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“Bun fight at the OK Corral” - Tivo and NDS take it outside in Lucerne

For some time Faultline has been saying that there are a new group of power brokers in OTT TV services and named the foremost of them as TiVo; NDS, as

By PETER WHITE

Published: 17 February, 2011

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For some time Faultline has been saying that there are a new group of power brokers in OTT TV services and named the foremost of them as TiVo; NDS, as a genuine pretender to the TiVo throne and a late entrant in the form of Rovi. Each of them taking the role of end to end enablers for pay TV operators to build OTT systems.

So it was with some surprise, and not a little entertainment value to see two of the combatants forced to sit side by side at Cable Congress and fight it out in front of an audience. The fairly witty Tom Rogers, CEO of TiVo since its first engineering focused CEO was pushed into the background in 2005, managed to fire off some old classic jokes, to leave the audience in good mood and wanting more, throughout an interview where he tried to position TiVo in the unlikely position as the friend of cable. But he was then bundled into a face to face with his own best European customer, Andrew Barron COO of Virgin Media, and up against NDS in the form of CEO Abe Peled and the Chief Technology officer of Liberty Global, Balan Nair.

Immediately all humorous banter was thrown out of the equation and shots were fired. Nair’s Boss, Mike Fries, never one to pull his punches, had gone on record back in May when he chose a combination of Samsung, NDS and Intel to provide Liberty’s next generation top end set top, saying that “to go with TiVo would have been a half step, when what was really needed was two full steps.”

The audience were expertly reminded of this throwaway line before the debate ensued which began restrained, but ignited when clear verbal hand grenades were lobbed from each side. Rogers tried to depict the difference between the two offerings as TiVO’s being the one ready today, and the NDS design, being something you might have to wait a while for. It seemed innocent enough.

Earlier in proceedings Liberty Global boss Fries had told Faultline that the Horizon Over The Top set top would be delivered late in the fourth quarter of 2011. In the original deal cut in May 2010 he had said that this device would ship in the first half of 2011, so this represents a 6 month delay to the project, and Peled clearly thought that Rogers was taking aim at NDS with his comments about being ready now.

Peled, in a personal aside later told Faultline that, “TiVo has only delivered a handful of devices to Virgin, and the first ones didn’t even have an Ethernet port. At least we know that NDS always delivers on time.” Peled would do well to remember the first DVR that NDS designed, which after all was a copy of the TiVo box at DirecTV, for DirecTV – was well over a year late. The track record here would appear to be with TiVo. On the other hand TiVo in a deal with Comcast almost failed to make the generous deadline to deliver a working version of its software on Motorola devices – so neither is a paragon in this department.

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