BeyondTV4 Exclusive Preview

Dave Zatz —  October 12, 2005

BeyondTV4Soham Mehta, Director of Product Development at SnapStream, and I spoke about the forthcoming BeyondTV4. As with BeyondTV3, BTV4 is a PC-based DVR application.

SnapStream’s biggest news is the ability to record over-the-air (OTA) HD broadcasts with BTV4, including support for an unlimited amount of tuners. Also important is what’s not included: DRM. SnapStream is monitoring digital rights management within the industry, but is committed to empowering their customers. Having said that, BTV4 provides unencrypted DivX output resulting in high-quality video with smaller file sizes. Additionally, many set-top DVD players support the DivX format providing another means of archiving content. Based on customer requests, SnapStream has integrated FM time shifting into BTV4.

The new software has been under active beta testing since early summer, with hundreds of participants helping SnapStream polish this release. In regards to future development, Soham emphasized they are “reactive to hardware” and thus seek “synergy” with manufacturers to add features based on customer feedback. Soham indicates BTV4 will be released this year, “before the holidays.” The current pricing model will remain the same, with discounts offered to those upgrading.

Primary New Features:

  • HD tuner support
  • DivX output
  • FM time shifting

Additional Features:

  • Enchanced show search options
  • Revised interface
  • Support for unlimited tuners at no additional cost
  • Live TV buffer for back-recording

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PocketDISH(es) Released

Dave Zatz —  October 11, 2005

PocketDISHDish Network has just released their custom branded Archos portable media devices. They come in three flavors, corresponding to various LCD and hard drive sizes at different price points: $329, $499, $599. Dish, part owner of Archos, includes support for high-speed Dish DVR downloads.

Dish Network says: With the choice of a crystal-clear 2.2-inch, 4-inch or 7-inch LCD screen, PocketDISH is one of the most advanced portable media devices available and provides consumers the ultimate convenience in how they watch television. Compatible with most TVs and consumer electronic devices on the market today, the units can download or record content from a PC or Mac, digital cameras, mass storage devices, as well as other video or audio sources such as DVD players, camcorders and VCRs. DISH Network customers will enjoy a special feature of ultra-fast video transfer speeds when attaching PocketDISH to select DISH Network digital video recorders (DVRs) via a USB 2.0 connection. For instance, an hour of DISH Network programming can be transferred to the PocketDISH hard drive in about five minutes.

TiVo Goes To War

Dave Zatz —  October 10, 2005

TiVo LogoDirecTV starts peddling their new DVR this week, but in the long run will it be competition or commission for TiVo? If TiVo is able to prevail in defending their “time warp” patent versus Dish Network, with court proceedings beginning this week, they should be able to work out royalty arrangements with other DVR providers… in or out of court.

Rocky Mountain News says: The question of who owns the rights to technology that revolutionized the way people watch TV goes to trial this week in a Texas courtroom.

TiVo Inc. alleges that EchoStar Communications Corp., operator of the Dish Network satellite- television service, infringed on a patent central to digital-video recorders, devices that allow viewers to pause live TV and skip commercials.

At stake for Douglas County- based EchoStar are unspecified monetary damages and the risk that it might be forced to modify many of its receivers. That’s if the company is found liable for infringing on TiVo’s “time warp” patent, which allows viewers to record a program while replaying another. For TiVo, which pioneered the DVR technology – only to see satellite and cable companies create their own versions – the case could set a precedent as to whether it can sue other companies that have introduced competing products.

DVR Advertising Gets Rolling

Dave Zatz —  October 9, 2005

Business WeekBusiness Week’s 10/17/05 article “Hey, Advertisers, TiVo Is Your Friend” obviously caught my eye. David Kiley spotlights “ad guru” Rishad Tobaccowala and the inevitability of advertisers finding us in the “new-media” era. I can only hope, as we move forward, that the Comcasts and TiVos of the world will advocate for consumers and strike a reasonable balance that allows them to rake in the advertising bucks without spamming us into oblivion.

Business Week says: His advice? Adapt to consumers’ changing behavior rather than try to cling to the status quo. People’s preference for consuming content when they want it will only grow, he says. He predicts 30% of U.S. homes will have DVRs in less than two years. Pair this preference for on-demand content with the ability to search for video on Google or Yahoo, download it over speedy broadband links, and zip it to the living room TV, and traditional TV schedules will be rendered meaningless.

And advertisers will have much more information they can use to target particular viewers. Rather than knowing simply what percentage of 18- to 25-year-olds watch Desperate Housewives, they’ll be able to figure out which people watch, how frequently, and what they’ve been searching for recently on the Net. Advertising can become more science and less art.

