Rovi’s Got the Content, But Will the Customers Follow?


Rovi (s ROVI) (formerly Macrovision) arrived at CES this week with its new TotalGuide digital programming guide (formerly “Liquid”) and a slew of new content partners, hoping to win over the hearts and minds of CE manufacturers looking for a way to integrate traditional TV content alongside that of broadband video.

Rovi named 20 new content partners that are integrating with TotalGuide, including Showtime Networks, ZillionTV, and Rhapsody in the U.S. as well as a long list of European-based firms. They join existing content providers like CBS (s CBS), Blockbuster (s BBI), YouTube (s GOOG) and Roxio CinemaNow (s SNIC).

Rovi hopes to become the default programming guide for the next generation of HDTVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes. In order to reach that goal, it’s positioning itself against companies like TiVo (s TIVO), Boxee and others that hope to provide the user interface for a variety of connected devices.

The difference is that TotalGuide will integrate cable and broadband video content side-by-side, in a single unified interface. But more importantly, the product can be used as a search and discovery guide for that content, regardless of the delivery. And via user reviews and metadata from partners like Flixster, TotalGuide offers social recommendations for video viewing.

Corey Ferengul, Rovi’s EVP of marketing and product management, said in an interview with NewTeeVee that while the programming guide it offers is typically associated with the TV Guide broadcast and cable listings that appear on any usual set-top box, TotalGuide goes above and beyond that. “What [TotalGuide] is all about is saying, ‘What about all the broadband content you have available? How do we get content like that built into a Blu-ray player or built into a TV directly?'” Ferengul said.

But will CE manufacturers be interested? Up until now, integrating new over-the-top content into connected devices was an ad hoc process between the CE companies and their content partners, which frequently had to build custom implementations and user interfaces for each new web-based service. By aggregating multiple content sources, Rovi can provide flexibility for CE makers by allowing them to pick and choose which ones they want to support.

But it better act fast — with new standards and new companies emerging to conquer the same problem, Rovi’s window to make headway in this sector may be limited. Already we’ve seen multiple device makers choose Vudu to provide the interface for Web-based video services on their devices, and other CE manufacturers are bound to start making similar decisions soon.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Macrovision Becomes Rovi, Launches Liquid



Life is not a bed of roses for Rovi.

Rovi faces a chicken egg dilemma – do they need enough devices to sign up first or do they cook up descent hybrid program guides (broadband and broadcast) first?

With internet leveling the metadata playing field (the monopoly of proprietary TV Guide data transmission having disappeared), Rovi has to figure out new business models to survive on the device end.

Add to it Rovi’s fascination for Adobe Flash/Stagecraft technology, and the fact that this will add a buck or two in license fees for devices..Rovi better find ways to offer affordable iCandy.

Garrett Colburn

@Davis. I completely agree that it will come down to what consumers want (mixed with what the manufacturers are going to do because they think that’s what the consumer wants). The manufacturers who partner with Rovi or Vudu or anyone else aren’t likely to promote that partnership to consumers. Instead, they will promote the actual content made available through that partnership. Rovi and Vudu do the work of bringing the content to the manufacturers and the manufacturers will showcase the entertainment or functionality available on their device. Of course, it is up to Rovi and others to innovate in the content they make available and how they do so. The alternative for manufacturers is partnering with individual content providers on their own, which many have already done. Unless they are prepared to develop a content platform on their own, the ability to partner is an appealing option to bringing a differentiating level of content. There are a lot of things happening and it’s getting fun…..

Davis Freeberg

I’m not sure that I would categorize Macrovision as being well positioned. In fact, I’d suggest the exact opposite. They have a legacy business that is quickly coming under attack from outside innovators like Netflix, Boxee, DivX, TiVo, Etc. There’s no upside for them because previously they had an iron grip on this market. Now that their patents don’t have any weight and the entertainment landscape is unstable, they must reinvent their brand after consumers already hate them for their lousy past products and their support for DRM. In other words, the market is theirs to lose not to win and while their long term relationships with Hollywood studios will let them in the game, it won’t stop the studios from also partnering with people like Vudu, Move Networks, Microsoft or Apple. At the end of the day, it will come down to what consumers want and I don’t know a single person whose ever bought a product because there was a Rovi label on it. Unless they can better differentiate their brand, the CE players will see right through this and abandon them for sleeker sexier brands.

Davis Freeberg
Technology Enthusiast

Garrett Colburn

Rovi and Vudu are well positioned, under a few circumstances. They have the advantage of easy access into mainstream consumers homes through ubiquitous brand name TVs. Looking at the direction of all major manufacturers, it seems pretty clear that new TVs are going to introduce new types of content and new viewing experiences. The speed of adoption and the extent to which consumers use new features will be dependent on the simplicity of the entire product experience (from early research, to purchase, setup and use).

Manufacturers, Rovi and Vudu are also all going to have to understand how and WHY people are going to find, access and interact with content in new ways on the TV. Applications on handsets provide portability and immediate access to information or entertainment. TVs are and will always be different types of screens that demand different types of interactions (social, family time, etc.).

Garrett Colburn
Research Analyst

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