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Sonicblue pins hopes on holiday pricing

The consumer-electronics maker announces a new line of its ReplayTV recorders that will sell at its lowest prices yet, a move geared toward holiday buyers.

Sonicblue is looking to give consumers more reasons to buy its ReplayTV digital video recorders this holiday season.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based consumer-electronics maker announced on Monday a new line of ReplayTV DVRs that will sell at its lowest prices yet. DVRs are similar to VCRs, but instead of storing shows on a tape, they are stored on a hard drive.

With the new devices and a recent distribution deal with Best Buy, analysts expect the holiday season to be more cheerful for Sonicblue, a reprieve for a company that has been through some tough times this year, including lawsuits filed against it for its commercial skipping feature and a management shakeup.

"The low price(s) on the recorders should be a good move to attract consumers during the holiday season," said Aditya Kishore, an analyst with research firm The Yankee Group.

The new DVR line, called the ReplayTV 5000 series, consists of four units. The ReplayTV 5040 is priced at $299.99 and can record up to 40 hours of shows. The $399.99 ReplayTV 5080 can hold up to 80 hours of shows, while the ReplayTV 5160 costs $499.99 and can store up to 160 hours. These three units come with a $50 rebate and are currently available in stores. The highest capacity recorder, the ReplayTV 5320, can hold up to 320 hours and costs $899.99, but it won't be available until early 2003.

The devices are available through retailers Circuit City, Good Guys,, The Wiz and Tweeter, as well as through Sonicblue's Web site.

Sales of DVRs, however, have not reflected consumer satisfaction with the devices, according to analysts. Data from The Yankee Group indicates that DVR products will find their way into 1.8 million U.S. homes by year's end. That number will grow to 19.1 million homes by the end of 2006. Last year, The Yankee Group had put that estimate at 18.6 million homes.

"This is a hard market to grow because people really need to have hands-on experience with the device in order to understand what it can do for them," Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said.

Sonicblue did not immediately return calls for comment.

Sonicblue and rival TiVo maintain a service that makes it easier for subscribers to pause live shows and program the devices to record future broadcasts. Sonicblue charges $9.95 per month or $250 for a subscription that lasts the lifetime of the recorder. TiVo charges $12.95 per month for its service and $249 for a lifetime subscription.