TiVo surfs Internet for new service

Company plans to use Internet to enable an improved version of its service beyond basic video recording.

LAS VEGAS--TiVo plans to use the Internet to go beyond its digital video recorder service, promising an improved version that meant to keep the company relevant as cable and satellite rivals launch their own DVR options.

CEO Mike Ramsay and other TiVo executives demonstrated and discussed Tahiti for its Series2 recorders, a service that lets subscribers use the Internet to download movies and trailers, buy products and search local movie theater listings. The company has been working on the service for more than a year, and it is partly a competitive response to the rollout of DVR capabilities from cable and satellite operators.

TiVo has been trying to woo cable companies, but some, like Comcast, balked over pricing and launched their own services. TiVo views the new service as a means of differentiating itself before the market renders the company irrelevant.

"There are those out there who think that DVR is the end game," Ramsay said. "DVR is not the end game, it's just the beginning."

The improved service is meant to make TiVo more appealing and useful to consumers, according to Ramsay. The company said software updates enabling new features would gradually be rolled out over the year and could be used with current Series2 devices.

TiVo subscribers are fanatically supportive of the service, but cable and satellite operators haven't been as fond of making service beyond video recording available.

Ramsay pointed to several industry and consumer trends that will make the aspects of the new service easy and useful enough to challenge the broadcast television industry.

The rising capacity of hard drives, the growing use of home networking and the increasing use of broadband Internet access make the technology available to support the service. Consumers' increasing use of digital media and expectations that it be useful and widely accessible would help demand.

Ramsay challenged the broadcast television industry, saying that in 10 years it will not be the dominant method of distributing entertainment.

Internet TV--online content that can be viewed on a television--will dominate, Ramsay said, adding that he expects it to replace broadcast television.

TiVo's largest customer, satellite operator DirecTV, debuted a recorder Thursday using a DVR service from NDS. The use of a new supplier and DirecTV's sale of its stake in TiVo call into question the relationship between the firms. Both have said they remain committed to one another.

Earlier in the week, TiVo made its TiVoToGo service available and announced a partnership with Microsoft. The service allows subscribers to transfer programs to PCs from their DVRs--as long as copyright protections are in place. Some TiVo subscribers have complained about the availability of the service, saying it is slow to come out.

Through the Microsoft deal , the TiVoToGo service will allow owners of recent-vintage TiVo boxes to transfer programs to a Windows XP PC, from which the programs can in turn be shuttled to Microsoft-powered portable devices, such as Portable Media Center video gadgets.

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