The disruptor's dilemma: TiVo and the U.S. television ecosystem

Shahzad Shaz Ansari, Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

271 Scopus citations


Research summary: Firms introducing disruptive innovations into multisided ecosystems confront the disruptor's dilemma: gaining the support of the very incumbents they disrupt. Through a longitudinal study of TiVo, a company that pioneered the Digital Video Recorder, we examine how these firms may address this dilemma. Our analysis reveals how TiVo navigated coopetitive tensions by continually adjusting its strategy, its technology platform, and its relational positioning within the evolving U.S. television industry ecosystem. We theorize how (1) disruption may affect not just specific incumbents, but also the entire ecosystem; (2) coopetition is not just dyadic, but also multilateral and intertemporal, and (3) strategy is both a deliberative and emergent process involving continual adjustments, as the disruptor attempts to balance coopetitive tensions over time. Managerial summary: New entrants confront a dilemma when they introduce a disruptive innovation into an existing business ecosystem, viz., how can they gain the support of the incumbents that their innovation disrupts? Confronting this “disruptor's dilemma”, the disruptor must consider several issues: How might it pitch its innovation to attract end customers and yet reduce the threat of disruption perceived by ecosystem incumbents? How can the innovation be modified to fit into legacy systems while transforming them? Based on an in-depth analysis of TiVo and its entrepreneurial journey, we explore the strategies disruptors can deploy to address these issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1829-1853
Number of pages25
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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