If you’ve been following along, you know TiVo was in Washington, DC this week to announce two new KidZone developments — the addition of Parents’ Choice Foundation for content suggestions and the ability of KZ to identify and record E/I programming. I got in touch with TiVo last week and reminded them I live in the area (and clean up pretty well). They were very cool in giving me the green light to attend what turned out to be an exclusive gathering of only a few dozen people including CEO Tom Rogers and Congressman Fred Upton. On behalf of the blogosphere, I thank you TiVo (and Thomas Hawk)!
When I originally learned of KidZone I was underwhelmed. After all, what do I care about parental controls — I don’t have children and I don’t have any immediate reproductive plans. Why aren’t these guys working on my VOD and Series 3? Having learned more and allowing this initiative to percolate for awhile, I’ve changed my tune… perhaps this is bigger than we thought. KidZone now strikes me a positive and powerful strategic move by TiVo of furthering Rogers’ goal of differentiating themselves from generic DVR offerings. With both public and political scrutiny of television programming recently, TiVo is using this functionality to command attention and align themselves with powerful allies (as in Congress). This kind of exposure will surely help in marketing themselves as a software solution to cable companies and in limiting customer defections. I’m not sure how many boxes KidZone will move on its own, but TiVo has picked up a new set of vocal evangelists by partnering with these various watchdog groups.
So how exactly does KidZone work? Basically KZ partitions the TiVo into the general areas we’re familiar with and a restricted children’s area. Initially a parent selects the age of the child(ren) who will be using the device. This setting will filter live television programming based on current ratings systems (movie, television, content) in conjunction with a default child-friendly channel list, but without requiring classification nomenclature familiarity. Next the parent will choose a four digit code which is used when adding or removing shows, modifying settings, or returning to the adult area of TiVo.
Once the initial setup is complete, at any time parents can add recommended programming from sources such as the Parents Television Council (sketchy) and the Parents Choice Foundation. Broadband-enabled TiVo units allow the selection and fine tuning of these lists of via an integrated HME application, while dialup users will be directed to TiVo Central Online for this portion of KidZone management. List selection is not limited to one provider parents are also free to select multiple lists or none. Additionally, lists can be pruned based on parental preferences.
In addition to recommendations, parents can both add or share Season Passes of any shows with KidZone using the same recording options that are currently available. Parents can also limit access to shows they feel are inappropriate by populating the Blocked Programs list. For even finer control, Ratings Settings and the default kid-friendly channel list can be tweaked.
KidZone-enabled TiVo units also have a few other interesting features to protect Junior. For example, rebooting a TiVo currently in KidZone will restart in KZ mode and after four hours of inactivity, the TiVo unit reverts to KidZone… compensating for the parents who fell asleep watching Spice.
KidZone is scheduled to launch in June for Series 2 TiVo units and will also be available on Series 3 boxes whenever they arrive. While Comcast has been shown KidZone, a decision hasn’t yet been made to include the functionality.