What would make you buy a TiVo? Well, the set-top maker is hoping films from Walt Disney Studios might help. TiVo (TIVO) announced a deal with ABC-Disney and CinemaNow for 24-hour rentals of Disney films piped directly to TiVo’s broadband-connected DVRs.
The deal boost’s TiVo’s content offerings: It now offers 30,000 titles through Amazon’s (AMZN) Unbox (which doesn’t have Disney films) and, in March, announced a deal with Google to offer YouTube videos.
Also announced today: A content deal with Tribune Co. to put TV and film reviews from the Chicago Tribune on TiVo boxes for those who sign up for the service. The reviews will be available to the roughly 100,000 TiVo users in the Chicago area; CEO Tom Rogers told the NY Times that TiVo is in talks with other newspaper companies to add similar features in other areas.
While interesting, TiVo is scrambling to add content and features in an increasingly competitive (and cheaper) environment. Netflix (NFLX) introduced its first of several movie-streaming boxes — $99! — to mixed reviews last week. Apple’s (AAPL) Apple TV offers rentals from all the major Hollywood studios at the same time as they are released on DVD, plus many other features. And the cable industry is scrambling to make on-demand rentals a simpler, easier service, directly from your TV, without a set-top box at all.
At the end of 2007, TiVo’s total subscriber count stood at 3.95 million — and it added a mere 33,000 subscribers during Q4. We’ll be interested to see how TiVo did this winter when it reports Q1 results today. Its best shot at survival could ultimately reste with its ability to convince cable operators to sell TiVo as a premium DVR, as it has with Comcast (CMCSA) and Cox.