Will Cable Strangle TiVo?

Todd Spangler over at MultiChannel News has summed up the TiVo dilemma: it lives if CableCos let it live, and it dies if they don’t. And the worst part is that CableCos have little incentive to see it work, especially since they have sunk billions into their VoD infrastructure.

I certainly don’t see cable companies suddenly starting to flog TiVos as awesome alternatives to their own set-tops. Operators potentially lose revenue if a customer chooses a TiVo CableCard box. TiVo also gets its Trojan horse in the door as a rival TV-related service provider, with (for example) the over-the-top Amazon.com movie-download service that Amazon has touted as providing a “better experience” than cable VOD.

And like myself, he isn’t convinced that the new $299 HD TiVo is really the answer for the long term survival of the company. So the only option is to license TiVo technology to CableCos (Comcast & Cox), which also means that the company is left relying on notoriously unreliable partners for its revenues. We are still waiting for the Comcast Box, which is by now looking like a Yeti, though there have been some sightings on the other coast.
As Spangler points out:

The MSO may merely be embracing TiVo as a tactical, defensive measure. Note that under these agreements, Comcast and Cox will give a cut of the monthly lease fee to TiVo. That means either that (A) they’ll earn incrementally lower margin on TiVo boxes deployed versus their own DVRs or (B) they’ll price TiVo boxes at a premium. I’d bet on option B.

That limits the company’s options. No one can envy TiVo CEO Tom Rodgers his job.