TiVo Eyes Future After Buying Aereo.com for $1 Million

Tom Rogers - H 2014
AP Images/Invision

Tom Rogers - H 2014

Pending a bankruptcy judge's approval, TiVo is about to become the proud owner of Aereo's trademarks, domain names and customer lists.

The DVR pioneer emerged the winner of an auction that was held last week after Aereo lost at the U.S. Supreme Court and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Aereo, which once envisioned revolutionizing television only to fall short on its copyright theories, put its assets up for sale to pay off $4.2 million in undisputed liabilities.

There were 11 bidders, but none of them wanted to buy the antennas that had made Aereo famous and even triggered objection by broadcasters over the sale. RPX Corporation submitted a winning bid of $225,000 for Aereo's patents while Alliance Technology Solutions is spending $320,000 for certain Aereo equipment. The big prize of Aereo's trademarks, domain names and customer lists went to TiVo for $1 million.

TiVo has been developing analogous technologies to Aereo's for a few years and figures to be competing against companies like Dish for cord-cutting consumers. Now it has in its portfolio Aereo.com and the names of about 100,000 customers who signed up to get broadcast channels on digital devices.

Tom Rogers, chief executive at TiVo, hasn't run from Aereo comparisons. He just thinks his company's product is better.

"I was surprised how much non-legal press, broad consumer press, that [Aereo] story was getting in terms of over-the-air channels and having some recording ability for them," he told Fast Company last year. "People viewed Aereo as such a technology advance, but from the consumer's point of view, [our product] ends up a at a better place."

After the Aereo auction, Rogers elaborated on Tivo's plans in a talk with financial analysts.

"We have a much more extensive offering than what Aereo had, which was principally a way to record over-the-air channels," he said. "We integrate over-the-top with over-the-air into a much more comprehensive offering with a far more sophisticated user experience that we think not only drives the value proposition that Aereo didn’t, but truly is in sync with where the ecosystem is going."

As for Aereo, there's no more talk of getting salvation from the FCC.

In the latest court documents, the debtor outlines plans for setting up a Liquidation Trustee who will dissolve and wind down Aereo's business.

One of the key tasks of this individual will be figuring out a way to end the ongoing legal battles with broadcasters, who are still demanding damages for copyright infringement. Under the new plan, the Liquidation Trustee has authority to make any settlement up to $1 million with anything more needing to be approved by the bankruptcy judge.

Is there any leverage? Well, broadcasters can spend a lot of legal fees pursuing damages from Aereo (and maybe its officers) or they can decide to move on. There's also another nugget from Aereo's new bankruptcy plan. According to court papers, the debtor preserves "any claims against the Broadcasters for antitrust violations, tortious interference with economic advantage and equitable subordination."

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner