June 7, 2006 8:21 AM PDT

TiVo tunes in to Net downloads

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TiVo unveiled on Wednesday broadband video downloads, marking the latest move by the digital video recorder company to expand its Internet-related services.

Through the new TiVoCast service, people can download broadband video clips to their TiVo boxes for free from a handful of Internet sites, such as woman-oriented iVillage, technology-focused CNET.com (a CNET News.com sister site), entertainment-grooved Heavy.com, The New York Times, the National Basketball Association and Women's National Basketball Association, and news and political video blog site Rocketboom.

TiVo began testing broadband video downloads last August, previewing "Greg the Bunny," "Hopeless Pictures" and "The Festival" before they debuted on the Independent Film Channel. That was later followed up in December with Rocketboom videos, which have been ongoing since then.

"Television is still the preferred platform for watching video," Tara Maitra, TiVo general manger of programming, said in a statement. "The TiVoCast service captures mainstream and specialty-based content on the Web, delivering programming that is not otherwise available through the TV today."

TiVo plans to expand the number of Web sites and videos it offers, Maitra added in a telephone interview, although there is no specific target for such launches.

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Subscribers will be able to access the content through the Showcases area of TiVo Central, using a TiVo Series2 DVR box connected to a broadband connection.

TiVo and its partners plan to make money by integrating advertising within the content. That could bode well for TiVo, which has been under pressure to differentiate itself amid growing competition from companies offering DVR service to industry titans such as Cisco Systems and Motorola, which are adding digital recording features to their cable set-top boxes.

TiVo's broadband service comes as greater headway is being made in the development of Internet Protocol television (IPTV). AT&T, for example, is planning a wide deployment this summer of its Project Lightspeed and U-verse TV service, which has been in a pilot phase.

TiVo, meanwhile, has developed software and a user interface that can be used with IPTV. This technology would help subscribers organize and navigate through programming that may be offered via IPTV in the future.

However, TiVo is still figuring out how this technology will be used with the broadband video clips, Maitra said.

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It May Already Be Too Late ...
since TiVo's moribund management has been distracted with internal turmoil at the top for years; wasted hundreds of millions of investor dollars on TV commercials that were "hip", but utterly failed to get the message across of why my brother-in-law, Joe Six-Pack, should rent a TiVo (and with lifetime service now history, that's exactly what monthly/annual subscribers are doing); and developing platforms that nobody wanted, much less at premium prices (e.g., the combo TiVo and DVD players and recorders). The IPTV software that they're now hawking has been in its current gestation for over two years, and was actually the original "killer app" presented to initial investors over eight years ago (the investors thought that DVR capability was more important to get a foot in the doors of consumers' homes, since consumer broadband Net access was only just starting to become available in small numbers in only the largest markets).

Current and former TiVo engineers I know have been extremely disappointed with their management's poor performance, and there has been a brain drain going on for quite a while. As usual, the smartest rats jump ship before the dimmer or less experienced ones do, and the more senior ones are still hoping against hope that their $80 IPO stock options might someday be worth something (but the stock price has been down in the single digits pretty much ever since the IPO, so it would take a miracle for them to be worth anything again).

The gradual loss of new DirecTV subscribers, expensive work on integrating with cable set-top boxes (which should have happened long before integrated DVD players/recorders), and flailing by their marketing weenies, who keep overruling engineers' priorities for fixing hundreds of bugs that consumers have been screaming about for years (there are several hundred "must-fix" bugs that engineers have been begging to be allowed to fix, but their words just get drowned out by the marketing weenie wish-list blathering) are taking their toll, and there just doesn't seem to be any path to long-term profitability, especially now that everyone and their brother is offering DVR technology, although pretty much all of it is inferior to TiVo's ease of use and reliability. However, by not charging up-front for the hardware, and bundling it into a cable or satellite package bill, the pain of the extra cost is wrapped in a nice sedative.

At least this is better news than the seemingly endless recent partnership announcements about how you will be able to do things like program your TiVo over your cell phone. It just may be too late for IPTV to make much of a difference for TiVo.

All the Best,
Joe Blow
Posted by Joe Blow (175 comments )
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Nutz to you, Joe
TiVo is terrific, and it's just gotten better.

Yeah, they should keep lifetime service (which I have) and EVERY company has room for improvement -- but it's still head-and-shoulders above anything else out there.
Posted by Rita McKee (27 comments )
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management's poor performance
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/nakamichi/nakamichi_cr1_cr2_cr7a_cr5a_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/nakamichi/nakamichi_cr1_cr2_cr7a_cr5a_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ipod Apple (152 comments )
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Posted by mystereojones (46 comments )
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Gotta love TiVo
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.techknowcafe.com/content/view/487/42/" target="_newWindow">http://www.techknowcafe.com/content/view/487/42/</a>
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