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TiVo adds new features to TV recorder service

Customers will be able to search for names, themes and actors, as well as prevent the viewing or recording of certain shows.

LAS VEGAS--Digital video recorder company TiVo announced on Saturday at the Consumer Electronics Show that it would be adding features to its personal television service as it waits for the market to grow.

The new features include an expanded search technology, which will allow subscribers to search for names, themes, actors and key words. For current customers, the new features will be automatically downloaded to their machines by March.

This nascent market has been slow starting but analysts predict that sales of digital video recorders will jump in the coming years. Forrester Research projects that the numbers should hit 53 million by 2005, despite news from TiVo competitor ReplayTV that it is leaving the device market.

This growth will partly be fueled by the integration of the hardware and the service into standard TV equipment. Currently, TiVo subscribers buy a separate box dedicated to digital recording. ReplayTV, for instance, will focus on providing the technology to companies such as cable operators and satellite companies.

TiVo will also look to incorporate its services into other set-top box products. For example, TiVo services are already available in some DirecTV boxes and will be added of America Online's interactive AOLTV sometime this year.

However, TiVo CEO Michael Ramsay has acknowledged that creating partnerships and getting products to market will take time.

In addition to the search functions, the new TiVo features also will lock out or prevent certain shows from being recorded based on ratings, channels or program descriptions.

Viewers also will be able extend the recording time of a show by one minute to three hours for shows that typically run longer than scheduled time, such as sporting events or awards shows.

"The new features are a nice perk and a little more bait on the hook for potential buyers, but it's not overwhelmingly compelling," said Gartner analyst P.J. McNealy.