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A View from Brad King

TiVo Snags the Internet

Struggling to survive in the age of cable and satellite set-top DVRs, TiVo expands its service to Web video.

  • November 17, 2006

Since the days of Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems’ Tom Swift Terminal, computer makers have searched for ways to integrate the television, the Internet, and the PC.

Now TiVo, one of the original makers of digital video recording (DVR) technology, announced a new service that would do just that.

From a Reuters story:

The company’s TiVoCast service had signed on such new programming partners as CBS Interactive, part of CBS Corp., Reuters Group Plc and business magazine Forbes to provide shows directly to the TV sets of TiVo subscribers.

The new service moves TiVo in the right direction, bringing the different flavors of digital video–television, Web, and film–to one screen. However, the early incarnation won’t be a smorgasbord of all video content, according to the Associated Press.

TiVo’s new broadband offering, however, will work only with downloaded videos that are not copy-protected, such as most user-generated clips and many video podcasts. Feature films and videos purchased from online stores like Movielink or Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes will not be supported, though company officials said they are seeking to offer such protected content in the future.

Despite the limitations, the DVR maker is pushing forward a file-sharing service as well, allowing customers to connect with other TiVo owners. Again, the service will be limited–copyright issues prevent all-out sharing. Still, users will have the ability to share user-generated materials and programming from TiVo partners.

Also from the AP story:

The way it will work: From One True Media’s Web site, a TiVo user would invite other TiVo owners via a one-time e-mail to subscribe to their private video channel. The videos would then show up under a new “Homemade Movies” category in the “TiVoCast” section in which TiVo distributes media from other Web-content partners, such as the National Basketball Association and The New York Times.

This service takes TiVo in an unprecedented–but logical–direction, treating its users to a Web-like experience through the television. Allowing users to create content and interact with communities is one of the underlying rules the killer applications must have. The growth of instant messaging, texting, Amazon.com, and eBay–along with a host of others–can be traced back, in some measure, to that simple philosophy.

And for a company such as TiVo, which faces ever increasing competition from closed cable and satellite DVR systems, this is the perfect way to appeal to consumers.

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