New TiVo DVRs Built for Web & Cable Content

TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) says its new "Premiere" line of high-definition, broadband-connected DVRs will offer consumers access to traditional digital programming plus a variety of Web-fed video and music fare.

Like Boxee , TiVo is taking the wraps off its new set-tops -- the Premiere and the Premiere XL -- at an event tonight in New York. (See Ronen: Boxee Isn't a Cable Killer and Roll Video: The Boxee Box Event .)

TiVo said it will start selling the new products in April, offering the flagship Premiere box for $299.99 and the XL version for $499.99. The basic Premiere box can store up to 45 hours of HD and 400 standard-def video hours with its 320-Gigabyte drive. The XL provides 1 Terabyte of storage, enough to hold up to 150 hours of HD, or 1,350 hours of SD video. Consumers will still have to purchase the TiVo subscription service separately.

The new boxes are outfitted with Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) Flash, and will specialize in Web-sourced video, offering access to streaming and downloading services from partners such as Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), and Blockbuster Inc. . It'll also offer streaming music from Pandora Media Inc. , and a bunch of widgets through FrameChannel.

TiVo, which competes in the high-end DVR sector with Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) (thanks to its recent purchase of Digeo Inc.), also intends to bring the Web video world and more traditional cable video content together under a newly unified, HD interface. It will be looking to these new boxes and software to shore up its eroding subscriber base. (See Arris Tunes Up Moxi Box .)

TiVo also noted that it plans to offer a 802.11n adapter in May that customers can use for multi-room viewing and content transfers. Further out, TiVo will also start selling a remote featuring a "slide-out" QWERTY keyboard.

TiVo's cable connection
TiVo's new boxes come with CableCARD slots so they can be authorized for cable's digital broadcast content. However, given TiVo's recent attitudes, it's no surprise that the new boxes are not specified to run tru2way. TiVo, however, has notched a deal with SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC) that enables its DVRs to access a cable operator's video-on-demand (VoD) offering without tru2way, relying instead on the box's Ethernet port to communicate upstream to the cable plant and set up VoD streaming sessions. (See TiVo Gives Cable Both Barrels .)

TiVo will complement its Premiere box retail efforts with a direct-to-MSO strategy. RCN Corp. , for example, is expected to offer the new product as its "primary" advanced DVR by the second quarter of this year. (See RCN Makes TiVo Its Dominant DVR and RCN: Tru2way Can Wait .)

Less clear is what role Premiere will have with UK MSO Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED). Based on the deal cut last year, it's entirely possible that Virgin may not use TiVo's hardware, but might instead port Premiere software platform and user interface to a line of DVR and non-DVR digital boxes. (See Virgin Presses 'Play' on TiVo and TiVo Coming to Virgin's Non-DVRs, Too.)

Evolution Digital also has a deal to offer TiVo boxes to Tier 2 and Tier 3 MSOs, and the Premiere line offers a logical candidate for that arrangement. (See Canadian MSO Fires Up TiVo/Evolution Combo, TVMax Taps TiVo as Primary HD-DVR, and TiVo Covers Its Cable Bases .)

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has already agreed to offer TiVo as the "primary DVR option going forward" in a yet-to-be announced tru2way market. It was not immediately known if TiVo's Premiere boxes will factor into that rollout. For now, Comcast is offering a port of the TiVo service on Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) set-tops in its New England region.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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