TiVo to add red Netflix button on pay-TV remotes under new patent-licensing agreement

Image: Netflix

TiVo will add a dedicated “Netflix” button to the set-top remote controls it sells to pay-TV operators and at retail as part of a new broad-reaching technology licensing agreement signed with the leading SVOD service.

Prior to acquiring TiVo for $1.1 billion earlier this year—and renaming the combined company as TiVo—Rovi Corp. had been engaged with Netflix in an activity Rovi knows all too well: fighting in court over patents. But that is now water under the bridge.

The new agreement between Netflix and the newly combined TiVo extends the latter’s ability to keep integrating the SVOD service into its set-top video interfaces, expanding it to include the dedicated remote button.

This is relevant to the North American cable market, where TiVo controls the video interfaces for many small and mid-sized operators. 

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Netflix also acquired licenses to various patent portfolios. This includes technologies from holding company Intellectual Ventures, which signed an earlier deal to pool its patents with TiVo/Rovi. 

“The partnership between Netflix and TiVo dates back to our early days of streaming video,” said Bill Holmes, Netflix global head of business development, in a statement. “Building on this history, the agreements provide consumers freedom to watch their favorite TV shows and movies whenever and wherever, with an integrated experience across more devices.”

Prior to merging with TiVo, Rovi had more than 5,000 patents either issued or pending. The company made 54 percent of its revenue in 2015 from the licensing of intellectual property.

Rovi filed suit against Comcast in April, alleging the cable company and its set-top suppliers had violated 14 of its patents. According to Rovi, the patents related to numerous features in Comcast's X1 video platform, including the way Comcast implements remote recording, the "AnyRoom" DVR and search.

Comcast countered in June with a breach-of-contract suit, alleging that Rovi’s Texas-based patent suit against it violates terms of a licensing deal that requires such disputes to be handled in New York. Comcast also told a New York federal court that Rovi breached contract terms when it took the dispute to the International Trade Commission. Additionally, the MSO argued that it had the right to use the patents through March 31 of this year.

“Our agreements with Netflix represent a major milestone for TiVo as we expand our offerings for the fast-growing OTT space, and further demonstrates our commitment to delivering innovative technologies to new and emerging markets,” said TiVo CEO Tom Carson, also in a statement. “From products to patented technologies, TiVo is helping companies quickly adapt to a rapidly changing media industry and create beautiful user experiences that keep consumers connected to their favorite entertainment.”