Some may forget the impact TiVo had on the psyche of the advertising and television industries when it first came on the scene in the the late 1990s -- but much like today's mobile and Web ad blockers, it was seen as an existential threat.
Still, TiVo’s brand recognition outstrips its reality, and outsiders and insiders alike believe it needs a new strategic path to remain relevant. The company boasts nearly 6 million subscribers worldwide, but the penetration of TiVo devices in the U.S. is mired at around 2 million, down from a high of more than 4 million in 2006.
Earlier this year, the company introduced a new, sleekly designed Bolt model that gives users more control over skipping blocks of advertising time. And while the company is sitting on a pile of cash following a number of patent litigation settlements, it has not found a way to use the money to meaningfully grow its revenues. Insiders said this issue led to a confrontation between Rogers and TiVo’s board that precipitated his resignation.
Rogers steps down from his position as one of TiVo’s largest shareholders, with an estimated 5% of its stock, and will continue as non-executive chairman of its board. But the real focus is on his succession scenario, because the next CEO likely will put a new strategic direction on the company.
Among the candidates rumored to be considered are internal members of the team, including CFO Naveen Chopra and Frank Foster, a long-time advertising, technology and research executive who joined as head of TiVo’s research division. In a bold move out of the gate, Foster developed a new entry-level pricing strategy to get new customers to begin using TiVo’s audience ratings data: free.
This strategy recognizes that even though some industry execs value TiVo’s ability to tie audience exposure to product usage, the ratings product hasn’t had much uptake. By giving the basic ratings away for free, TiVo hopes to generate sampling and upsell subscribers on premium research.
That is just one of several potential new revenue streams for TiVo, which is also eyeing new technology, devices and relationships covering the spectrum from broadcasters and cable networks to new consumer-facing technologies, and even white-labeled versions for big brand marketers who want to leverage it as a content discovery engine to build new markets with consumers.
Among the external names being mentioned as a possible successor to Rogers are Kurt Binder, the CFO of digital TV manufacturer Vizio.
Another position TiVo will be looking to fill is on its board. According to executives familiar with the situation, long-time Rogers loyalist Tom Wolzien has stepped down as one of eight independent members of the TiVo board following Rogers’ resignation as CEO.