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AOL, TiVo unite on remote programming

America Online and TiVo, a maker of digital video recorders, team up to let subscribers program their recorders through their AOL accounts.

America Online and digital video recorder (DVR) maker TiVo detailed a new partnership under which TiVo users can program their machines remotely via AOL's online network. To take advantage of the offer, users must subscribe to both AOL and TiVo's existing online services.

The partnership is an example of increased efforts by electronics manufacturers to build networking capabilities into new products. While TiVo originally marketed its flagship Series 2 recorder as the center of a home-entertainment network, the company is now treating the hardware as just one component of that network. Other consumer-oriented products, such as Sony's RoomLink device and Cisco's Linksys Wireless B media adapter, also offer consumers increased networking among home devices.

AOL and TiVo will offer the remote capabilities free to AOL users who also subscribe to TiVo's basic programming service. Earlier this year, TiVo introduced a similar program that lets users schedule same-day recordings over the Web. That package, Home Media Option, is available for a one-time fee of $99.

"This partnership gives us the opportunity to introduce TiVo to millions of AOL members and television enthusiasts," Brodie Keast, general manager of TiVo Service, said in a statement.

To use the new AOL service, subscribers must have a Series 2 TiVo recorder and a basic TiVo subscription. AOL and TiVo said they plan to extend the service to devices such as cell phones, pagers and PDAs later this year.

Users will also be able to change TiVo preferences through their AOL accounts. They will be able, for instance, to choose the priority of program recording, to manage multiple TiVo recorders and to control whether a show is recorded just once or for an entire season.

"Clearly, this is part of AOL's effort to try to make itself more important in areas like television, where it hasn't had a lot of presence," said Josh Bernoff, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "AOL is trying very hard to knit together its products for online, TVs and phones, but so far, it hasn't had great success."

Bernoff said TiVo had the most to gain from the partnership, since it could benefit from exposure to AOL's massive customer base of 26 million subscribers. TiVo has about 700,000 subscribers.

However, since TiVo has only sold a handful of its Series 2 DVRs, and since many of its existing customers access the Internet via broadband or satellite connections rather than dial-up providers such as AOL, it may have limited success in signing up AOL users, Bernoff said.