Disney content bound for TiVo

DVR pioneer also announces first-quarter profit

TiVo will offer on-demand Disney content later this year, and the company turned a surprise first-quarter profit, the DVR pioneer said Wednesday.

The Disney deal, which will operate through CinemaNow, means that TiVo can offer movies-on-demand from all the major studios, given that the other studios were previously available through TiVo's relationship with Amazon.com's Unbox.

Like most of the other online content TiVo has been lining up, such as YouTube videos and various podcasts, the Disney content will be available only to standalone TiVo subscribers with broadband Internet connections.

TiVo also confirmed Wednesday that it struck a deal with the Chicago Tribune to feature picks from its popular TV critic, Maureen Ryan, and make it easy for TiVo standalone subscribers to record her recommendations.

That relationship also has the Chicago Tribune marketing TiVo throughout the newspaper. TiVo's director of special markets John Reynolds said TiVo is in discussions with other newspapers for similar deals.

On the earnings front, TiVo posted a profit of $3.6 million while analysts expected a small loss. Net revenue grew a modest 1% to $60.8 million, while the more important service and technology revenue fell 6% to $54.9 million.

TiVo shares, which were down 2% during regular trading, rebounded in the after-hours session, then sunk again.

TiVo-owned subscriptions, or those not combined with DirecTV or Comcast, were flat at 1.7 million while total subscriptions fell from 4.3 million a year ago to 3.8 million. The 12% drop is due to TiVo's waning relationship with DirecTV.

TiVo CEO Tom Rogers said the drop was expected, as Comcast has been rolling out TiVo at a very slow pace and, in fact, has only made the service available to a small portion of Comcast subscribers. A bigger push from Comcast, though, is expected by year's end.

Also of interest to TiVo investors is the ongoing legal struggle with Dish Network. TiVo is trying to convince a judge that Dish should disable all its DVRs or pay TiVo a licensing fee.

While TiVo keeps winning legal victories that look good on paper, Dish has successfully avoided paying any concessions to TiVo. The two parties could next face a judge on Friday.

During a conference call with analysts Wednesday, Rogers and other TiVo executives refused to shed much light on the Dish-TiVo legal saga that has dragged on for more than four years.

Rogers began Wednesday's call by announcing the death Tuesday of Charles Fruit, a TiVo board member since 2004. A former marketing executive with Coca-Cola, Roberts credited Fruit with advancing TiVo's relationships with some of the world's biggest advertising firms.