Should Best Buy Buy TiVo?


It's a match made in purgatory.

Two fallen consumer tech darlings -- TiVo (NAS: TIVO) and Best Buy (NYS: BBY) -- teamed up on Monday to roll out a new web-tethered television.

Insignia Connected TV hit your local Best Buy this week, incorporating TiVo's familiar user interface into an Internet-surfing flat screen television set. The high-definition TVs are priced right, at $500 for the 32-inch model and $700 for 42-inch unit.

The new TVs allow seamless access to Netflix (NAS: NFLX) , YouTube, and Pandora (NYS: P) streaming. Best Buy's own CinemaNow and Napster offerings are also naturally easy to use.

There will be some initial confusion, of course.

Customers that associate TiVo with monthly subscription fees may believe that there are some hidden recurring fees beyond the actual purchase. That isn't the case, because there is no DVR functionality in the box. A DVR-less TiVo? Confusion-opolis, indeed.

Thinking inside the box
Best Buy is simply leaning on TiVo's fluid, stylish, and proven way to scour available programming for something to watch. The trusted brand will help raise the allure of Best Buy's iffy Insignia moniker.

However, what if that isn't the only way that the two companies can benefit one another? A Bloomberg article last month speculated that a TiVo buyout was in the works. Best Buy didn't make anyone's short list of potential buyers in this dreaming aloud scenario, but the two would make an interesting match.

Hit the pause button. Think about it a bit. Let me know if you find yourself hitting the thumbs-up button on TiVo remote.

TiVo has been shedding subscribers for several quarters, but its patent-rich portfolio is nabbing it some juicy settlements from cable and satellite television providers. Best Buy has posted three consecutive quarters of year-over-year dips in earnings and store-level comps, and it could use a little intellectual property to help offset the bricks-and-mortar malaise.

Best Buy hasn't had a problem scooping up CinemaNow or Napster in the past, and TiVo is certainly better positioned as a service than those lost causes.

There's nothing on TV
TiVo, despite finally emerging victorious with a nine-figure settlement in its drawn out legal battle with DISH Network (NAS: DISH) , has now seen its stock fall back into the single digits. In other words, it can be had for cheap on the rebound -- with a fetching dowry to boot.

Best Buy and TiVo have been rubbing elbows for some time. It was two years ago when the two companies promised to "transform the digital home entertainment experience." If Insignia Connected TV is what we waited two years for, this wasn't much of a transformation.

Web-friendly televisions are old news, and Google (NAS: GOOG) raised the bar last year -- sans commercial success -- with Google TV. Insignia Connected TV, even if it survives the early confusion, is not a revolutionary slam dunk.

However, that is also even more reason for Best Buy to put a ring on it and buy TiVo.

Bloomberg's buyout speculation was limited largely to Google, Rovi (NAS: ROVI) , and Microsoft. Interactive program guide specialist Rovi makes the most sense as a TiVo buyer, but the two tech giants also have their reasons to want a piece of the DVR pioneer in these days where patents and a team of lawyers are weapons of mass disruption.

Let's throw Best Buy into the mix. It makes tactical sense. It's in Best Buy's DNA to snap up pioneers that are down on their luck. It would also be the best way to assure that whatever the two companies do work on to crank out next truly does transform the digital home experience, and not simply conform to it.

Should TiVo entertain buyout offers? If so, who would be the most logical buyer? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Best Buy, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Best Buy, Microsoft Netflix, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying puts in Netflix, as well as creating a covered collar position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. As you may have noticed, The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz thinks life is too short to not fly past unwanted commercials on TV. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article, except for Netflix, though he does have a pair of TiVo boxes with lifetime subscriptions in his home. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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