TiVo president resigns

/ Source: The Associated Press

TiVo Inc. said Tuesday that Marty Yudkovitz has resigned as president, marking the second major change in as many weeks in the executive ranks at the embattled digital video recording company.

Monday’s resignation of Yudkovitz, an NBC executive who joined TiVo in May 2003, comes two weeks after chief executive Mike Ramsay said he would step down from the helm as soon as a replacement is found.

Yudkovitz, who said he was leaving for personal reasons, will remain on for a period of time as a consultant for certain matters, the company said. There are no immediate plans to replace Yudkovitz, Ramsay said.

Alviso-based TiVo, founded in 1997 by Ramsay and Jim Barton, the company’s chief technology officer, helped introduce digital video recorders to consumers in 1999, and has since become the industry’s leading brand name.

But others are fast encroaching, namely cable and satellite operators which are introducing their own digital recording features in their set-top-boxes. Digital video recording is also being built into media-oriented computers and other consumer electronics devices like DVD recorders or televisions themselves.

The number of TiVo subscribers has steadily grown — it accounts for about a third of the estimated 6.5 million of the nation’s households that have DVRs — but the company has not yet reached sustained profitability. It hopes to do so by the end of 2005.

Yudkovitz, a 20-year television industry veteran who played a key role in creating CNBC and MSNBC which are owned by General Electric Co., was recruited by TiVo to help build closer ties with Hollywood, which has largely been rankled by copyright concerns stemming from digital video recording.

The technology lets television viewers record shows to a hard drive, fast forward through commercials and pause live TV.

During his tenure, Yudkovitz evangelized new ways advertisements could be integrated in a television world of mostly ad-skipping viewers. He also helped build TiVo’s fledgling business of audience measurement, in which the company would sell data indicating how TiVo users were watching TV, Ramsay said in an interview.

Ramsay, who will remain as chairman of the board after his own successor is found, said Yudkovitz’s resignation would not affect the company’s plans or new strategies.

Yudkovitz, 50, said he had a heavy commute between both coasts and that he chose a “logical time” to resign and spend more time with family.

He said he was on a list of potential candidates to succeed Ramsay but decided to withdraw himself from the running, removing the prospect of relocating his wife and two young children from Connecticut.

“If I’m not going to be CEO, I may as well put an end to it,” Yudkovitz said in an interview, adding that his resignation coincided with the last day of the company’s fiscal year.

Analysts say the dual executive departures reflect the difficult phase TiVo faces as it tries to reshape itself and grow amid stiffening competition from deep-pocketed rivals.

“It looks like both the CEO and president are saying, ;We’ve taken the company as far as we can, and let’s find somebody who can take TiVo to the next level,”’ said April Horace, an analyst at Janco Partners Inc.

Failing to win major distribution partners in the cable industry and having lost its exclusive digital recording supplier stance with satellite provider DirecTV, TiVo is seeking to raise the profile of its independent “standalone” products.

It lowered the price on a unit to $99 last year and allocated $50 million for marketing and advertising. Last month, the company introduced TiVoToGo, a long-awaited service feature that lets subscribers transfer programs from their TiVo units to their computers. The company also announced plans for a new unit that will use a cable card, which will eliminate the need for an additional cable set-top box.

On Monday, the company said it will invite third-party developers to create software for TiVo users, hoping to draw an expanded set of media applications, such as music and photo services, even video games.