TiVo built its business selling physical DVRs, but now it wants to sell pay-TV operators on technologies that would eliminate the need to send hardware into consumers’ homes.
The company is showing a prototype of a network DVR — which provides access to recordings and guide features from the “cloud,” on multiple devices — at the 2014 International CES this week in Las Vegas. TiVo declined to identify which pay-TV operators it is working with on cloud-based DVR implementations, or when those might launch.
In the U.S., the first major network DVR implementation was by Cablevision Systems, which was sued by TV programmers, studios and other content owners before the Remote Storage DVR even launched. The case was settled in 2008, with the Supreme Court declining to overturn a lower court’s ruling that the RS-DVR didn’t violate copyright laws.
Meanwhile, TiVo has been aggressive on the patent-litigation front, and has successfully negotiated settlements totaling more than $1.6 billion with Dish Network, Verizon, AT&T, Google (which was pulled into the lawsuit vortex when it purchased Motorola) and Cisco Systems. TiVo also resolved its suit against Time Warner Cable.
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TiVo is on firm patent ground in helping operators deploy network DVRs, said Joshua Danovitz, TiVo’s VP of innovation. “I know of nothing we need” in terms of patents, he said. “You can be sure that we, as always, have been diligent in filing and protecting ourselves. We’ve been around for a long time. We have a lot of IP [intellectual property] and technology in general.”
It’s worth noting that Cablevision is the last big pay-TV player that has not reached some kind of business arrangement or legal settlement with TiVo. According to TiVo, as of January 2013, it owned 306 U.S. and foreign patents and had approximately 428 patent applications pending.
The pitch to cable operators is that the TiVo network DVR “accelerates the deployment of no-capex and low-capex clients,” Danovitz said. The NDVR system will extend TiVo service and user experience on multiple devices, including Roku set-tops (pictured above) and Apple iOS devices.
TiVo’s NDVR offering will focus on three areas: infrastructure integration to connect the necessary back-end storage and transcoders for a network DVR; application programming interfaces for client devices; and controls for managing content rights and multiscreen policies.