Cable industry hopes downturn keeps people at home

Wed Mar 18, 2009 2:13pm EDT
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By Nicola Leske

BERLIN (Reuters) - Cable and online TV companies are betting they can defy the global economic crisis and grow despite tough times, arguing consumers are choosing to sit out the downturn and spend on home entertainment.

"My personal view is that the economic situation will continue to deteriorate for a while," said Tom Rogers, chief executive of digital video recorder maker TiVo, at an industry event in Berlin on Wednesday.

"People are clearly looking for cheaper entertainment," he said, adding while consumers may be reluctant to make large purchases they seem to be prepared to pay for a high definition TV.

TiVo, which posted slower subscriber growth last year than in 2007, hopes to be the company chosen by viewers overwhelmed by a plethora of channels and content.

"We call it the easy couch potato approach," Rogers said.

TiVo was a pioneer in digital video recorders (DVRs) but suffered as cable and satellite operators began offering generic DVRs to their customers for far less than a TiVo box.

TiVo has tried to reposition itself to appeal to cost-conscious consumers. Its software is also used in DVRs offered by television service providers such as Comcast and DirectTV Group Inc, which Rogers hopes will boost subscriber growth by next year.

Smaller, unlisted online TV company Joost hopes to attract customers, in particular young audiences in their twenties, with a free service.   Continued...

<p>A visitor looks at television programs in Cannes, southeastern France, October 13, 2008. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>