Over the past 2 1/2 years, Tobaccowala has urged clients, including BMW and Coca-Cola, to cut deals with TiVo and cable companies to create more compelling and targeted messages. GM tried experimental ads on Comcast Corp.’s video-on-demand ser-vice in Philadelphia last year. Each month 10,000 people chose to view GM’s one- to two-minute ads featuring test-driving segments and in-depth vehicle profiles. Next year, GM plans to roll out slicker ads for most of its vehicles on three more cable systems. “On-demand is going to explode, and we need to be ready for that,” says Jack Bowen, GM’s general manager for customer relationship marketing.

DirecTV R15As Michael Buffer once said, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” DirecTV will begin pushing their own DVR next week with no guarantees, though certainly more leverage, of extending their contract with Tivo past 2007. Features of the forthcoming R15 DVR were previously disclosed on TV Predictions.

New York Times says: DIRECTV, the satellite television operator, is introducing a $30 million advertising campaign on Monday to promote its highly anticipated digital video recorder.

The campaign, created by the New York office of BBDO Worldwide, is DirecTV’s first widespread public effort to distance itself from TiVo. Of DirecTV’s 14.7 million customers, 2.3 million now subscribe to TiVo. DirecTV, which pays TiVo a monthly fee of $1.13 per TiVo subscriber, hopes those users will switch to its own service.

DirecTV’s standard DVR, originally set to be released this past June, will be introduced in late October, and another model featuring high-definition service will be introduced in mid-2006. The standard DVR will feature up to 100 hours of recordable space, compared with TiVo’s 70 hours.

DirecTV will continue to support the TiVo service without marketing it, and both services will be priced at $5.99 a month. The company’s current contract with TiVo is set to expire in early 2007. DirecTV has not said if it will continue the contract after that.

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Tivo’s New Beta, Hosted Apps

Dave Zatz —  October 5, 2005

TiVo LogoTivo is beginning to test hosted Home Media Engine (HME) applications as described in this recent email correspondence. FYI I did not receive the email and I am not part of the Beta group.

Hi there!

Thanks for filling out the beta application at www.tivo.com, we appreciate your interest in TiVo’s Beta Programs!

When you received the latest software update from TiVo (sw version 7.2.0) recently you probably noticed the addition of the word “More” in the Menu Item “Music, Photos and More”! You may have been wondering what on the earth the “More” was going to be. Well….over the next few months we will be rolling out some interesting applications, but first we need your help! We need to “load test” the servers that will be hosting these new applications and we’d like you to help us do that. What’s “load testing”? It’s where we get you all to access some sample applications to see if you can break the servers!

PLEASE NOTE: You will NOT receive NEW software on your DVR if you sign up for this program. This program is ONLY to test the servers that will be hosting the new applications.

What do you need to participate?

* Be a regular user of the TiVo service
* Own one or more Series 2 DVRs that are hooked up via a Home Network to a Broadband Internet connectionPLEASE NOTE: this program is NOT available to Series 1 DVRs or DIRECTV DVRs with TiVo Service
* Have access to a computer at home to be able to receive and complete small homework assignments
* Available for testing until around the end of October
* Like playing games!!

So, if you’re saying “sign me up!” all that’s left to do is for you to complete the TiVo Beta Participant’s Agreement. And what on Earth is that? It’s a statement that says you do not work for the competition; that you are not a member of the press; that you really CAN keep a secret, i.e., you won’t tell anyone about the new features or communications resulting from the program; etc. It’s just what you’d expect from any beta program that allows you access to new features ahead of everyone else! But remember, it is a legally binding agreement, so please take it seriously.

TiVo Field Trials Group

(via Digg via 8bit_Hero)

TiVo LogoTivo continues their trend of interesting promotions. Next week they’re hosting a long-overdue funeral for the VCR in New York City. By contributing a video cassette to the casket, you’ll be rewarded with a free Tivo (and a one year service commitment).

Tivo says: As the curtain rises on one of the country’s ultimate consumer technology and entertainment shows, Digital Life, TiVo will bring down the curtain on the VCR. In a ceremony celebrating the demise of the VCR as a household necessity and commemorating the passing of this venerable, but clunky analog technology, TiVo will encourage consumers to trade in a VCR tape for a free TiVo(R) box. The event will feature a mock funeral, including an eulogy, witness speakers sharing their personal memories of the VCR and a casket overflowing with VHS tapes.

TiVo will give away hundreds of its pioneering DVR boxes while supplies last as VCR replacements to every consumer who joins in the commemoration of the VCR’s passing by “Tossing a Tape” in the commemorative casket carrying a VCR with a venerable flashing 12:00 and activating TiVo service on their free TiVo box at the “Passing of the VCR” event.