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CES: TiVo's great American bailout plan

January 10, 2009 |  8:27 am

LAS VEGAS -- On Oct. 9, the day the Dow dropped 679 points, TiVo deposited a check for $100 million. The company had just won a hard-fought battle against Echostar, whose digital video recorders were found to infringe on TiVo's patents.

"I think we were the only company doing high-fives that day," TiVo Chief Executive Tom Rogers said during an interview at this week's Consumer Electronics Show.

TiVo, whose name has become synonymous with devices that automatically record TV shows with minimal fussing from users, is the comeback kid of technology. Just three years ago, the Alviso, Calif., company was on a death watch, having lost a critical partnership to provide recorders for DirecTV customers. TiVo was fast running out of cash and out of options.

During its darkest hours in 2005, the company picked a new CEO: Rogers, who had founded CNBC as president of NBC Cable. He began to lash together...

... business deals to help bolster the foundering company. His strategy was two-pronged: Land more services to increase the value of the TiVo device, and find cable partners to distribute the TiVo service to subscribers for a licensing fee.

He slowly made headway on both fronts, adding RealNetworks' Rhapsody music streaming service, Amazon's Video on Demand service with access to more than 40,000 movies and TV shows, Google's YouTube videos and Netflix's Instant Watch video streaming service. He also signed deals with cable companies Comcast and Cox Communications. And the relationship with DirecTV, which is now under new management by John Malone's Liberty Media, is back on track; TiVo provides the DVRs for the satellite TV company's subscribers.

Today, TiVo is debt-free, has $200 million in cash and is expected to post its first profitable year when its books close at the end of January.

"There were so many people who counted us out strategically and financially," Rogers said. "We've gone from being a technology pioneer to a commodity and back to an innovator again."

Now, TiVo is trying to convince consumers that it can help bail them out of the economic doldrums by saving them "millions." "By that, we mean millions of pieces of content that families can enjoy for free at home," Rogers said. To hear Rogers' full pitch, click on the video above.

-- Alex Pham

Video by Alex Pham / Los Angeles Times