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Report: TiVo to Give Away Boxes

27 Feb, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Digital video recording pioneer TiVo Inc. Feb. 27 said it may begin offering free set-top boxes in select markets as part of multifaceted initiatives designed to increase subscribers and be more “responsive” to consumers.

“We're continuing to pursue the prospects of zero upfront and all upfront pricing,” TiVo CEO Tom Rogers reportedly told a Reuters technology summit.

The Alviso, Calif.-based service, which charges about $13 per month to record customized TV play lists, has about 4 million subscribers — of which more than 60% are affiliated with DirecTV. The satellite TV provider has announced plans to introduce a proprietary DVR player.

Rogers said the company is in discussions with cable operators, including Comcast Communications, to provide a TiVo software upgrade to the companies' generic DVRs.

Independent media analyst Dennis McAlpine wasn't sure why Comcast would take on a software upgrade from TiVo for DVR boxes manufactured by third party Scientific Atlanta.

“Is SA going to be happy putting TiVo software in their hardware?” asked McAlpine.

That said, McAlpine said he wouldn't underestimate Rogers, a former NBC executive, and his ability to improve TiVo's fortunes, including convincing consumers a generic DVR is not like TiVo.

“Tom knows what he is doing,” McAlpine said. “As dim as the outlook is right now [for TiVo] he could put on a white hat and come to the rescue.”

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