RealTime IT News

TiVo Launches Home Media Option

TiVo Inc. the maker of that mystical digital video recorder (DVR) that many of the world's biggest television fans just can't live without, made a major play for the home networking space Tuesday with the launch of its Home Media Option.

The new service can adapt to any home networking set-up, including wired or 802.11b wireless networks, PC or MAC, and marks the first deployment of Wi-Fi technology in a TiVo system.

The main push behind TiVo's new service is that users can now watch pre-recorded programs or live programs in different rooms via multiple set-top boxes, as well as schedule and activate television recordings offsite, anywhere, with an Internet connection.

TiVo's new home networking initiative is part of an overall push to tap into the widening market of home entertainment adopters and draw in a million subscribers by the end of 2003.

Research firm Dell'Oro Group predicts that the home networking market will balloon from a $3.7 billion industry in 2002 to $7.5 billion in 2006.

San Jose, Calif.-based TiVo now maintains an estimated 624,000 subscribers and is second fiddle in the DVR space to only EchoStar Communications' Dish Network.

TiVo first launched its DVR set-top box in 1997 with a built-in hard drive that allows users to save up to 80 hours of programs and pause and replay television shows. In addition to an upfront purchase of the set-top box, subscribers also pay a monthly service fee.

TiVo's Home Media Option transports the TiVo set-top box from being a single purpose digital recorder product to a networking device that enables users to stream many different forms of digital media from a MAC or PC into their living rooms, including digital music files stored on the desktop, photos, and video content.

The service is only available to TiVo Series2 subscribers as a software download. Series2 subscribers have the most updated TiVo set-tops, which were released last year with USB ports on the back. The networking feature does not work on earlier TiVo units.

For the multi-room viewing aspect of the new service, TiVo's pricing plan includes a one-time activation fee of $99. Additional Series2 units will be charged a $49 activation fee.

In order to network the PC or Mac with the TiVo set-top box, a wired or wireless network adapter must be purchased and plugged into the USB port in the back of the set-top box.

In January of this year Dallas-based market research and consulting firm Parks Associates conducted a survey of 10,800 Internet-enabled homes that traced a growing trend among U.S. households to network PCs with consumer electronics products such as televisions and stereos.

The study found that almost 61 percent of broadband homes with a PC co-located with their primary home entertainment system have a home network in place.