TiVo joins Internet surfin' safari

Will offer PC software to format videos for TV sets

TiVo wants its high-end subscribers to watch Internet video on their television screens instead of their computer monitors.

In a move announced Tuesday, the company that introduced DVRs to the masses said it will begin selling PC software next month for $25 that will put Internet content into a format for playing on TV.

The software, TiVo Desktop Plus 2.4, supports QuickTime, Windows Media Video and MPEG-4, though not Adobe's Flash, a significant shortcoming considering that's what YouTube uses. TiVo is targeting that kind of shortform, user-generated video.

"There is an explosion in video on the Web that is not intended to be rights-protected, and now the consumer can decide which of that video he or she would like to view on the TV set," TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers said.

Also coming next year from TiVo is "unified search," a way for subscribers to seamlessly seek out desired programming no matter its source, be it broadcast or cable TV or Internet content.

Analysts were impressed with TiVo's efforts so far and predicted bigger things in the company's future as it continues to look for ways to differentiate itself from run-of-the-mill DVRs that simply record TV shows.

But those lesser DVRs, offered by cable and satellite TV companies for a smaller monthly fee than TiVo charges, have been formidable competition thus far, one reason TiVo stock has taken a beating during the past few months. Investors also have been taking a wait-and-see approach concerning TiVo's ongoing legal struggle with EchoStar Communications, which is appealing a patent decision that was favorable to TiVo.

TiVo sinking shares, though, rose 7.1% Tuesday to $6.34 on news of the company's bolder foray into the delivery of Internet video.

TiVo also said Tuesday it added more partners for its TiVoCast service, whereby Internet content is delivered regularly to TiVo subscribers who request it. CBS Interactive, Forbes magazine, dLife, Plum TV, Reuters and Nano have joined previous TiVoCast partners the New York Times, the NBA and others. TiVoCast is expected to launch later this month.

TiVo's Internet capabilities are available to standalone subscribers who have broadband-enabled TiVo Series 2 and Series 3 boxes. At last count, there were only about 500,000 such subscribers out of the 4.42 million total TiVo subs.

TiVo Internet products, said Citigroup analyst Tony Wible, "represent a preliminary step towards the introduction of a robust download service," which might eventually include feature-film downloads.

TiVo also said Tuesday it has pacted with a tiny company called One True Media to make it possible for TiVo owners to zap home movies to one another for playback on TV screens.

"Video that stars the important people and events in a subscriber's life should be viewable on TV," Rogers said.

That functionality, coming next year to broadband TiVo subs, will be free to receivers of content, though senders must pay a $3.99 fee per month for a One True Media account.

"TiVo is the first to provide one holistic viewing experience where you'll be able to find what you want, when you want it, no matter where it comes from," Rogers said.
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