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Macrovision Becomes Rovi - Broadcasting & Cable

Macrovision Becomes Rovi

Copy-protection giant recasts itself with new identity, launches new guide product
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Macrovision, the analog copy-protection giant which shifted strategy last year by acquiring interactive program guide leader Gemstar-TV Guide for $2.8 billion, is now rebranding itself as "Rovi" to better reflect its new role as a digital delivery company.

The new name, which the company selected after months of industry and consumer research, comes from the middle four letters of "Macrovision." The company will now officially operate under the banner of Rovi Corporation. The new name will also serve as the company's stock symbol, ROVI, on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, and Rovi executives will celebrate the change in New York this morning by officially opening NASDAQ trading.

The company makes electronic program guides for both TV sets, which it sells to CE manufacturers like Vizio and Sony, and for digital set-tops, which it licenses to multichannel operators like Cox and Comcast,and set-top manufacturers and software firms like NDS. It also still offers copy-protection technology for DVDs as well as Blu-ray high-definition optical discs, through its $45-million acquisition of the BD+ business from Cryptography Research in late 2007.

For the first quarter of 2009, it recorded $46.5 million in revenues from its CE business and $52.4 million from its service provider business, with $12.2 million being generated by its other businesses.

But Macrovision's research showed that most people still thought of it as the company that provided copy protection technology for analog TV programming and VHS tapes, not as a firm developing innovative new technology.

Richard Bullwinkle, the company's chief evangelist, says that the Macrovision name carried mostly negative connotations with business-to-business customers, who equated it to "force somebody to pay a patent license they didn't want to pay." Meanwhile, consumers that Macrovision spoke with thought of it as a "stodgy 70s brand. It felt out of date to them," says Bullwinkle.

"Everybody sees us as protecting media, and we felt we needed a new identity," explains Bullwinkle, who says that Rovi will primarily be a b-to-b brand but may eventually make its way in front of consumers.

One of Rovi's current challenges is evolving its program guides to keep pace with the explosion in programming choices offered by digital television and video-on-demand, and the growing trend of bringing Internet video and other Web content to the TV set. Coincident with the name change, the company is introducing a new guide product for the CE market called "Liquid." Liquid is designed to not only present a significant improvement over the traditional grid listing of TV programming but also help consumers who have a broadband-connected or networked TV, set-top or Blu-ray player navigate Web content as well as personal content such as music and photos.

Liquid is actually comprised of three guides: a Television Content Guide, a Broadband Content Guide and a Personal Content Guide. The first features traditional linear channels. The Broadband guide will help navigate Web video sites like TV.com and YouTube XL, as well as streaming services like Netflix and Blockbuster OnDemand, says Bullwinkle, and provide access to online music services like Slacker. It will also provide some social networking capability, allowing consumers to use their remote to recommend content to friends and family through Websites such as the movie-focused social networking service Flixster.

"We're not trying to turn the TV into a computer; we're just trying to bring some of that great information to the TV," says Bullwinkle.

The Personal Content Guide will allow consumers who have their TV connected to a home network to manage their music and photos, such as creating a playlist of music for their home theater system from MP3s stored on their computer.

The Liquid guide will allow consumers to create multiple user profiles for different members of a family. It can be programmed to recommend certain content based on user preferences; it also contains software algorithms that will automatically recommend content based on a consumer's viewing patterns.

Liquid will be available for CE manufacturers in early 2010 as an entire package or individual modules.

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