The TiVo brand includes the DVR as well as the TiVo service. TiVo refers to its DVR as the TiVo "box," and the TiVo service is the interface customers navigate through to choose which programs to record and watch. Basically the big perks of TiVo are the ease of recording, skipping commercials, and the ability to pause and play back live TV. (The most played-back moment ever recorded by the company was Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 American Super Bowl.)
TiVo took its new product to market with a brand that balked at technology. As innovative as the technology was, all aspects of the brand were—and still are—friendly, fun, and approachable. The logo is a cute cartoon character, shaped like a TV with an antenna (a feature now, in fact, absent on modern televisions), and a slight smile. The interface of the TiVo service is almost juvenile with fun, bold colors and a signature "bloop" that sounds when navigating. The language is void of jargon, with feature names that include "WishList" and "SeasonPass," and symbols like a thumbs up and thumbs down.
Even the brand's messaging is personal and steers clear of technology. The tagline is simply "TiVo, TV your way." And don't bother searching for significance in the name. The reason why may best be summed up by Mike Ramsay's statement: "TiVo doesn't stand for anything, it's just a fun little word we made up."
TiVo takes its brand values seriously, and it goes beyond just the product. The TiVo website is just as easy to use and read as the service's interface. It's full of information about the product, company, and brand. The company also holds promotions that match the overall fun feel of the brand. Recently, TiVo held a mock funeral for VCRs at an industry event. People who showed up with a videocassette could trade it in for a TiVo box.
The press raves about the brand, the tech world is impressed by the product, and customers simply love everything about it. (For what it's worth, a survey of customers conducted by TiVo itself a couple of years ago found that more than 98 percent of TiVo subscribers "couldn't live without" the TiVo service, and another 40 percent surveyed said they would sooner disconnect their cell phone than unplug their TiVo.) TiVo would have it all if it weren't for the lack of profits and steep competition that continue to hold the company back from being a complete success story.
Financially, the easy-to-love brand has yet to make a profit. The company went public in 1999. In early 2000 the stock was at US $80 (NASDAQ: TIVO). At the time of this article the stock was under US $6. TiVo charges between US $50 and $150 for the box and $12.95 a month or $299 for a lifetime fee for the service. It increases subscriptions each year (it currently has four million subscribers), but that doesn't turn a profit.
And with more competition entering the market, TiVo's value continues to be questioned. Case in point, in early 2005, DirecTV had a strong partnership with TiVo, offering TiVo with its satellite TV service. This year DirecTV announced that it was going to offer its own brand of DVR, which means no more TiVo-branded boxes for DirecTV customers. (DirecTV still offers the TiVo service despite going with its own hardware.)
As friendly as the TiVo brand is, this year proves that the brand is going after the competition hard. It has recently formed partnerships with major brands, which it hopes will continue to strengthen the TiVo brand. Early this year TiVo partnered with Comcast Cable to offer its services—a big deal considering cable distributors are expected to be TiVo's next big competition.
To broaden the brand's mobile appeal, TiVo has partnered with Yahoo! to enhance its scheduling service. Yahoo! users can schedule shows to be recorded on their TiVo from anywhere they access Yahoo! TV. Also, the TiVoToGo service allows customers to download content to their PCs. Now TiVo has announced partnerships with Apple and Sony. TiVo users will be able to download content onto their Apple iPods and Sony PSPs.
TiVo has even managed to partner with one market that has never been a big fan of the idea: advertisers. TiVo will soon offer targeted marketing so customers can choose to see advertisements they'd otherwise fast-forward through. For example, customers in the market for a car can choose to record vehicle commercials. This is scheduled for spring 2006.
These partnerships will undoubtedly continue to strengthen TiVo, but the brand has been strong since conception and yet hasn't been able to help the company turn a profit. Cable companies muscle TiVo off the playing field by bundling services. Meanwhile, with customers, two major complaints are that not all TiVo boxes are compatible with high-definition television and you can't record two shows at once. TiVo may want to improve the technology that the brand is based on before its competition does it first.
The fear among analysts is that TiVo, undoubtedly a strong brand, is another classic example of a pioneer paving the path only to be steamrolled by the competition. But analysts also predict plenty of room for growth in the DVR market. The innovative ideas the brand has dished out in this year alone show promise. And after almost a decade, it still gains recognition. Online-based media company CNET just named TiVo one of the ten best technology innovations of the last decade.