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TiVo sees DirecTV under Liberty as "positive"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - TiVo Inc. said on Monday it expects its relationship with DirecTV Group Inc. to improve after the satellite television provider is taken over by John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp..

A screen shows Internet services available through an broadband-connected TiVo digital video recorder at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada January 5, 2006. TiVo Inc. said on Monday it expects its relationship with DirecTV Group Inc. to improve after the satellite television provider is taken over by John Malone's Liberty Media Corp. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

DirecTV said in August 2005 that it would stop marketing TiVo digital video recorders to its customers, focusing instead on boxes made by NDS, a company that is owned by DirecTV’s largest shareholder News Corp.

But with control of DirecTV expected to pass from News Corp. to Liberty Media later this year, that could be “positive” for TiVo, said its Chief Executive Tom Rogers.

“Liberty is a company that has no ownership interests, now or after the DirecTV closes, in a competing DVR, and that probably changes things,” Rogers told a Deutsche Bank investor conference.

Rogers said people he knew at Liberty were fans of TiVo DVRs.

“I look at that as a positive in terms of a change of ownership though that deal hasn’t closed yet,” he added.

Control of DirecTV will be passed to Liberty as part of an $11 billion exchange of cash and assets with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Over 3 million DirecTV customers are also TiVo users.

Investors view TiVo’s fortunes as closely linked to its relationships with cable and satellite operators.

Rogers confirmed the first generic cable DVRs with TiVo software will be rolled out in early tests with customers of No. 1 U.S. cable operator Comcast Corp. this August in two markets in the New England area. Comcast DVRs are made by Motorola Inc.

Nearly two years ago the two companies first announced they would be working together on the service. The market had speculated integration problems for the TiVo software into the Comcast DVRs may have led to delays.

“I certainly hope it remains on schedule,” said Rogers. “It’s largely beyond our control... I can just measure ongoing enthusiasm from Comcast operating people,” he said.

Rogers said privately held Cox Communications Inc., the No. 4 U.S. cable operator, will likely roll out its TiVo-enabled Motorola boxes by the end of the year. Analysts expect it may take longer to launch TiVo-enabled boxes in the Cox regions that use Cisco System Inc.’s Scientific Atlanta DVRs.

Analysts have grown increasingly cool on TiVo’s growth potential, noting that its efforts to add features and share its software with cable providers, rather than making its own boxes, have yet to pay off in terms of subscriber gains.

Shares in TiVo closed Monday up 1.6 percent at $6.26 on Nasdaq.

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