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Culture

World Cup fans miffed at TiVo, Sonicblue

Subscribers cry foul after a programming mix-up leaves them without the matches they thought they were recording.

TiVo and Sonicblue aimed for the goal but missed over the weekend to the dismay of subscribers who weren't able to watch World Cup soccer matches they had programmed their digital video recorders to store overnight.

Subscribers were affected by a scheduling change on Saturday that was not reflected in the guide used with their DVR services. TiVo's epnoymous service and Sonicblue's ReplayTV service run on DVRs, which store shows on a hard drive. In addition to letting subscribers pause live shows, the services let them program their DVRs to record upcoming shows.

To make the process easier than using VCRs, the services use an electronic programming guide that lists show names and times. Subscribers simply select the show they want to record, and the services take care of the rest. Both services rely on television networks to frequently update their schedules so that changes can be reflected in the guide. The recorders can be programmed to dial into a server to download guide information about once a day.

But the scheduling gaffe had customers scrambling to find games.

Alexandria, Va., resident and two-month TiVo subscriber Chris Donesa is not a soccer fanatic, but he said the mix-up defeated the purpose of subscribing to TiVo. The World Cup soccer matches were originally scheduled to be aired on ESPN2 but were moved to ESPN.

"They need to have somebody looking over last-minute changes," Donesa said. "They are supposed to take care of stuff like that...It was more the principle of the thing than anything else."

"To a certain extent, this is out of our control because the networks have to provide the most up-to-date information," said Rebecca Baer, a TiVo spokeswoman.

TiVo has been working with partners so that last-minute updates can be reflected sooner, according to Baer. TiVo executives were in an all-day meeting Monday and were unable to comment further on the mix-up.

Sources said ReplayTV subscribers were affected by a similar glitch. Sonicblue representatives said they were looking into reports of the problem, and declined to comment further.

TiVo makes the rounds
In related news, TiVo uploaded its latest advertising promotion to DVRs on Friday. The promotion is for the upcoming film "Mr. Deeds," which opens on June 28. The "Mr. Deeds" promotion replaces the Best Buy promotion and should cycle out in about three weeks, Baer said. The next promotion will be with RealNetworks.

TiVo has been working with advertisers to develop promotional methods that will be more appealing to viewers. The company is hoping that revenue from these promotions and the licensing of its technology will increase over the next few years. The company generates most of its revenue from its subscription business.

There were approximately 422,000 subscribers to TiVo's service as of April 30. The service costs $12.95 per month, or $249 for a subscription that lasts for the life of the recorder.

Last week, TiVo announced that Toshiba is licensing its technology. Last year, electronics giant Sony announced that it would license TiVo's technology.