back to article Undervalued TiVo wins yet another legal battle

There is likely to (eventually) be a flurry of investment activity in TiVo over the coming weeks, as investors shake the tinsel and party poppers from their eyes and the depression on the markets that 2011 brought, and realize what an undervalued stock it has become. The shares spiked on January 3 as it announced that it had …

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Silver badge

The enterprise value is not $400m, it is the $600m share capital + the value of any debt it owes to people; in other words, the cost of taking over the company and making it debt free.

The $400m is possibly the discount to net asset value, but to get the net asset value, you need to look at the value of the patents and copyrights, the deals with the likes of Virgin Media and any fixed assets as well as liquid assets, and then take off the value of any debt it owes to people.

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Pint

Patents *do* expire...

I can't be bothered to look them up (USPTO.gov), but this TiVo / PVR patent war has been going on long enough that the valuable base of their patent portfolio must be getting closer and closer to their expiry dates. Meanwhile others will have patents on newer, must-have features. Perhaps the market is cleverer than Faultline.

The real genius of TiVo is convincing the unwashed masses to pay an additional and significant monthly fee for "PVR Service" (that is TV Guide data, period).

At least the grammatical structure of this Faultline puff-piece wasn't painful this time. Thanks.

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Thumb Up

Well, considering TiVo has only been around since 2008, presumably their patent validated anywhere from 2006 to 2008, and patents last a min. of 12 years up to 20 years, I think they have time. And TiVo certainly has the superior service. It's not just a TV Guide. Chances are whatever DVR service you are using now has some TiVo function added to it.

I say hurrah to TiVo. They deserve it. The invented the market only to have so many others steal from them.

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Megaphone

@Jim in Hayward

TiVo has been around since 1999. Wikipedia is your friend.

Patents since 1999 or earlier .... NPV relevant here. I'm still using mine+FreeSat in preference to Sky+ due to excessive charging model from Sky, but that's another discussion all together.

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WTF?

Doesn't compute

I added TIVO to my virgin media account for the additional sum of £0.00, can you explain what this significant monthly fee i'm paying is?

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Linux

Bogus patents, obsolete for 10 years already.

Whatever bogus patents that Tivo Corp managed to get for themselves became completely obsolete as soon as PC video capture cards with built in video compression hit the market.

That was about 10 years ago.

The tricky part of what Tivo did wasn't realizing that you can use a PC to exploit things like multimedia and databases and apply that to the VCR problem. The tricky part was dealing with 30Mhz CPUs and 1G hard drives.

The inevitable march of progress has made those considerations moot too.

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Re: Bogus patents ...

I have not looked at the patents (obviously), but I strongly suspect you'll find the patents don't just cover recording TV to a hard disk. Instead, they probably cover things like the 30+ minute "go back" buffer when watching live TV, the fact that you can press record part way through a program and have it record from the beginning (if in the aforementioned buffer), the recommendation stuff and up/downvoting, season passes, etc.

And certainly, the fact that some clone DVRs have left out some of these features in the past may be related to patent avoidance. So, by all means continue plain video capture on your PC, but there's more to a good PVR (or Tivo) than this.

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"The real genius of TiVo is convincing the unwashed masses to pay an additional and significant monthly fee for "PVR Service""

No, the real genius of Tivo is that it does PVR functionality far better than anyone else. Just compare TiVo with Sky Plus and see. A Sky Plus is simple but dim. A TiVo is just as simple but way more useful and clever.

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Linux

Big deal, a barrel...

> disk. Instead, they probably cover things like the 30+ minute "go back" buffer

Bog standard buffering. Yeah, that's something that qualifies for a 17 year long innovation stifling monopoly.

Tivo was impressive in 1999 but it's stagnated. Patent lawsuits are one of the things that contributes to this stagnation. They employ lawyers rather than engineers. It holds back the potential of the product.

The "clone DVRs" are implementing the features (like true network transparency) that Tivo is disinterested in.

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"PVR functionality far better than anyone else" - I don't think so....

I used a TiVo for a couple of years before the Ceton InfiniTV gave WIndows Media Center to content on Cable. I won't be going back to TiVo anytime soon.

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Anonymous Coward

And how does that work in the UK?

Ok, so TiVo makes money from getting people to pay for TV listings.

Here we have them as standard on FreeView & FreeSat.

