TiVo Blows Into Chicago

10:30 AM -- RCN Corp. is giving Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) a bit more to think about in Chicago by offering the broadband-connected TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) "Premiere" box as its primary DVR in the Windy City.

Chicago is the last RCN market to get the device, following earlier launches in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, Pa., and Washington, D.C. (See RCN to Expand TiVo 'Premiere' Rollout and RCN Extends TiVo Into Boston.)

In all those markets, RCN is using CableCARDs and an IP backchannel (rather than a full tru2way implementation) to authorize and deliver its home-grown video-on-demand (VoD) service. It's complementing that with Web-fed content from some of TiVo's broadband content partners, including YouTube Inc. and Rhapsody Networks . (See No Tru2way? No Problem .)

RCN is featuring the TiVo option in specific packages, or offering it as a bundle add-on for $19.95 per month.

Still, operators are deploying TiVo boxes with some regulatory risk attached. MSOs such as RCN and Suddenlink Communications gained clearance, albeit temporarily, to offer the Premiere box only after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lifted a rule that requires HD set-tops to come equipped with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) "Firewire" interface. TiVo's Premiere boxes don't support Firewire, but they can be leased out after the FCC granted an interim waiver that removed that requirement whilst the Commission completes its review of the current set-top-box interface rule. (See FCC Douses 'Firewire' , Suddenlink Boxes Up TiVo Deal , and TiVo Gearing Up for Multi-Room DVRs .)

Chances are slim, however, that the FCC would reenlist that requirement on all leased HD set-tops going forward. It's more likely that it will make the waiver permanent but still make operators supply Firewire-capable boxes to the handful of customers who request them.

We've asked TiVo if it has a Firewire contingency plan, but have yet to receive an answer.

Although RCN matches up with Comcast in several markets, they both may have TiVo options very soon. Comcast already offers TiVo ports on Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) boxes in its New England region, but it's also working with TiVo on a fancier navigation system that will run on tru2way set-tops. (See TiVo Building tru2way Version of New Interface.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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