DirecTV investing in TiVo

Satellite TV provider DirecTV will become the largest corporate investor in TiVo, a start-up that provides "personalized TV" services.

Satellite TV provider DirecTV announced today that it is investing in TiVo, a provider of digital VCR technology and services.

DirecTV, a unit of Hughes Electronics, will become the company's largest corporate investor, with a stake in excess of 10 percent of TiVo, a start-up company that provides "personalized TV" services. DirecTV also gains a position on TiVo's board.

In return, DirecTV and TiVo will jointly market TiVo's service and the required Philips set-top box to new and current DirecTV subscribers. TiVo's service and digital set-top recorder--a souped-up VCR, if you will--allows users to pause, rewind, play back requested programs on demand, and also seek out and record programs that the viewer might want.

Exact terms of the investment were not disclosed.

DirecTV's investment is another sign that satellite companies want to be players in the market for enhanced TV services as they race to take away subscribers from cable-television operators. Going this route increasingly means teaming with high-tech firms in Silicon Valley such as TiVo, WebTV,Replay Networks, and others who are using PC technologies to boost TV services.

Competitor Echostar is going the route of interactive services by offering two different kinds of satellite receivers, including a model that has the WebTV service and Internet access. That device will also allow limited recording of TV shows, but TiVo's device can store more hours of programming.

DirecTV is, so far, more interested in extending the capabilities of the TV. In essence, TiVo's service is intended to get viewers to watch more of their existing programming. One of the ways the two companies will work together to do this is by offering a special "DirecTV Showcase," a program guide akin to a portal for DirecTV program previews, pay-per-view movie highlights, special events, and other service information.

DirecTV's investment follows last month's news that Replay, which offers a similar service, was getting an $8 million investment from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The investment won't be the last high-profile investment in TiVo, either. MSNBC reported that Tivo's chief executive, Mike Ramsey, promised an investment from one of the main network television players soon. Ramsey could not be reached for comment.