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ReplayTV uses Internet as remote control

The company announces a service that will allow people to remotely control their digital video recorders over the Internet.

ReplayTV today announced a service that will allow people to remotely control their digital video recorders over the Internet.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said MyReplayTV is the "ultimate remote control" for the company's units, which record television programs to a hard drive, offering a tape-less alternative to the VCR.

For average ReplayTV users, this means that when they realize it is going to be a late night at the office, they can send a message to their set-top box at home to record "Survivor." When they get home, the tribe, or what's left of it, will be waiting.

The announcement comes just as a new study says that digital video recorders (DVRs) made by ReplayTV and rival TiVo aren't taking hold in the market.

"With fewer than 70,000 subscribers between them, these two companies have yet to establish a large customer base, largely because of the high retail prices of their DVR set-top boxes," Boston-based research firm TechTrends said in a report this week. "These modest results suggest that the installed base of DVRs will not reach critical mass."

The study predicts digital video recording technology will become successful but will have to be integrated into other types of hardware rather than offered as a stand-alone box. TiVo and ReplayTV services are already designed into some satellite set-top boxes, and similar features are planned for Microsoft's WebTV.

More than 44 percent of cable subscribers and 50 percent of satellite subscribers are willing to pay a separate monthly fee for personal TV services, TechTrends said, but it added that consumers aren't willing to pay several hundred dollars for a set-top box with only a recording feature.

While MyReplayTV should be popular among existing users, it is not likely to drive new sales, said TechTrends research and consulting director Laurence Bloom.

"What's going to add to the appeal is a drop in price," Bloom said. "Cost is still the big issue."

Both TiVo and ReplayTV recently announced a deal with Comcast in which cable subscribers in two New Jersey areas will be able to rent personal video recorders for a monthly fee, without having to pay an up-front charge for the set-top unit itself.

The MyReplayTV service will be available in the fall as part of an update to the ReplayTV software. In its first incarnation, the service will allow people to view program listings, set up recordings, and see how much storage space is left on their hard drives. Eventually the service could be part of an interactive experience, offering Internet content geared toward the programs being recorded.