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Coming Soon via Your TiVo: Internet Video on Television

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Published: November 14, 2006

TiVo plans to introduce features that will allow people to use its digital video recorders to watch some video programming from the Internet on their televisions.

Until now, TiVo has not been able to tap into the explosion of Web video - clips uploaded by amateurs and, increasingly, professional segments made for the Internet. The new features, which are set to be announced today and introduced early next year, are intended to change that.

"Video is interesting for a certain segment to see on a laptop or PC," said Tom Rogers, TiVo's chief executive. "But for a majority of people, it's not going to be television until it's on the TV set."

Many TiVo recorders have technology that allows them to be connected to the Internet, and 500,000 of them are online through high-speed connections. But TiVo's recorders use a video format used in DVDs that is known as MPEG2, and not any of the several formats used for online video.

TiVo has found several ways around this problem. A handful of producers have agreed to convert some of their programming to MPEG2 and make it available to download directly to TiVo recorders. TiVo has already offered some programs in conjunction with programmers including iVillage, Heavy.com and The New York Times. It will soon add more programming, from CBS and Forbes, and make the content more prominent on its menu screens.

The company will also introduce software that will allow users to watch a much wider range of videos that are available on the Web. This method, however, requires users to first download the videos onto their computers. If they purchase software from TiVo for $24.95, they will be able to connect their TiVo recorders to their computers over a wired or wireless home network and watch the videos on television.

This software can play videos in popular formats including MPEG4, QuickTime and some versions of Windows Media. This will allow it to play most video podcasts and some files offered by video sites including Google Video and Revver. The system cannot play videos that have copy protection, like downloadable movies sold by major studios.

More significant, the system cannot handle video using Adobe's Flash technology, which is increasingly the most common method of distributing Web video. Flash is used by YouTube, the fast-growing online video site that recently agreed to be acquired by Google.

Mr. Rogers said the changes were part of a broader vision that will let people use a single method of searching to discover both programs available over television networks and those on the Internet.

"People don't care how a program is delivered," he said.

TiVo also said it would introduce a service that will allow users to upload their own home movies and have them sent to the TiVo recorders of friends and relatives. Users who want to send will need to sign up for a $4-a-month service offered by One True Media. Receiving the videos is free.

These new services will not work on TiVo recorders that are combined with receivers for DirecTV satellite service.

TiVo, which pioneered the use of hard disk drives to record television programs, has been struggling as cable and satellite providers introduce their own recorders. The company has been losing money while it tries to build out new business lines, including interactive advertising, audience measurement and selling software to cable companies.
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