Yahoo and TiVo hook up, world shakes a little

Although it doesn’t seem like a big announcement, Yahoo users who own a TiVo can now program their TiVo from the Yahoo TV guide. No big thing because TiVo owners have been able to do that for years, so it’s only a minor additional convenience until we read some of the fine print and plans for the near future.

And in the coming months, possibly before the end of the year, Yahoo’s traffic and weather content, as well as its users’ photos will be viewable on televisions via TiVo’s broadband service and easy-to-use screen menu.

So now Yahoo content (pictures, traffic and weather for now) is available on the television with television/PVR/DVR ease of use. Remember TiVo already have many components of the digital home experience with TiVo to go to take digital material from the TiVo drive to PCs, DVD-R and portable media players.

Where it gets interesting is to project forward. Yahoo consider themselves a media company evidenced by the formation of the Yahoo Media Group back in January 2005 and an orgy of hiring media executives for the division since then. The purpose of the Yahoo Media Group is to “significantly strengthening our content pillar”. In April they hired Shawn Hardin, who, according to ZDnet, “Hardin has previously worked in television and the Internet, holding executive positions at NBC and Snap.com.”

Although Yahoo has been vague about its plans for the Media Group, it’s built a team with a strong balance of “Hollywood” and “Web” backgrounds and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that it has some big plans…

Oh, let’s not forget Yahoo Video Search. In competition with Google video Yahoo are building connections to a library of independent content. I’m sure the Yahoo Media Group are building a library of mainstream content: Santa Monica is not that far from Hollywood!

Now to my conjecture. TiVo has about 3 million subscribers. TiVo is linking with Yahoo to display Yahoo content via the TiVo device, direct to the living room. Aren’t there many people planning/desiring to bring Internet-delivered “TV” into the living room, right where the TiVo box is already sitting? Akimbo, DaveTV, Brightcove all seem to be going down that path with a dedicated box and service. Apple with its FrontRow and Microsoft with its Media Center PC are approaching it from the other direction.

But none have the penetration in the living room that TiVo does right now.

If the relationship with Yahoo goes just a little further then what’s to stop Yahoo delivering video content direct to the TiVo under some form of pay-for-view or subscription model? It seems self-evident to me that this is really about a much bigger play for the living room and part-and-parcel of the Yahoo Media Group’s efforts. Yahoo could launch with 3 million subscriber boxes already in place. A number that would bring much cheer to Akimbo, DaveTV or Brightcove’s investors if they ever achieve anything close to that. Apple and Microsoft (and its partners) have to get the computer moved into the living room, although don’t be surprised to find Apple taking a page from TiVo’s book and integrating a tuner, program guide and simplified iTunes into a future “Mac mini” with video output to sit under the TV. When they’re ready, of course.

Given that TiVo are somewhat struggling right now, it’s not far fetched to consider Yahoo buying TiVo? With a market capitalization of around $300 million TiVo wouldn’t be hard for Yahoo to swallow, or even Apple (as rumored earlier in 2005). Only time will tell, but when Yahoo buys TiVo, remember, you heard it here first!

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