Murdoch Keeps Finger On TiVo's Pause Button

Just days after announcing an important milestone - achieving the 1 million subscriber penetration mark - the future of still nascent PVR marketer TiVo remains uncertain. The man who holds the key to that future - News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch - sent a tepid signal to investors and Wall Street analysts Wednesday during a conference call announcing News Corp.'s third quarter earnings.

Asked by an analyst about the future of TiVo following News Corp.'s acquisition of Hughes Electronics Corp., Murdoch implied its is very much still up in the air.

"We're looking at it very closely," he said, indicating that News Corp. is still torn between the PRVs developed by its own NDS Group PLC and TiVo, which has a partnership with Hughes' DirecTV unit.

"Maybe we'll be offering both," Murdoch said. "There's been no decision taken on that."

If Murdoch's plans are unsure, at least DirecTV's have not been. The satellite TV provider recently stepped up the marketing of the TiVo service, offering consumer promotions for steeply discounted boxes and offering to wave charges for servicing additional TiVo boxes for new subscribers.

In fact, TiVo has been key to DirecTV's overall marketing strategy and it has helped give it a leg up in its market share battle with satellite rival Dish Network - which has sped DVR deployment among its customers with its own unit - and against cable providers, which have begun to offer their customers Motorola and Scientific Atlantic PVRs.

For TiVo, the story's about numbers. The San Jose, Calif., company announced Tuesday that it had reached one million subscribers about a month ahead of projections. TiVo had 793,000 subscribers as late as July 31. The quarter ended July 31, which is the latest data available, logged 56,000 new DirecTV users on board, compared to 34,000 standalone subscriptions.

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