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TiVo’s Boxed Energy

3/11/2010 9:44 AM Eastern

New York — TiVo, angling to
reverse its customer losses, unleashed
two new Web-connected
digital video recorders and
a graphics-rich guide designed
for HDTVs that the company
bragged will make other cable
set-tops seem clunky and outdated.

RCN plans to begin offering the
TiVo Premiere boxes as its primary
DVR starting in the second
quarter of 2010 across all its markets.
Meanwhile, Comcast is discussing
the possibility of porting
TiVo’s Premiere user interface to
a Tru2way-based platform.

The new Premiere and Premiere
XL boxes — code-named
Neutron — feature an interface
with a 16:9 aspect ratio based on
Adobe Systems’ Flash platform.
Th e guide includes a new video
window that shows what’s currently
playing while a user is navigating
menus and provides search
across TV listings, DVR recordings,
Internet video like YouTube
clips, and premium broadbanddelivered
content from Amazon.
com, Blockbuster and Netflix.

It’s the only box you need to
have connected to your TV, TiVo
president and CEO Tom Rogers
said at the company’s launch
event here March 2. “At the heart
of it, we’re demonstrating how
cable, broadcast and broadband
content can come together in an
integrated fashion,” he said.

TiVo desperately needs to
punch up its sex appeal to convince
new customers to pay
upward of $500 for one of its settops,
plus a $12.95 monthly subscription
fee.

The company, which pioneered
the DVR market 10 years ago, has
been losing ground to operatorsupplied
DVRs. To reverse the
tide, TiVo has inked distribution
deals with Comcast, DirecTV, Cox
Communications and others, but
so far none have paid off in any
significant way.

RCN is TiVo’s key strategic
customer for Premiere, and RCN
president and CEO Peter Aquino
said the new set-tops were far
superior to anything available
from vendors like Motorola or
Cisco Systems. “TiVo will bring a
whole new way for our subscribers
to experience television with
TiVo’s DVR and broadband television
offerings,” he said.

Comcast originally announced
its distribution deal with TiVo in
March 2005, and the project was
beset with delays as the companies
struggled to migrate the TiVo
interface to a Java-based platform
running on Motorola set-tops.
Comcast finally launched TiVo
service commercially in January
2008 and has said it plans to make
TiVo the “primary” DVR option for
customers in at least one Tru2wayenabled
market, which it hasn’t
identified yet.

The nation’s biggest MSO is intrigued
by Premiere: “We think
the new interface is innovative,
and while there are no immediate
plans, we are talking with
TiVo about how we might use it
with our Tru2way software platform,”
Comcast senior director of
corporate communications Jenni
Moyer said.

On the retail front, TiVo will
start taking pre-orders for the
Premiere boxes on Wednesday,
March 3, on its Web site.

Premiere’s HD interface provides
more real estate for twoand
three-column layouts that
are faster to navigate, Rogers said.
A “discovery bar” at the top of the
screen provides recommendations
based on other content a
TiVo user has selected.

“This is about getting people
what they want when they have
millions of options,” Rogers said.

Other enhancements with the
Premiere release: an on-screen
disk-space meter that shows how
much recording space is left and
a built-in 30-second fast-forward
button to zap commercials.

September