Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape Communications, is investing an undisclosed amount of his personal funds in Replay Networks, saying that the small Silicon Valley start-up's technology may do for television what Netscape did for the Net.
Replay Networks is developing digital television recording systems that it hopes will replace today's traditional home videocassette recorders.
"Think of ReplayTV as a portal for television," Andreessen said in a statement today announcing his investment. "Browsers brought the Internet to millions and portals let people personalize and manage that online chaos.
"The Replay Network Service will provide a portal to personalize and manage the chaos of thousands of hours of television programming raining down on people daily," he added.
Andreessen first stumbled across Replay Network when he saw one of the company's advertisements, according to Replay Network CEO Anthony Wood.
"He emailed me to find out more about beta-testing and came by for a demo," said Wood. "[Andreessen] is a video buff and was totally psyched."
Wood downplays the importance of Andreessen's financial investment in the company but focuses instead on his presence on the board.
"The size of the investment wasn't small but we are about to close on a much bigger venture [capital] round," said Wood. "The investment just shows that he believes in the product and that the company will be successful.
"[Andreessen] can translate technology into successful consumer products, making the difference between a Palm Pilot and Newton," said Wood, referring to Apple Computer's defunct handheld device, compared to 3Com's popular version. "That's what makes a start-up succesful."
Replay Networks will soon begin shipping ReplayTV, the television set-top box and service that it says will revolutionize the way people watch television. ReplayTV guarantees viewers will never miss their favorite television shows, since the system can automatically find, capture and digitally store programs for playback on-demand.
The company said it will begin shipping ReplayTV to select customers in 1998 and begin volume shipments in the first quarter of 1999.
Each ReplayTV includes a free subscription to the Replay Network Service, a new type of service that allows broadcasters, networks and studios to offer personalized television programming on demand to their viewers, using today's infrastructure.