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TiVo mutes sales in Britain

The digital video recorder company confirms that it is scaling down its business in the United Kingdom and has stopped manufacturing its DVR set-top boxes for sale there.

TiVo, the digital video recorder company, has confirmed that it is scaling down its business in the United Kingdom, and has stopped manufacturing its DVR set-top boxes for sale there.

The company quietly pulled the plug on many of its U.K. operations last month, and stopped selling its DVR equipment. "Unfortunately we no longer have any stock of the Thomson Digital Video Recorder. This is as a result of Thomson's contract to manufacture the units for the U.K. market coming to an end," the company said in a statement.

Existing supplies of TiVo hardware may still be in the retail channel, the company said, emphasizing that all current customers and any new purchasers will continue to receive the TiVo service. This includes features such as an automated television program guide that keeps track of scheduling changes.

The company said that BSkyB would continue to handle customer support for TiVo's U.K. base and that Thomson, TiVo's hardware manufacturer for the United Kingdom, would continue to repair the units.

TiVo has stepped up its efforts to license its technology in recent months, and a representative said the company plans to pursue the U.K. market through licensees in the future. Sony and Toshiba have both licensed TiVo's technology.

However, Sony's agreement has resulted in a DVR only in Japan--called MyCast--and Toshiba's arrangement is only aimed at allowing the company to incorporate TiVo patents into its processors, rather than build a complete DVR device.

Still, the Toshiba partnership could help to lower the cost of bundling DVR technology. Combining multiple features onto a chip helps to reduce the overall cost of manufacturing and the final retail cost, which analysts have said is the second-biggest obstacle to DVR adoption after marketing.

Separate from the licensing deal, Sony makes DVRs based on a TiVo reference technology--already on the market, but not in the United Kingdom.

The only option for U.K. consumers who want digital TV recording may be an upcoming generation of PCs with built-in DVR capabilities. An early example is Sony's Vaio PCV-RXG408, and PCs based on Windows XP Media Center are also on the way.

News.com's Richard Shim contributed to this report.