BROOKLYN -- TiVo is getting Tebowed.
The DVR pioneer, onthe comeback trail after losing subscribers in recent years, is turningto the NFL's Tim Tebow to spread the company gospel. TiVo hired thefamous backup quarterback of the New York Jets as its brand ambassador -and not just because of the similar sound to their names.
"Thename connection is cool, but I'm not sure that's much of a reason tocreate a relationship like that," says TiVo CEO Tom Rogers, who admitsthe genesis of the idea came from his teenage son, who mistakenlythought a discussion he heard on the radio about Tebow was about TiVo.
"The more I thought about it, the more it worked on a number of levels."
Rogersmakes the inevitable football comparisons. Passing? The new TiVo Stream(accessory), lets you literally pass your recordings from a TiVo DVR toan iPad. Navigating the field? TiVo boxes aim to help consumersnavigate the fragmented nature of television.
Tebow is no techie.He doesn't lust after the next great thing, he admitted, whileshooting TV commercials for TiVo that are set to air nationally startingNov. 27. "I like having things easy, and that's something TiVo does forme."
But he does take his role of celebrity spokesman seriously.Tebow pitches Nike, Jockey, Soul Headphones and FRS health drinks, buthe says he turns down way more endorsement opportunities than heaccepts.
"I want people to believe ... I can honestly tell you with every product that I've endorsed I've used it and liked it."
What Tebow likes about TiVo: Because he spends a lot of time on airplanes, he relishes catching up on favorite shows Revenge and Castle. "Plus, TiVo learns me." He says he'll give the Showtime series Homeland a try based on a TiVo recommendation.
TiVois adding a "Tim Tebow Zone" collection with recommendations of thequarterback's favorite TV shows, movies and content aimed at kids. Thecompany is also donating up to $1 for each "like" on TiVo's officialFacebook page (up to $25,000) to the Tim Tebow Foundation for childrenin need.
TiVo has to hope its relationship with Tebow works outbetter for them than his has with the Jets so far. The team has a losingrecord, and Tebow hasn't played a whole lot.
In the secondquarter of this year, TiVo reported a net loss of $27 million. But itssubscriber numbers are looking better, largely due to partnerships withcable companies. TiVo has 2.7 million subscribers, up from 1.9 millionthe year before but far from its peak of 4.4 million in early 2007.
"Peoplestill think TiVo is a one-dimensional product, a DVR," Rogers say. Andto be sure, DVRs remain a key part of the company's business at retail,with models ranging from about $150 to $400, on top of service fees thatare typically $14.99 a month.
TiVo's top new retail offering,TiVo Premiere XL4, has four TV tuners enabling you to record up to fourshows at once, with a recording capacity of 300 HD hours. Like otherrecent TiVo boxes, it is tightly integrated with broadband contentavailable from such online providers as Amazon, Hulu, Netflix andYouTube, along with the regular TV channels you watch.
But a bigportion of TiVo's strategy as a company is to forge strategicrelationships with cable operators around the world, with TiVoessentially become the plumbing inside the operator's equipment. "Whatthey're doing right now - (and have been) trying to do things for years -is insert themselves into the people who control the set-top box," saysGartner analyst Michael Gartenberg.
Rogers says the efforts arepaying off. He says TiVo has successfully signed 75% to 80% of the cablecompanies in the U.S. and abroad that have reached a decision aboutwhose advanced television technologies to use.
TiVo remains asolid brand. "Customers who have it, love it," says Ross Rubin,principal analyst with Reticle Research. The problem is there aren'tenough of those customers.
That's where Tebow is being asked tomove the pile. "Tim Tebow has unbelievable recognition as an athlete, asa young man, some of it controversial, yes," Rogers says. "But he hasan enormous following. He's talked about. He brings attention. One ofthe things we want to accomplish here is having people take a look andrecognize that we are something to talk about ourselves."
"Peopleshould be arguing about isn't there a better way to watch televisionand why are you satisfied with the box from your cable operator when itdoesn't begin to do justice to that $2,000 investment you made in abeautiful high-definition television set. Let's get that controversygoing," Rogers says.
Tebow was non-committal about whether anyoneTiVo-ing an upcoming Jets game will see more of him on the field. "I'mready and willing to do whatever they ask me to do. I'm excited aboutany opportunity that I'm given, and I want to make the most of thoseopportunities."