Digital Dealmakers: Tara Maitra

Jun 12, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The player: Tara Maitra, VP and general manager of programming at TiVo

The play: TiVo, seeking to expand beyond mere digital video recorders, last week introduced its new TivoCast service, which brings Web video to the TV set. In one of the most significant examples to date of the melding of the Internet and television, TivoCast enables TiVo customers to watch Internet video from providers such as The New York Times, Heavy.com, Rocketboom, CNET, iVillage and the NBA. TivoCast runs on set-top boxes that have broadband connections. TiVo has more than 450,000 such subscribers, up from 300,000-plus at the end of last year.

The pitch: TiVoCast launched with a handful of flagship content partners, and Ms. Maitra is charged with striking additional deals. “We believe the best place for your programming will still be the TV,” she said. The service is free to customers, and TiVo is not paying for the content; programming providers can monetize the service by selling ads.

Competition: TiVo has been scraping by over the past few years but has managed to hang on despite encroachment by cable and satellite operators that offer their own DVRs. Cablers could also offer TiVoCast copycat services. TiVoCast already has competition from Microsoft, with its Windows Media Center PCs, as well as from technology companies such as ICTV, which offers a service to help cable operators bring Web video to a traditional TV set. According to Leichtman Research Group, at the start of the year cable and satellite counted 10.4 million DVR customers, while only 1.5 million consumers use standalone DVR boxes.

The new meaning of video: The definition of TV is broadening to include all of video, whether delivered via a traditional TV set or through an Internet connection. TiVoCast melds the Internet and TV to bring Web video into the living room. “With so much video coming out on the Web and this explosion of Web content, TiVo wants to be the way to bring that to the TV,” Ms. Maitra said. The service also levels the playing field. “It won’t matter to the TiVo subscribers whether it came from TV or on a server, and that’s where the lines will get blurred. You will be able to get a season pass to ‘The Sopranos’ on HBO. Similarly, you can get a season pass to Heavy.com. TiVo users will be able to get all your networks-HBO, NBC, iVillage. All of a sudden it won’t matter.”

The money guys: TiVo lost $10.7 million for the three months ended April 30, compared with a loss of $857,000 a year ago. Revenue climbed 20 percent to $56.5 million as a result of development revenue generated from TiVo’s relationship with Comcast.

The numbers: TiVo counts 4.4 million subscribers. Of those, 1.7 million originated from TiVo and the rest come from DirecTV.

Backstory: Ms. Maitra joined TiVo in late 2005 after a year working for Comcast. She spent four years at Primedia and six years at CNBC.

Who knew? Ms. Maitra is 34 and lives in New York. She grew up in Branchburg, N.J., and earned a degree in journalism and psychology from Washington and Lee University. “I sing and play piano. Don’t usually admit it, but I have a secret desire of performing as lounge singer,” Ms. Maitra said.