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DVR maker Replay to file for IPO

After recently solidifying its executive lineup, Replay says it intends to file for an initial public offering soon.

Digital video recorders--devices that can record and pause TV broadcasts--have barely been around for a year, but that isn't stopping another company that's developing the technology from going public.

Replay Networks and competitor TiVo are set to follow up last year's smash Consumer Electronics Show debut with more financial backing, more alliances and another competitor eager to take a cut of the action.

After recently solidifying its executive lineup, Replay said it intends to file for an initial public offering soon. The company said it "intends to use the proceeds of the newly issued shares to increase working capital and for general corporate purposes." The company hasn't filed any documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, so it's not known how much funding the company is seeking.

Replay might think of using its rival as a benchmark. Last year, TiVo set a target price for its IPO of $11 to $13 per share, and eventually sold 5.5 million shares at $16 apiece, raising $88 million. Shares traded as high as 59 in 1999, although the stock dropped 9 percent today to close at 31.63.

Digital video recorders (DVRs) and their associated service allow viewers to pause and rewind live TV by recording video streams to the device's hard drive. For instance, a viewer can "pause" a football game, then view his own instant replay and resume viewing without missing anything, even though the game in reality has continued on. These devices can also be programmed to record shows much like a standard VCR but allow a user to automatically record an entire season's worth of shows with the click of a button.

In addition to announcing plans to go public soon, Replay's manufacturing partner, Panasonic, may be ready to finally show its version of Replay's box and talk about how it will sell the devices. The deal with Panasonic was first announced in June, and the Panasonic-brand boxes were supposed to debut before year's end but didn't make the Christmas cutoff. In lieu of a retail distribution strategy, Replay partnered with Amazon.com to sell its DVR hardware and service.

Meanwhile, TiVo said it will announce new alliances and new service features at a press conference on Friday. While TiVo didn't elaborate on its plans, one area of interest the company could touch on is how DVRs can be used to record data other than a television program.

DVR devices will eventually also store multimedia content such as audio programming from the Internet, predicts Richard Doherty, president of Envisioneering Group, a consultancy.

DVR devices could do so through the use of streaming media software that allows users to access multimedia content such as audio or video without requiring it to be downloaded first. The two big players in that space right now are Real Networks and Microsoft.

Microsoft, among other moves it has made recently, has publicly demonstrated how a digital cable set-top receiver from General Instrument, for instance, would use Windows software to play back an Internet-based news broadcast.

TiVo and Replay could soon add similar functions to their devices, in effect becoming more like Microsoft's WebTV device by offering access to Web-based content.

Satellite programming provider Echostar is currently selling a new version of its Dishplayer receiver developed in conjunction with WebTV that can record up to 12 hours of programs for a $9.99 monthly service fee. Echostar executives are expected to detail plans to deliver Web-based content via satellite signals to the Dishplayer at speeds far exceeding those possible with a regular WebTV device. WebTV allows users to view Web pages by dialing out to the Internet at up to 56 kbps.