XM Headed for Bankruptcy?

Dave Zatz —  February 11, 2009


I hadn’t intended to cover the Sirius XM (SIRI) pre-bankruptcy chatter, however a personal request over on Twitter has encouraged me to offer my two cents. As I tweeted, it’s no secret that the merged satellite radio company has a ton of debt coming due – owning/launching satellites and (perhaps) overpaying talent adds up.

Under “normal” economic conditions, Sirius XM might have been able to renegotiate the debt and/or secure additional investment given their solid subscriber numbers and supposed efficiencies in bringing the two companies together. However, as most of us know, the credit markets are tight, investors are skittish, and consumers are pinching pennies. Bankruptcy may be the best thing for XM Sirius subscribers – allowing the company to unload and restructure much of this debt.

The wild card in how things unfold over the next week appears to be DISH Network and EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen. It seems Echo recently acquired a chunk of Sirius’ debt and  may have even made an offer on the company. Which led me to speculate some of these public pre-bankruptcy disclosures are posturing for a better deal. Although Davis Freeberg, who’s much wiser in financial issues than I, doubts that particular point.

Regardless of how this plays out, I don’t see any immediate impact on subscribers. Satellite radio will carry on, for some time at least, regardless of who owns or runs the company.

ZNF ‘Round The Web

Dave Zatz —  January 23, 2009

Leaving comments across the blogosphere…

Control TiVo With Your iPhone for $3
I’m sorry, but a TiVo touchscreen remote is so much less efficient than the Glo remote. I don’t want to look down to change channels. Nor do I want to keep my iPhone on for a two hour Lost episode. I also prefer to adjust the volume on my television.

Boxee Gets ABC
Of course the challenge with services like Boxee, PlayOn, NeurosLINK is keeping up with the providers since as far as I can tell the stuff is being scraped. And should the providers make a change, these other guys will need to race to keep up. PlayOn’s had one or two Hulu outages for example when Hulu changed their site somewhat. Ideally, all the networks get on Hulu. And then Hulu gets on a box. Every episode, every season. (Of course, licensing doesn’t work that way with the various guilds and entities that all must be paid at rates that slide around depending on length of availability, release timing, etc – no one can afford it all.)

Apple TV Stays on its “Hobby” Horse
The bottom line here is that the living room is still a tough nut to crack if offering a separate box. The cable and satellite cos really have a stranglehold on the living room here in the US. (I wish we’d see a UK Freeview-esque movement which might open up the set-top box space.) Additionally, Bruce’s point is well taken. AppleTV is still too much of a closed ecosystem (without hacking) which in keeps many of the early adopters away – who often kickstart new tech adoption.

DISH Network coming to Windows Media Center
Draco? I thought it was Stargate. Too many codenames! Although, it’s possible there are two initiatives. Relaying ViP 211 content to a Media Center and some sort of Internet streaming. Then again, with the whole SlingGuide they may shift gears and this project could suffer the same fate of DirecTV’s MCE tuner.

MPAA vs RealDVD — Why You Care
No mention of the DVD Copy Control Association? They’ve licensed CSS to DVD-burning kiosks. So they, and the MPAA, may not necessarily be against sharing the tech and permitting archiving. (Before HD DVD was killed, Windows Vista archiving was demo-ed/pitched by Microsoft at CES.) But they didn’t produce, validate, or vette Real’s protection scheme. And it’s not Real’s technology to use without license. Having said that, I do agree many large companies are overzealous in claiming DMCA violations that appear to trump pre-existing fair use consumer protections. (In fact, I’m tired of YouTube takedown notices.) At the end of the day, most folks who want to archive their DVDs already know how. (Basically, I don’t believe there’s a market for Real’s software.) And I don’t see individual consumers, who don’t share their files on BitTorrent, being dragged into court for bypassing an encryption scheme or stealing.