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November 16, 2006

TiVo Branching Further Into Internet Content, Providing New Conduits for User-Generated Video

Major news that broke this week: TiVo's plans to branch into Internet video for the television. In short: the plan is to allow people to use the TiVo DVRs to watch at least some Internet-based video programming for the television set.

While TiVo's service has not branched into user-generated and professional online content, a series of new features are planned to be added to the service that will take effect next year. The technology conflict that had caused a problem is that TiVo uses a recording format generally used for DVDs, which is not compatible with the file type of most online videos.

According to Saul Hansell with The New York Times, TiVo's way around the problem is asking some producers to convert their programs to TiVo's MPEG2 format to make it available for direct download to TiVo's recorders, adding content from a variety of online players, including iVillage,, The New York Times, CBS, and Forbes; as well as "software that will allow users to watch a much wider range of videos that are available on the Web."

In this case, new customers must download the videos to their computers from the Internet and then, using TiVo software that will retail at $24.95, they will connect the TiVo recorder to the computer over a wired or wireless network to watch the videos on TV. The company already offers software to view photos on TiVo boxes through the computer, as well as listen to Internet radio. The feature will be implemented by the end of December and will be offered as a free upgrade for existing users.

The software will work with MPEG4, QuickTime and some types of Windows Media. Hansell writes, "This will allow it to play most video podcasts and some files offered by video sites including Google Video and Revver." However, it will not play videos with copy protection, nor anything produced through Flash, conflicting with YouTube content. The plan, according to an AP story on the TiVo announcement, is for deals to be put in place for copy protected content to be ported over to the TV in the future.

TiVo will also plan to launch as service for people to upload their home movies and send them to others' recorders who they want to see them in particular. This service will cost $4 a month, while receiving the videos will not cost any fee.

The service will not work for DirecTV TiVo boxes.

This comes in addition to the company's official deals with online content providers for the TiVoCast product we wrote about in June, as well as plans to offer a standalone high-definition DVR that records multiple shows simultaneously, a first for the company in servicing high-definition users.

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