TiVo Beats Broadcast Networks to the Punchline

DVR and media company TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) might be laughing all the way to the bank after trumping the networks to launch a comedy streaming service that offers their best comedic content. TiVo CEO and President Tom Rogers exclusively revealed the company's new "Networks Comedy Collections" concept Thursday on the FOX Business Network.

The "Comedy Collections," culled from ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, will be customized by TiVo subscribers into bundles of favorite sitcoms and late night shows. According to Rogers, the cord cutters -- or TV viewers who get content over the air (OTA) without paying a cable company -- will be able to easily do their bundling as well, thanks to TiVo's Roamio OTA (Over the Air) device. For $49, the Roamio OTA needs just a click of a single button to curate network comedies.

The offering is significant not just for ease of use and for its frugal pricing ($14.99 for the monthly service), but because TiVo was more fleet of foot than some networks rushing to make similar offerings. According to the Wall Street Journal, NBC is feverishly planning its own subscription comedy video service. NBC, owned by Comcast Corp., is pushing to launch its bundle of laughs later this year. CBS Corp has already announced its own streaming service priced at $6 a month.  With TiVo offering comedy choices from all four major networks including Fox Business Network's sister network FOX, clearly the $14.99 price seems like a millenial's video bargain of a lifetime.

Which brings us to the REAL issue: riding the shifting tectonic plates of the millennial demographic. TiVo may very well snag younger, more technically savvy millenials in big numbers with its new Comedy Collection -- precisely because that younger age group has been detangling itself from cable cords in greater and greater numbers over just the past 5 years. The TiVo Roamio OTA allows antenna viewers (non-cable) to combine and store broadcast shows according to their personal taste. Cheaply.

As TiVo continues to strike lucrative DVR relationships with cable operators from Virgin Media in the U.K. to Frontier Communications to DirecTV, for now it appears to be straddling with Wallenda-like grace the high-wire act between those operators and the cord cutters.

"I think (TiVo's) strategy of working with both markets is a good strategy. You have to wonder: out of the 15 million over-the-air viewers, a lot just don't want to pay for TV. TiVo clearly wants to make its service more appealing to that growing group. It's smart to grow your base while creating a better service," longtime cable and telecom analyst Tom Eagan of Telsey Advisory Partners told FBN.