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Christmas Gift Guide
Culture

TiVo freebie has lump of coal for Comcast

The DVR company plans to give away recorders to Comcast customers as part of a promotion poking fun at the cable giant.

For TiVo, it's better to give than receive--especially when it involves poking a little fun at a competitor.

The digital video recorder company on Friday will give away 40GB Series 2 recorders to Comcast customers who bring their cable bill and a gift for The Family Giving Tree charity to TiVo headquarters in Alviso, Calif. The giveaway will last from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., or until they run out of units, and will be limited to one recorder per household.

Service fees are not included the giveaway, which is only for first-time TiVo owners.

DVRs allow viewers to pause live television broadcasts and program systems to record shows to a hard drive. TiVo usually charges $199.99 for the recorders and $12.95 per month for the service. The company is also in the midst of a $100 mail-in rebate promotion for its recorders that lasts until Jan. 1. A lifetime subscription to the service costs $299--that's the lifetime of the recorder, not an individual.

This is the first time TiVo has given away recorders as part of a holiday promotion and is in part a jab at Comcast. The cable company said a $9.99-per-month DVR service would be up and running for its Bay Area subscribers starting last week. But through a series of miscues, customers were told that the service wasn't available yet or that there was a shortage of recorders.

Comcast representatives did not immediately return calls for comment, but according to the company's Web site the DVR service is available in San Jose but not San Francisco.

With the promotion, TiVo may be tempting fate, but for the moment Comcast is a competitor in a key market during TiVo's most important selling season, said Brodie Keast, executive vice president at TiVo.

A cable deal would significantly boost TiVo's bottom line and growth prospects. The company currently counts its own deal with a major service provider, DirecTV, as the No. 1 generator of revenue and subscribers. However, cable providers haven't picked up TiVo's service, saying it's too expensive, analysts say. Meanwhile, Comcast has decided to develop its own service.

"We'd love to have a cable partnership--that makes sense for both sides, but this is an important selling season and we're taking advantage of a promise Comcast failed to deliver on and we're confident their customers will be willing to go with TiVo," Keast said. "For the moment Comcast is a competitor...More and more cable companies are competing with us, and as a small company we must be more creative in features and promotions."

TiVo continues to develop new features and is wrapping up development of its TiVo To Go feature, which allows subscribers to transfer shows on a recorder to a home computer.

Giveaways aren't new for TiVo. In 2000, the company hosted an essay contest in which it gave away recorders to winners.

Despite the upcoming promotion, Keast said that TiVo hasn't written off a deal with Comcast and continues to communicate with the company.