So where is the TiVo USP for the UK?

Darned if I can figure one out.

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Boffin

It's all about metadata

"So where is the TiVo USP for the UK?"

Historically (I speak here as somone who's owned a TiVo since 2002) TiVo's guide data has carried richer and better quality metadata than the standard Freeview/Freesat guides carry.

This is why things like "season pass" functionality, "Wishlists" (genre, actor(s), director, etc, etc), and "Suggestions" work better than they do on any platform I've seen before or since. The AltEPG guide who've been providing program data for Ye Olde TiVoe Boxen since The Great Betrayal of 2011 have been doing a fine job of maintaining this, which, along with the much better user interface, is why my TiVo remains in service alongside the theoretically far superior (larger capacity, twin tuners, HDMI output, upscaling, etc, etc) Freeview based PVR I also own...

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Pint

I think it's a bit more than just TV listings. I've only had Tivo (from Virgin Media) for about 3 weeks and I can't remember much about the original Tivo having only seen it on sale in a shop when it first came out, but I gather part of the Tivo service is things like programme suggestions based on what you watch.

For instance, if I record Family Guy it'll suggest American Dad for me too. If I record Corrie it'll suggest Eastenders. I think it also will find things like films and TV programmes based on actors in shows that I've already recorded, similar shows and shows that 'Virgin' like (not sure if that is Virgin staff, Tivo staff or a back hander from a TV company).

I think I pay about £3 a month at the moment for the Tivo service as I've only got the basic M+ TV package, but for that it gives me a PVR with 3 tuners, a 500GB hard drive and HD capability (and other bells and whistles which I've yet to really play with). As it happens I also have a PC setup with MythTV and a couple of Freeview tuners, but for the non-technical it's not a bad service and from what I can tell better than Sky+/Sky + HD if you're in a cabled area.

Rob

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Pint

TiVo USP?

Some clever people buy the actual TiVo hardware outright, then they make a simple DNS redirect in their Internet router to point to a 'free' source of compatible TV Guide data, and everything works as expected - sans the nearly-inexplicable monthly fee. This form of hacking (the TiVo business model) understandably drives TiVo-the-business insane. I don't follow the latest details, but I'm sure that, just like their Inkjet Ink predecessors before them, they institute technical measures to ensure that most of the customers continue to pay the monthly "service" (?!?!?!?) fee. They actually send enabling signals so that "your" (sic) PVR continues to function.

FWIW - this household has two top-of-the-line PVRs connected with our pay Satellite TV service. The hardware was all bought outright and there is exactly zero point zero zero additional monthly fee for the PVR function. In other words, our monthly satellite TV bill would be exactly the same even if we just had basic non-PVR receivers.

There are one or two interesting TiVo features that we don't have in our non-TiVo PVRs, but they're not worth much. Conversely our PVRs have some minor features unavailable to TiVo customers. Both products are essentially perfect and both customer bases are perfectly happy.

Also, my satellite TV provider just replaced one of my older PVRs with a brand new, slightly improved version to accommodate their transition to H.264 encoding. The hardware is in the $500 to $600 price category, and it was replaced at no cost or obligation to me.

Here's the fundamental point: TiVo customers buy the hardware and pay for content just like anyone else. Then they pay an additional monthly fee for some TV Guide data and a critical Keep Alive signal to keep "their" (LOL) PVR alive. It's a strange business model, and stranger still that people will willingly pay for it. They should calculate the Net Present Value for their PVR.

I notice that TiVo customers get really annoyed when this is all explained to them. Please don't get angry with me. Just consider the points very carefully and double-check that your TV content provider (hint, it's not TiVo) might have a much less expensive, equally-useful, non-TiVo, sans extra monthly fee, PVR option.

Cheers.

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You can buy lifetime service

Tivo sells this way to make the product a cheap purchase upfront. Its like AT&T selling iPhones for $199, but then requiring a two year commitment. You can't complain about having to pay a monthly fee when the regular price of a Tivo is $99 and they occasionally have offers selling them at half price or even for free. If you got your Tivo for free would you say that the monthly fee is a bad deal? Well, maybe after you'd had it for the better part of a decade and had paid over $1000 in monthly fees, but you have a choice to avoid the monthly fee...

