TiVo Updates Set-Top Boxes in Bid to Boost Retail Sales

TiVo Inc., looking to stem a decline in retail sales of its digital video recorders, introduced new set-top boxes that offer more storage space and greater ability to stream shows to mobile devices.

The Roamio line, which goes on sale today, replaces TiVo’s Premiere models with features like Wi-fi that were previously sold separately, according to a statement. A faster processor means services like Netflix will take less time to appear on screens, and customers can record as many as six programs at a time, storing as much as 450 hours of HD content.

“We asked ourselves, if you just want to have the best TV experience possible, what can we do?” Jim Denny, vice president of product marketing at San Jose, California-based TiVo, said in an interview.

The pioneer of ad-skipping DVRs sells its own set-top boxes and also licenses its technology to pay-TV providers such as DirecTV and Comcast Corp. that rent units to subscribers. To shore up the slowing retail business, TiVo is selling customers a box that offers the latest viewing technologies for $200 to $600, plus a monthly service fee of $15.

Included in all three Roamio models is Wi-fi, which used to cost $90 as a separate accessory. The two higher-priced units also include Stream, a $130 add-on that previously let users view content on tablets and smartphones in the home. Now it will deliver some shows and near-live TV outside the home, similar to the Slingbox feature on Dish Network Corp.’s Hopper, according to Denny. The Premiere model sells for $150 to $400, with fewer features.

‘Viewing Experience’

TiVo rose 4.7 percent to $10.98 at 11:13 a.m. in New York, after touching $10.99 for the biggest intraday gain in more than two months. Through yesterday, the shares had declined 15 percent this year.

The company has lost retail customers as pay-TV services offer more streaming and on-demand video options, and develop mobile software for so-called TV Everywhere viewing seen on Apple Inc. iPads and Android devices.

As of April 30, 1 million customers had their own TiVo set-top box, a drop of 14 percent since July 2011. Those who use TiVo software through monthly pay-TV accounts increased by 277,000 during the first quarter.

Retail sales are important for TiVo’s profitability because the company receives a higher share of service revenue than from partnerships with pay-TV providers. The newest machines also provide a platform for the company to promote its latest technology, Chief Executive Officer Tom Rogers said in June.

The Roamio also acts as a server that can download Web applications and send shows to smaller companion boxes throughout the home.

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