Five years ago, I wrote a post here called TiVo's Apple Problem. I looked at the current state of TiVo and wondered if they would be much like Apple was at the time (Apple has since gained much more mainstream appeal and higher sales), which was to say it would be a high-end product used by a small number of people and that things like cable company DVRs offered for free would dominate the space.
Off and on for the past six years I've been an armchair quarterback for TiVo telling them they should do anything and everything to become profitable, among other things: they should offer pay-per-view downloads (I asked for this in 2002), they should broker deals with cable companies, that they should release software for PCs, that they should move to international markets, and that while I'm not a fan of software patents in general I feel the TiVo patents are original and worth fighting.
What I realized this week is that TiVo has spent the past couple years starting battles on all these fronts, and it looks like (at least to this outside observer) like TiVo is winning on all fronts. Even as their CEO admits more people are using DVRs and skipping lots of ads, I'd say TiVo is doing well.
They released Amazon Unbox last year and are working on plans for HD downloads. They recently released branded PC software that lets you run a TiVo-like app on your media PC. They won the Dish Network patent battle and received not only $104 million in payout, but there are rumors that Dish Network will license parts of the TiVo experience they copied. DirecTV and TiVo have announced plans to work together again on a new HD DirecTiVo combo unit. TiVo got introduced into Canada last year and Australia this past summer. In the past year TiVo-branded units began rolling out to Comcast customers.
When you add it all up, TiVo is doing pretty well on all fronts -- 27% of homes in the US have a DVR now, and that number keeps increasing every time they run the survey (it was 22% last year). With TiVo available for all cable systems (including HD), available soon on DirecTV, and for some Comcast customers, and also available on your PC, there is a good chance TiVo the company could stand to increase their revenue as more and more people adopt DVRs into their homes and busy schedules.
I've given TiVo plenty of knocks over the past few years as it seemed the software wasn't improving, the service was too expensive, and it didn't seem like TiVo was going after every market it could. But I have to say in 2008, they've really turned it around and seem to be gaining on all possible revenue fronts. I've had a TiVo for eight years now and it has changed my life in that time, giving me back hours every week I would have spent on the couch channel surfing or staying at home in time to watch something. The financial health of TiVo is important to the continued development of the product as well as my ability to enjoy it, so I'm very interested in how the company is growing. I have to say it looks like they are doing well and have laid the groundwork for a prosperous future.