Macrovision Becomes Rovi, Steps Into Liquid

RoviThe company formerly known as Macrovision, in an effort to rebrand itself for the mashup world of social media, over-the-top video and pay TV, relaunched today as Rovi (s ROVI). The new company, whose shares will trade under the symbol ROVI on the Nasdaq, will attempt to tie together its string of acquisitions over the past few years and refashion itself as a one-stop software shop for on-screen guides in the new world of integrated media.

Macrovision was never a household name, but that’s probably a good thing given its legacy business in that pesky realm of copy protection. The company has been the biggest player in disc copy protection for DVDs, with its legacy ACP copy protection as well as some of its more recent efforts with RipGuard.

Consumers probably recognize its on-screen guides, however. Acquired through its acquisition of Gemstar-TV Guide, those on-screen grids which many of us scroll through to find and discover shows are in over 24 million homes. It also owns AMG, one of the leading providers of metadata to iTunes or others.

The New Company

But the company has seen the future, and its networked. To usher in this new age of connected media, Rovi has announced a new guide called Liquid. Targeted at makers of web-connected HDTVs and Blu-ray players, Liquid will allow companies to integrate pay-TV services through the traditional Gemstar grid guide, but includes modules for broadband video and personal content as well.

For online video, the company has partnered with Blockbuster (s BBI) to integrate Blockbuster OnDemand, and will integrate YouTube XL and CinemaNow.

The guide will also be social. Rovi’s first partnership here is with Flixster, an online movie recommendation sharing site, and over time Rovi expects to integrate more technology partners to make viewing TV –- both the traditional pay-TV and newteevee types –- more social through recommendation, favoriting and personalization.

The Verdict

Given its mixture of assets, Liquid is a good first step for the newly renamed company. It takes Rovi’s many ingredients to make integrated viewing across different media types necessary — its flagship programming guides, home network software to connect devices and metadata to correctly identify content, are all combined into one product. This makes a lot of sense, and it positions Rovi as a strong partner for consumer electronics companies looking to integrate the various worlds of traditional TV, newteevee and personal content.

However, before a verdict can be delivered on the new company and media guide, Rovi needs to show more in the way of web-service integration and hardware partner wins.

Flixster is OK, but everyone will want to tie Facebook and possibly Twitter recommendations into their viewing experience. Blockbuster OnDemand? Meh. Give me Amazon (s AMZN) or Hulu, or at the very least, Netflix (s NFLX).

As for partners, I’d like to see some big consumer electronics names before I know if Liquid will be a success. All of the big names in the CE space have either announced or are already shipping web-connected HDTVs and BD-Live enabled Blu-ray players. A guide like this could be a very good complement for software-challenged CE companies.

Going forward, Rovi’s challenge will be to ride its cash-cow businesses in grid guides and content protection until the new world of connected entertainment provides enough of a market to sustain entirely new businesses. The company is well positioned to do it, so we just need to see if it can execute.

You can read my analysis of Macrovision’s makeover as Rovi and other connected home topics over at GigaOM Pro, our subscription research service.