TiVo Takes Out $50 Million Marker, Adds Board Member

The Yankee Group may be predicting that TiVo won’t be around in 2010, but apparently, Citigroup doesn’t share the same dismal outlook. According to an 8K filing, TiVo announced that they’ve negotiated a new $50 million revolving line of credit with the bank. The line of credit will remain in effect until TiVo terminates the arrangement, violates the covenants or January 25th, 2010, whichever one comes first.

In the filing, TiVo indicated that they have the option of going back and requesting an additional $50 million be added to the line of credit if they needed it, but for the time being, they have no plans to borrow any of the money from the new loan. The line of credit replaces a $15 million loan with the Silicon Valley Bank that expired last September.

The terms and conditions on the loan impose standard debt restrictions in how TiVo can operate their business, but two notable features of the loan are the restrictions that could prevent TiVo from entering into certain M&A negotiations and the formula used for the interest rate calculation.

TiVo already has a poison pill in place, that all but ensures the company won’t be bought out in a hostile takeover scenario. To add to this, they also have language in both their Comcast and Cox agreements, that allow either company to terminate their cable deals, if TiVo is acquired by another company. While the inclusion of this type of language isn’t unusual for a loan of this nature, it existence is further proof that TiVo isn’t interested in selling the company, unless it’s on their terms.

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Lycos Sues TiVo, Netflix & Blockbuster Over Personalized Search

The Mercury News is reporting that on January 3rd, Lycos filed a patent lawsuit against TiVo, Netflix and Blockbuster over their use of recommendation technology. The article doesn’t give the exact patents that are alleged to be violated, but a quick scan of Lycos’ patent filings shows patents 6775664 and 6308175 as the most likely candidates.

Patent 6775664 was originally filed on Oct. 22, 2001 and describes a search method that uses a user feedback system to provide “collaborative feedback data for integration with content profile data in the operation of the collaborative/content-based filter.”

Patent 6308175 was filed on Nov. 19th, 1998 and according to the patent, it covers technology whose “filter system compares received informons to the individual user’s query profile data, combined with collaborative data, and ranks, in order of value, informons found to be relevant. The system maintains the ranked informons in a stored list from which the individual user can select any listed informon for consideration.”

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The Day The HDTV Died

As a die hard HDTV aficionado, I normally love reading about anything that has to do with the HDTV experience. With it’s crisp picture and it’s unmatched sound quality, HDTV has the power to make even bad television entertaining. Even when I’m not watching TV, I still love researching and learning about the technology, but when I came across a recent post by the Technology Evangelist, it sent shivers down my spine. (warning: link is not safe for TV enthusiasts)

It’s New Years eve. My wife and I are snuggled up on the couch watching the ball drop. 10! 9! 8! 7! KABLAM!!! Our micro-projection HD set turns off with a loud popping noise. Immediately I fear the lamp has shattered, but I think that maybe I just sat on the remote and shut it off. Looking at the remote on the table I realize my fear came true.

As someone who watches my fair share of TV, I worry about the day when my tube finally does give out. Reading through the post, I can’t help but imagine how horrible it must have felt to suddenly know that you can’t watch anymore TV without spending the time and money to get repairs done. Right now I’ve been living without my Xbox 360 for a few weeks while repairs are being made and that has been bad enough, without my daily fix of HDTV, I’d be a raving lunatic. (or at least more raving than normal ;) )

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Blogosphere Smackdown: DVR or DVD?

Let’s face it, there are only so many hours in the day you can actually watch TV. I consider myself a huge TV nut and certainly do my best to boost up the national average, but even with my voracious appetite for film, I still can’t keep up with everything that is being produced right now, let alone all the good films that have been made in the past.

Add to this distractions from the internet, real life, my poker habit, and this little thing called work that I’ve actually got to do once in a while, and it’s clear that something has to give. Because we’re limited by time, consumers are forced to choose between not just what we watch, but how we watch it as well.

In a great post highlighting the smackdown between DVDs and DVRs in competing for our attention, The One Eyed Man Rules, covers the various reasons behind why the DVR has replaced the DVD in his life. Among the advantages are the problems that come up when his kids use DVDs as frisbees, the speed at which it takes for you to boot up a DVD compared to the ease of hitting a button on a DVR and having your programming right there, and being forced to watch a bunch of crappy Disney ads vs. being able to fast forward past ads on a DVR.

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Netflix To Phase Out Banner Ads

I’ve never been bothered by the envelope ads that Netflix sends out with my DVDs each week, but when it comes to putting ads on their website I’ve never been a fan of the strategy. Netflix has such an amazing website that I’ve found their banner ads really take away from the overall experience of the site. For a long time Netflix resisted the temptation of adding ads to their homepage, but with the heavy demand that they’ve seen for their mailer ads, it was only a matter of time before we saw them to be tempted to monetize the massive amount of traffic that comes to their site each day.I may have been critical of Netflix when they made their foray into banner advertising, but one thing that I love about the company is that they always do plenty of testing with any change to their business model and it appears that banner ads have been no exception. While we haven’t heard any official word on the state of these advertisement experiments, Netflix Fan is reporting that an anonymous source has told her that the ads simply weren’t worth the trouble and that Netflix will begin phasing them out over the next few months.

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15 Yards & First Down For TiVo

tivo-ball.jpgI watch a lot of sports on my TiVo, but the best sport to watch on TiVo has to be football. By fast forwarding the dead spots in between plays I can turn a 3+ hour game into about 45 minutes. Frankly, I think that the NFL could sell these shorter games online under a highlight blitz package or something, but I don’t mind giving my TiVo remote a good work out if it means that I don’t have to sit through the advertisements or replays unless I want to see them.

What is a bit annoying about this method of watching sports though, is constantly going in and out of conversations about the game. At one moment John Madden is telling you that “the only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion,” the next he’s telling you that “the road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.” After going in and out of this for 45 minutes you feel like you’re going to go a bit crazy from the broken conversation.

I’ve pretty much just accepted the fragmented conversations as being the price I pay for having the luxury of being able to watch a game so quickly, but the Consumerist points to a hack that actually allows me to take the announcers out of sports programming.

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TiVo And The Future Of Microcontent

With TiVo announcing that they plan on ushering in a new era of broadband based television, I was left with more questions then answers when it came to how this impacted their long term strategy as a business. In a series of press releases that addressed everything from celebrity recommendations to additions to their TiVoCast service, I found myself almost dizzy trying to understand the broader implications of their recent broadband announcements.

While many details, involving the program were only announced today, late last week, Evan Young, the Director of broadband services for TiVo, gave a keynote address at the Streaming Media West 2006 conference where he offered a significant amount of insight into what TiVo’s future may hold, when it comes to broadband television. During his presentation, Young gave a startlingly honest assessment of the challenges that TiVo faces, as well as the opportunities that lie ahead.

After viewing his presentation, if there was one impression I was left with, it was the importance that broadband distribution will play to TiVo’s future. In the past there have been a lot of gate keepers that have prevented independent producers from bringing their content to television viewers and whether it was the cable companies, the Hollywood studios or the film distribution networks, the web now threatens to end the monopoly that they’ve held on television. While the internet has served as a great democratizer for publishers, it still can’t match the large scale distribution power of television and with their broadband strategy in hand, TiVo hopes to make a direct assault on the 22 minute half hour and 44 minute hour that that big media providers have built their businesses around.

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