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TiVo CEO leaves to join Liberty Global as CTO after less than a year with the DVR maker

Ingrid Lunden
After less than a year in the role, the CEO of TiVo is leaving the troubled

After less than a year in the role, the CEO of TiVo is leaving the troubled company and jumping to Liberty Global, where he will become its CTO. Enrique Rodriguez, who joined the maker of DVRs, interactive program guides and viewing analytics only November 2017, is stepping away from his role effective immediately, TiVo announced today. A separate announcement from Liberty Global noted that Rodriguez will be joining the broadband and pay-TV company as its EVP and CTO.

Raghu Rau, who is on TiVo's board, has been named the interim president and CEO of the company. Rodriguez will keep an advisory role, TiVo said.

The sudden departure of the CEO comes amid some wider turmoil at TiVo. Formerly known as Rovi but rebranded after it acquired the DVR maker in 2016 for $1.1 billion, TiVo has been exploring strategic alternatives since February of this year, which could include going private or selling itself. It also lost its CTO in June this year to Hulu.

"My personal decision to pursue another opportunity was not easy," Rodriguez said in a statement. "I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead for TiVo as I expect our performance through the second quarter of 2018, including our announced profit improvement actions, to be ahead of our internal plan. I am looking forward to continue my relationship with TiVo in my new role as a customer and partner. Until then, I am committed to working with the TiVo team to ensure a seamless transition.”

Tivo (and before it Rovi) had a strong early role in developing services that have led consumers to watch TV in different ways -- by being able to record and "time-shift" linear programming, for example -- a disruptive moment in the TV business because it ate into consumers' advertising attention.

But as is the way in the world of tech, the disruptor has also become the disrupted. Today, streaming both live and on-demand video, often directly from the internet without any use of DVRs, has led to the rise of cord-cutting, where people opt out of taking traditional cable or satellite pay-TV services and instead pay for their services 'over the top' of their broadband connections.

And that has taken a toll on TiVo, it seems. Despite the launch of a plethora of other services such as Alexa voice controls and better controls for pay-TV providers to match the features they get with streaming services, the company's stock has been slipping for the better part of a year. In its last earnings, its net revenues were $214.2 million, nearly $40 million off what analysts had expected.

In contrast, Rodriquez is joining a company whose market cap is currently over $22 billion, more than ten times as much as TiVO's, with a fix-services customer base of 22 million, and a further 7 million mobile subscribers. But in the context of how TV media appears to be evolving away from traditional pay-TV and towards streaming and OTT, you could say that he's jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Liberty earlier this year offloaded €18.4 billion of its European assets to Vodafone, after rumors first circulated that Vodafone might seek to acquire Liberty outright.

Liberty has also seen its stock price dip in the last six months, and it too is in the midst of trying to figure out what might be the best route forward for itself, considering its mix of businesses -- albeit well short of anything like a strategic review. (It's also a key customer of TiVo's.)

Rodriguez is an interesting pick in that regard because of his experience across the range of players in the pay-TV ecosystem, with previous roles also at AT&T, Microsoft, Cisco and Thomson, with a specialty of trying to help tech and telco companies figure out how they can play more deeply in the media space.

"Enrique is a seasoned executive who will hit the ground running on day one. In today's technology environment the best CTOs have worked across sectors, platforms and geographies. Enrique has C-level experience as an engineer, software developer and operator," said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, in a statement.

“He has managed multi-billion dollar businesses for companies like AT&T, Microsoft, Cisco and Thomson, and has a long history in digital television as well as the European broadband sector. As head of Microsoft's Connected TV business, he launched IPTV solutions for telecommunication companies around the world, including many of our competitors. More recently, at AT&T, he was responsible for the teams that developed and launched DIRECTV's successful OTT service, DIRECTV Now. I'm particularly excited to tap into Enrique's knowledge of video products and platforms as we ramp up innovation in our TV business. He’s the right leader at the right time for Liberty Global.”