Digital video recorder (DVR) supplier TiVo is unveiling a $299 high-definition DVR that will use CableCARD conditional access technology to control access to premium programming and a broadband connection to pull on-demand content. The unit, which will be unveiled at the CTAM cable marketing convention in Washington, is expected to be available in early August.
TiVo’s high-end Series 3 hi-def CableCARD-compliant box has been available since late last year, but its $799 price tag has made it mostly a niche product for serious video-philes who are committed to TiVo’s convenient user interface.
The new, dual-tuner TiVo HD DVR, which has 180 hours of standard-definition video storage compared to the Series 3’s 250 hours and uses less expensive image processing technology, is designed to have mass-market appeal to cable customers, says Jeff Klugman, senior VP/GM of TiVo’s Service Provider & Advertising Engineering division. He adds that the new DVR, which won’t work with satellite service, should also appeal to operators.
“It’s a universal cable box,” says Klugman. “What we’ve found is TiVo subscribers are very loyal, and there is likely to be lower churn [with a TiVo box]. And a TiVo subscriber tends to buy up to higher services.”
To promote the new cable-friendly product, TiVo has also launched a CableCARD support program through which TiVo marketing and customer support representatives will work with cable operators to help field inquiries from customers who have purchased CableCARD-ready TiVo DVRs.
Klugman says that TiVo already has a lot of experience with CableCARD support from helping early adopters of its Series 3 product. The company's experts will help educate operators on CableCARD utilization and troubleshooting, in addition to providing ongoing customer support services such as specialized trainers and training materials.
“We’re basically offering to take the first call and try to make things more straightforward for subscribers,” says Klugman.
Besides the CableCARD support program, TiVo doesn’t yet have any firm plans for working with cable operators to market the new DVR at retail. But Klugman says that cable operators are interested in working with TiVo on that front, particularly when one considers the amount of floor space that electronics retailers currently devote to their satellite competitors.
“There are conversations going on right now, and they see a clear benefit,” he says. “Whether or not we announce any programs or activities, there is a genuine interest in helping each other in the retail opportunity.”
The new TiVO HD DVR won’t be able to access cable operator’s video-on-demand (VOD) offerings because TiVo doesn’t have any existing agreements to support the nascent two-way CableCARDs that allow VOD (as well as operators’own interactive program guides). But the box can use a broadband connection to pull content in on-demand fashion from TiVo’s 20 TiVoCast programming partners, as well as buy movie downloads from Amazon’s Unbox service.
As the third leg of what TiVo is billing as its “triple play” for the cable industry, the Alviso, Cali.-based company confirms that its ongoing work to integrate the TiVo guide into third-party set-tops for large operators Comcast and Cox is progressing on schedule. Comcast had previously said it would begin deploying TiVo software next month.
“There’s nothing to be said that’s any different from that,” says Klugman. “I’m optimistic we’ll be seeing product in a matter of weeks.”