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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Why Isn't TiVo/Unbox Taking Off?

I had lunch in San Francisco yesterday with Macrovision CEO Fred Amoroso and the company's chief evangelist, Richard Bullwinkle.

As is often the case with these lunches, the best discussion happens after the dishes have been cleared, after my lunch companions have gotten their marketing messages out, and after the coffee has arrived. I asked Richard, who used to be TiVo's chief evangelist, why the combination of TiVo and Amazon's Unbox didn't seem to be taking off.

Essentially, months before Apple started selling AppleTV, Amazon and TiVo got together to make it possible for users of Amazon's Unbox download service to have movies sent directly to their TiVo boxes. All you need is a TiVo Series 2 or 3 device, connected to your high-speed home network. Unlike AppleTV, you don't need to buy a new dedicated device to bring Internet content to the TV.

Problem #1, according to Richard, is that 20 percent or fewer of TiVo's users have connected their box to a broadband connection. That's strange, he said, because running the phone banks that TiVo boxes dial into to get program information and advertising is one of the company's biggest operating costs. Why isn't there an incentive that TiVo offers -- maybe a free wireless adapter, or one month of free service? -- to get people to conect their TiVos to a broadband network?

Second, while both companies are promoting the offering on their Web site, there hasn't been any high-profile promotion beyond that. Contrast that with Apple's hype and advertising around AppleTV.

Third (and this was my contribution to the coffee talk), you'd think the studios would want to work with -- and possibly co-promote -- Unbox, just so that Apple/iTunes doesn't wind up as the only game in town for movie downloading. They need multiple marketplaces, each with the ability to connect with the TV set.

Your take?

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