TiVo cuts loss after court win

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He stopped short of calling them liars, but TiVo CEO Tom Rogers said he's "very, very skeptical" of claims by EchoStar executives that they have deployed a workaround technology that no longer infringes TiVo's DVR patents.

The CEO, speaking Wednesday during a conference call with analysts to discuss quarterly financial results, said that most of the claims EchoStar has made during their multiyear legal dispute have been "totally incorrect."

TiVo won an appeals ruling in January that upheld what has grown into a $94 million award to be paid by EchoStar, which is now two companies, EchoStar Corp. and Dish Network.

That award is still being disputed by EchoStar, which says that the DVRs that the courts ruled it must disable no longer infringe TiVo's patents because they have been upgraded with new software.

On the earnings front, TiVo reported a net loss of $6.36 million in its fiscal fourth quarter ending Jan. 31, an improvement over a loss of $19.5 million in the same quarter a year ago and better than analysts had predicted. Revenue, though, fell 3.6% to $74.1 million.

Service and technology revenue, which strips out sales of TiVo hardware, rose to $58.1 million from $57 million a year ago.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, on an adjusted basis, were $1 million compared with a loss of $15 million a year ago.

TiVo, as expected, lost subscribers, mostly because DirecTV-TiVo users have been upgrading their standard-definition TiVo's for HD boxes made by NDS Corp.

Although it added 109,000 gross TiVo-owned subscribers, the TiVo-owned base grew only slightly to 1.75 million. Cumulative total subscriptions shrunk from 4.44 million a year ago to 3.95 million, after accounting for DirecTV losses and a small number of additions from TiVo's relationship with Comcast.

Comcast and TiVo struck a deal years ago for the cabler to offer TiVo to its subscribers via a software upgrade, but Comcast just began deploying the technology recently and only in New England.

TiVo has a similar relationship with Cox, and Rogers said Wednesday that Cox has recently begun testing the service, also in New England.

TiVo shares dropped more than 10% on Tuesday, a day before its earnings release, prompting Bear Stearns analyst Kunal Madhukar to declare: "Jitters create buying opportunity."

It was a prescient call, as TiVo rose 1.4% Wednesday and as much as 4% more after the closing bell when its financial results were released. Madhukar has a $14 price target on shares that closed Wednesday at $8.14.

Madhukar is bullish on a positive resolution -- likely some time this year -- to the EchoStar patent infringement lawsuit and on TiVo's advertising and audience measurement businesses.

Along those lines, TiVo also said Wednesday that Omnicom Media Group has purchased a subscription to its Stop//Watch service, which provides second-by-second data on the behavior of TV viewers who use DVRs.
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