If you wish, you can buy a Tivo for $99 and then buy lifetime service for $399. Tivo.com says $499, but it is easy for even first time owners to get the discount for existing owners to $399 (just google it) I bought mine in April 2010 for $199 but the discounted lifetime service at that time was only $299 so same price. You buy that and you get Tivo service (guide, software upgrades, etc.) as long as it functions, and it transfers with the Tivo if you sell it.

I'm sure there are some DVRs I could buy for less, and certainly I could build one for less if I decide my time has no value. But the software probably doesn't work as well and is more likely to have compatibility issues with the cablecard (I know a couple people who tried to save money by building their own, it took them a lot of work to get everything finally working right)

It isn't the best option for everyone, but for me at least my cable company charges $12.95 a month for a dual tuner HD DVR that's theoretically equivalent to my Tivo. So around June next year it'll have cost me less to buy the Tivo than use the cable company's DVR. But if you consider resale value, which Tivos with lifetime service maintain very well, I was already ahead of using the cable company's DVR in less than a year.

I'm sure at this point someone will want to whine that the lifetime service is only good for the lifetime of the unit, so if it dies after the warranty expires in a year I have to buy a whole new Tivo and lifetime service again. Yes, that's true. If that worries you, you buy an extended warranty. It is no different than what happens if you buy a TV or laptop that breaks after the warranty is over. Tivos are quite reliable, and I personally feel extended warranties are a bad buy for anyone who can afford to take the chance. Well, except for Applecare on an iPhone if you have a fumble fingered girlfriend :)

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lifetime?

Didn't work out so well in the UK. Turned out to mean "the lifetime of our intention to provide the service"

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Holmes

life time...

Until the service folds and you've lost 'your' data and have to buy it again.

It's not life time of the unit, it's the life time of the service.

Back up locally, sync globally. Most of which you can do for free

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That's a risk with buying anything

Even when you buy from a company that has no risk of going under in your lifetime (let alone the lifetime of the product itself) such as Microsoft or Apple. Microsoft plans to stop supporting Windows XP at some point, so there will be no new security patches. Apple doesn't support the latest versions of the OS on old phones forever, and don't provide new features or security fixes on outdated versions of the OS.

On the other hand, when everyone is talking about 4G, the original iPhone that did only Edge has limited value to most people, at least as a phone. Windows XP is not compatible with the latest software or games, and has limited value as well.

I'm not worried about the risk of Tivo folding in the next few years. If they go under in 2017, I'll feel like I've got my money's worth out of my Tivo, and at that point cable companies will probably be moving to MPEG4 (like Directv and other satellite companies already have) and that would mean I'd need a new DVR anyway. Or failing that, the cablecard standards will have changed, and my cable company won't support the existing one.

Technology has already obsoleted Tivo series 1 & 2, at least where I live, since those didn't have a QAM tuner and there are only a handful of stations still being broadcast in NTSC rather than QAM by my cable company, and of course all TV stations in the US are digital as well. That's a problem not only for those older model Tivos, but also for the vast majority of TV sets sold before QAM tuners were mandated in all sizes of US TVs. Technology marches on, and for better or worse, very few consumer items will have a useful life like the 25 years my parents got out of the color TV they bought shortly after I was born.

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Mushroom

TiVo value-add is easy

Just get the networks to provide bogus program time data but get them to provide the real times to tivo.

Tivo users pay Tivo, tivo pays the networks. It's win-win for the corporates.

At least, it's win-win until people get hold of mythtv and a raspberry pi. Surprisingly, my athlon 1500+ made it through the most recent 39C days in Melbourne without aircon, but I suspect ARM would do better in the long-run.

I'd just like to say hello to the Australian FTA networks. Yes, I have enough disk and network tuners to record an extra hour after the official end-time of your programs. Mostly because you aren't showing much worth watching and Portal 2 is funnier than your comedies, more mentally-stimulating than your documentaries or quizes and more social than staring at the goggle-box.

You can also pick up a gaming PC for the cost of one year's foxtel subscription and tom's hardware's ultimate gaming pc for a foxtel minimum contract term, and still have money to pick up 4 tv tuners for recording to your pc.

/rant paused

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Pint

@DougS

Very nice explanation. Point acknowledged. Cheers.

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TiVo invented the digital video recorder?

