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TiVo upgrade roils some subscribers

Bugs slow channel changes and temporarily distort picture, some customers say. Company promises fix with next update.

The latest version of TiVo's digital video recorder software is upsetting some subscribers because of a couple of bugs that the company says will be fixed in an upcoming update.

The company downloaded a new version of its software to its DVR subscribers earlier this year. The upgrade includes a free service, called TiVoToGo, that allows subscribers to transfer copyright-protected programs from digital video recorders to notebook computers. However, there are some unexpected consequences.

Some subscribers are complaining that the upgrade slows down channel changes and the opening of menus. In some cases, the picture is temporarily distorted after changing channels. The second issue seems to occur only when the TiVo DVR is connected to a cable set-top box.

The company said it is aware of the issues and that it will be fixed with the next update of its software.

"It's a small group that is being affected...These are typical bugs, which are part of any software upgrade," a TiVo representative said.

The company said it purposely staggered the introduction of the software, which also roiled some anxious subscribers, to better control the upgrade process and identify any problems without affecting all its customers.

"The problems are really subjective," said David Zatz, a TiVo subscriber who was upgraded with the new software. "They don't bother me as much, but my girlfriend is really annoyed by them."

Not all TiVo subscribers or computers are eligible for the upgrade, which takes place over phone lines to DVR recorders. The upgrade is compatible only with Series2 DVRs. DirecTV satellite TV subscribers can't use the service.

The upgrade will be made available to all TiVo subscribers by the end of the month, the company said.

TiVo has about 2.3 million subscribers to its DVR service, which allows viewers to pause live television and control the recording of shows. More than half of TiVo's subscribers come from DirecTV, but the satellite company has decided not to enable any TiVo services beyond the DVR capabilities for those customers.

TiVo is in turmoil after its chief executive, Michael Ramsay, and president, Marty Yudkovitz, announced their resignations within three weeks of each other. The company is searching for a new chief. While some anticipate the company will be sold off, Ramsay, who remains chairman, has said TiVo is not for sale.