In the innovation arena, it’s never been easy for the player first out of the gate with a new product to stay on top because competitors quickly spring up with generic versions that offer similar functionality at half the price.
TiVo appears to be no exception. The maker of the original digital video recorder, which changed television viewing with its stand-alone devices that let viewers fast forward through commercials, has been unable to get TiVo into as many homes as it needs to turn a profit.
But the board hopes Tom Rogers, a broadcast industry veteran, can turn that around as TiVo’s new CEO. Rogers, former CEO of Primedia and one-time president of NBC Cable, has been a TiVo board member since 2003. In March, acting as vice chairman, Rogers gave shareholders a preview of things to come when he engineered a deal with Comcast to offer TiVo service on the cable company’s own DVR platform. The deal acknowledges that in an increasingly crowded market, TiVo will need to strike many partnerships, even those that don’t include TiVo’s original device. “The only way you can deal with competition is to have a great product that offers more innovation and more customer satisfaction than elsewhere,” says Rogers.
Another key will be devising unique advertising opportunities for companies that want to reach consumers via the not-so-commercial-friendly TiVo model. “That was very important in the Comcast deal, the fact that we’re the only DVR that incorporates an advertising solution,” says Rogers, adding that he hopes similar deals are in the offing. Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff believes this deal will inspire companies like Cox, Insight and even Time Warner to come calling. Bernoff notes that while generic DVRs are becoming more common, TiVo’s technology remains superior, and consumers will know it. Rogers agrees. “We have a lot of issues on a lot of other fronts, but maintaining an edge on technology innovation seems to be something that’s there,” he says.
The question is, can Rogers help the company jockey into position before it gets crowded out by wannabes? He says yes. “I’ve really specialized in companies that are in key points of transition, particularly when technology has evolved in a way that requires people to take something to the next level,” says Rogers.
Given his none-too-triumphant departure from Primedia- he was ousted in 2003 after shares had plunged 79 percent during his tenure-Rogers has every intention of going out a winner on this play.