> TiVo has .. proven that it holds valid patents which not only resulted in the invention of the digital video recorder, but which also have developed .. search and recommendation, video metadata usage and new formats for advertising, as well as the collection of audience viewing data.

If could be argured that TiVo were first to file patent on the DVR not that they originally invented the concept or that such should even be patented. But we are talking about the US patent system which is patently broken. Any revenue accuring to TiVo in the AT&T legal action will most probably be provided by Microsoft as they had to imdemnify AT&T in the case. This may also impact on Microsofts' downstream users of its 'technology`. Microsoft is also claiming patents on 'technology related to program schedules and selection`. These claims are so broad that anyone implimenting timed recording on any digital device would be in violation.

As far as I am concerned I don't see how adding a tuner card to a PC and then sticking the letters 'DVR` on the front constitutes inventing the digital video recorder. The same goes for program listings, timed recordings etc. If I can paraphrase Jim Royle .. patented 'technology` my arse ..

http://www.crn.com/news/applications-os/229100177/microsoft-challenges-tivo-dvr-technology-claiming-patent-infringement.htm;jsessionid=o1kmVD-NAnViym7GDJRVLQ**.ecappj02

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Unhappy

I love my TiVo

And they're going for NZ$200 (thats about US$170) here in New Zealand, including 'lifetime' subscription. I have 3 now, all networked together...

Strangely, though, their marketing sucks. They lose out to Sky+ simply because they never advertise and Sky is being pushed in all the stores.

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Unhappy

TiVo in NZ

The fact that they don't have guide data for 2 of the free-to-air TV channels in NZ (one of which is Prime - a channel a lot of people watch as it has Dr Who and Downton Abbey among others) has seriously hobbled it in NZ.

I don't understand why they can't source 3rd party guide data on the shows and claim that the schedule (ie: titles and times) is 'facts' and not copyrightable, but my colleagues argue that the joint venture in NZ partners with Telecom which protects it's own collections of 'facts' (think the WhitePages) and doesn't want precidents set in court.... More likely they just don't want the hastle of fighting it out.

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This reads rather more like

Company or ever worse bucket share shop marketing puff than I'm really comfortable with reading on the Register.

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Seconded

The words 'pump and dump' sprang into my mind.

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Silver badge

"not only resulted in the invention of the digital video recorder"

Is this not an "obvious invention"? People have recorded to tape for decades. Back around 1996, my little 75MHz Pentium with a TV capture card was capable of recording broadcast video. The only drawback, due to the machine's specifications, real time video it was something silly like 176x144 in a really lame codec. However by '98 DVD recorders were on the market. Pricey, but showing that full-screen capable video hardware was a reality. Recall, also, that the Digibox with it's EPG system was launched in 1998. Therefore, it would not be a leap to think that somebody would think to use some video DSP hardware hooked to a harddisc as a RECORDER. Indeed, my later, faster, Celeron box (from '99) with video capture card used to do me recordings at 320x288 (again, limited by raw grunt) until I got myself a dedicated PVR, the Neuros OSD - which is *exactly* what I imagined - a video DSP to record the input and spit digital to a USB stick, SD card, etc. It, of course, turned up a lot later, but the concepts were not new. What was new, perhaps, was the miniscule power consumption. It was a choice between that and a harddisc-enabled DVD recorder. I *so* made the right choice!

Therefore, how is the idea of using digital means to record telly not obvious? The main hurdle, frankly, was waiting for the hardware to catch up with imagination.

Tivo, on the other hand, can claim some degree of innovation not just with a much better scheduling system than the likes of Sky's EPG, but also with making it friendly enough that people would be willing to pay for it. I wonder, though, if some of the innovations are also fairly obvious? Sky's EPG allows for linking and scheduling, and if they had decided on increased metadata, I don't doubt it wouldn't be too hard for a Digibox to "suggest" programmes you might like based on what you're watching, stuff like that. But no, it seems like Sky's EPG is pretty much aimed at the lowest common denominator. I was given a Sky+ box. Can't use it, don't have a Sky+ subscription (and unlikely, given I live in France). It works as a power-hungry 'normal' Digibox. I'm a little upset to see that ten years down the line, the EPG hasn't changed one single bit. <sigh>

But hey, if Tivo want to believe they *invented* the digital video recorder, then go for it. Doesn't really bother me. ;-)

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