Tuesday, March 22, 2005


A New "Blue Ocean Strategy" for TiVo: CoTiVo

To win big TiVo must be more than just a premium feature offered by Comcast and other distributors. TiVo needs a new way to stand out. Being better than Brand X (like Apple) gives them a niche, but to really be a power they must be more than just a better box, or another feature offered by Comcast and other distributors. CoTiVo is a new way to extend Tivo's Tahiti strategy beyond their proprietary set-top/media center boxes, into profitable waters in which the cable and satellite guys will be out of their depth.

TiVo began with a classic "blue ocean strategy" that created a new market space based on a new user value proposition ("TV your way") in which competition was largeley irrelevant. But the competition is now out in force. TiVo needs to change the game again, to find a new blue ocean.

They have a half step to this in their Tahiti strategy, which they say provides "an easy way to find and control content from any broadcast or broadband source." "TiVo's product and service platform will offer consumers broader choice in programming and the convenience to take their favorite shows with them to enjoy anywhere they choose." This could be a brilliant start toward what Joe Uva (President of ad giant OMD, and a TiVo board member) calls "the media concierge."

What is missing is removing this concierge from dependence on the TiVo/set-top box, and making it platform agnostic -- a distributed, Web-centered service, that can serve all users, with any kind of set-top boxes (STBs), and for all of their media. This ties in with the kind of cross-device TV+PC/Web services that I have described as coactive TV -- thus "CoTiVo."

Such a CoTiVo service could reach a mass market far beyond any realistic hope for TiVo boxes, or for TiVo software on other people's STBs -- and could move TiVo into a central and highly profitable role as the media concierge service for all of our boxes. (It could also enhance the market for TiVo boxes or TiVo STB software as a preferred device for all users of CoTiVo services.) By moving beyond the set-top box into a Web-based, cross-platform media concierge business, TiVo could sail away from the battle of the boxes (and a distributor-dominated margin squeeze) into a large blue ocean of services that cable and satellite companies are poorly equipped to compete in or put pressure on.


Have you actually read any news reports on what TIVO is developing for Comcast? They are making their software downloadable on existing set top boxes. Isn't this what you are proposing by saying let's make the Tivo box agnostic? Tivo not only has plans to offer a PC based download of their software, but currently they are the entertainment gateway for a little over a million subscribers. No matter what solution you are looking for, you'll need a box whether it's a computer, a PVR, a cable box or a portable media player. Tivo's plans to offer service to the Scientific Atlantic, Motorola, PC and their current stand alone offerings seems to show that they are in fact already box agnostic.
Yes, that is a great half step. But it does me no good if I use Time-Warner, or any device that does not license TiVo software.

Nore importantly, I want to be able to plan my viewing from a PC (or phone or PDA, in addition to a TV), and use that to control any STB or media player.

Why should my media use planning work be restricted to the device(s) I ultimately consume the media on? That is the most important level of box agnosticism. Netflix is a good example of the power of a media concierge that is independent of the consumption device -- and a service a TiVo concierge service could readily subsume (and may be part of their current plans). What about recommending VOD offerings (that need not be recorded on a DVR), or items from my own DVD collection, or even theatrical movie planning/ticketing? The TV is a poor UI device for most of that.

And again, I should be able to use all of that with my non-TiVo-software-equipped boxes (but perhaps not quite as seamlessly and richly). That is how TiVo can serve ALL consumers, and still upsell a subset to get their premium fees.
While CoTiVo sounds interesting in theory, I simply cant understand the practical implementation you are suggesting. How exactly is TiVo going to deliver any value in terms of media consumption if its not integrated with the set-top / TV? How is it going to provide value to a Time Warner subscriber if Time Warner hasnt opened up its set-top platform to a TiVo integration? Kinda sounds like you are proposing TiVo simply act as a big web-based recommendation engine - and thats not exactly defensible, is it?
Interesting questions, New York.

1. Integration can be at more basic levels. Any DVR with a Web scheduling feature can be loosely integrated without any vendor cooperation by using a "screen-scraper" interface that would let CoTiVo automate the scheduling for the user. Even without that CoTiVo could provide a pick list of shows to be scheduled manually, ordered by time and channel to make it easy -- it is deciding WHAT to schedule that is the hard part. (And if such services gain a following, the vendors will be more inclined to cooperate on interfaces.)

2. Defensibility can come from quality, scope, functionality, service -- and from having a dominant mass of partipants to share recommendations with -- the same way eBay and Yahoo are defensible.
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