Cable Tech

TiVo Launches Network DVR

TiVo has unveiled a network DVR, joining the growing ranks of cable operators, satellite TV providers, telcos, and other service providers that are embracing the cloud ever tighter.

TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) introduced a prototype of its "Network PVR" at the IBC conference in Amsterdam Thursday morning, rolling it out with Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT). The new cloud-based platform features the same user interface, search and navigation functions, and general viewing experience that TiVo recently rolled out with its next-gen "Roamio" line-up of HD-DVRs, without the need for local storage of recorded content.

The network DVR launch marks another major step in TiVo's evolution into a cloud-based software management player, rather than a hardware purveyor. TiVo executives say the move will help spur the development of thin, low-cost IP set-top boxes, hastening the pay-TV industry's transition to IP video delivery and cutting capital expenditures and service deployment time for cable and IPTV providers.

"We're definitely moving to a place where hardware in the home will change and will get thinner and thinner," says Joshua Danovitz, VP of Innovation for TiVo. "This will be a transition over time."

The move also marks another step in TiVo's overarching strategy to serve all IP-connected devices with video content, not just TV set-top boxes. The DVR pioneer signaled its intent there last week when it announced a deal with Entone Inc. to integrate TiVo's cloud-based UI and video services into Entone's IP media streaming players.

Harmonic is supplying its integrated multi-screen video solution to prepare the content for the new TiVo nDVR. The vendor said its ProMedia Live real-time multi-screen transcoder, ProMedia Package adaptive stream preparation application, ProMedia Origin HTTP streaming media server, and MediaGrid storage system are all involved.

TiVo and Harmonic have teamed up before. In the UK, they joined forces to put together Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED)'s TV Anywhere package. Virgin Media, which just launched a trial of Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) service using TiVo-empowered set-tops, now has more than 1.7 million TiVo subscribers, more than any other cable operator.

TiVo executives have not announced a launch date or any pricing for their new network DVR service yet. But they said it could enable operators to offer a premium service with "expanded catchup and save options." They also said the service could allow programmers to place targeted ads in time-shifted programming.

In addition, TiVo officials said the cloud-based platform could enable "co-viewing experiences" through social networks and recommendation engines. For example, one TiVo subscriber could share a recorded show with another authorized user who missed the program.

TiVo officials have not signed up any customers for their nDVR service yet. But they clearly expect it to go over well with both cable operators and IPTV providers, both at IBC and beyond. "It's going to move very, very quickly," Danovitz says. "We're very excited about it."

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— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

albreznick 9/13/2013 | 11:03:03 AM
Re: To the cloud Yeah, Dan. I agree too. And I think Tom Rogers has the compoany going in the right direction now. They finally seem to have the wind at their back, after all those years of struggling to get cable carriage deals. What they're doing with Netflix in the UK is also quite interesting.   
DOShea 9/13/2013 | 9:52:12 AM
Re: To the cloud I agree. I give TiVo a lot fo grief, but I think it's really interesting what the company is doing now, and I'm looking forward to what it becomes, because its patent strength has been confirmed by the legal settlements. that gives them a good foundation to change.
albreznick 9/13/2013 | 9:48:53 AM
Re: Network DVR vs Cloud DVR Good point, Craig. Thanks for spelling out that distinction. I wondered about that myself. Cloud DVR is definitely where the cable folks want to be. They can't get there fast enough. So companies like TiVo and ActiveVideo have put themselves in good position to take advantage of this trend. Now we'll see how many others jump in.  
albreznick 9/13/2013 | 9:46:02 AM
Re: To the cloud That is a most reasonable question, Dan. I think it took a while for them to, ah, think out of the box. And this cloud stuff is a hige technical challenge to conquer. But better late than never, eh?
albreznick 9/13/2013 | 8:59:14 AM
Re: Whither set-top boxes It will vary widely, Carol. It will be a real mess for a while because many folks will stick with their old set-tops for a long time. Could take up to 10 years before we see thin, IP-only boxes across the board. but the new ones will likely get thinner and thinner as more content, storage, and functions het moved to the cloud. 
craigleddy 9/13/2013 | 8:20:58 AM
Network DVR vs Cloud DVR Is there a difference between "network DVR" and "cloud DVR"? Technically, I think there is. "Network DVR" usually has been applied to traditional MPEG2/QAM digital video and STBs while "cloud DVR" implies using IP stream/ABR video, plus it could connect to OTT services and connected devices outside of a service provider's control. Cloud DVR is where cable operators eventually want to be.          
Carol Wilson 9/12/2013 | 2:08:19 PM
Whither set-top boxes As everyone runs screaming to the cloud, when will we start to retire set-top boxes and what does the next client device look like? Or will it vary wildly, depending on the consumer's choice?
DOShea 9/12/2013 | 1:10:02 PM
To the cloud A solid move, given their new strategic direction and desire for more service provider partnerships, though at the same time you could reasonably ask what took them so long.
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