TiVo: Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

Digital video recording pioneer TiVo just can’t seem to shake its good news, bad news reputation.

Investors have found a lot to like about TiVo this year, bidding its stock up more than 50% to more than $10 a share. It has struck deals to add its best-in-class software to DirecTV set-top boxes, Comcast and other providers. It’s won important patent-infringement lawsuits against Echostar’s Dish Network, and is pursuing similar relief from AT&T and Verizon.

On Nov. 24, there was more good news. TiVo will develop a converged television and broadband interactive interface to power Virgin Media’s next-generation, high-definition set top boxes, including non-DVR units.And it announced it had struck a deal to provide audience research data to Google for use in its TV ads platform.

But it was tempered by a third-quarter earnings report the same day that revealed the company continues its money-losing ways. True, the net loss of $6.7 million was better than management’s guidance range of loss of $8 million to $10 million. But revenue of $47.1 million was below consensus forecasts of $49.7 million. The company also lost a whopping 314,000 subscribers.

It’s clear that 2010 will be a pivotal year for TiVo. It will need to bolster its armor by finally getting the long-delayed DirecTV HD TiVo onto the market. It will need to extract more licensing deals with set-top box makers around the world.

More important,it will have to invest millions more in engineering resources to upgrade a user interface that hasn’t changed substantially in 10 years. With other companies moving to widgets and other pictorial interfaces that offer simpler navigation and search, the one-time innovator risks getting lost in the shuffle.

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