|The new TiVo-iPod software will extend TiVo users' ability to time shift prime time content from TV to their portal digital players.
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The original TiVoToGo, announced about a year ago, was limited in its portability as it only allowed time-shifted programs to be moved to a laptop or PC.
Fuel for the fire
The deal adds fuel to the debate over how media will be consumed in the future. It comes during a period of one-upmanship as media, communications and technology companies have made myriad announcements about their experimentation with new business models in an increasingly consumer-controlled environment.
In October, Disney signed a deal with Apple, allowing consumers to buy for $1.99 ABC’s hit shows from iTunes and watch them on their iPod video players. Weeks later, four major cable operators announced an alliance with Sprint Nextel that will allow consumers to stream live TV and watch time-shifted and on-demand programs through the video screen of their cellphones. Earlier this year Echostar introduced its portable, time-shifting PocketDish device, which can store and play back 20 to 30 hours of previously recorded TV content.
Two weeks ago NBC and CBS announced plans to let consumers purchase a selection of prime-time programming on demand through DirecTV and Comcast, respectively. And while NBC and CBS’s deals didn’t include place-shifting -- thought to be the next frontier after time-shifting -- it cut out or significantly shook up the traditional TV advertising model. TiVoToGo will offer all the same VCR-like functionality as a typical DVR, including the ability to fast-forward and pause programs.
While the incidence of time-shifting is currently low -- most estimates peg DVR penetration at 8% -- incentives such as adding place-shifting capabilities could help drive the market. It could also quell the demand for paying for portable content and impact deals like Disney’s with Apple’s iTunes. (Disney sees a future in getting consumers to pay for shows. Just last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors on the company’s third-quarter earnings call that on-demand content for the TV screen could be worth more than the $1.99 it charges for iPod downloads.)
Of course, TiVo executives say it isn’t trying to undercut TV advertising. It is offering branded tags that appear while a consumer is fast-forwarding through commercials and interactive opt-in direct marketing opportunities. Ameriquest, E-Trade Financial, Nautilus and Novartis are among the marketers who have used the branded tags.
What could be more troublesome for TV executives is the potential for video files to be traded openly on the Internet. TiVo said it will combat such issues by labeling the programs with a watermark that will trace back to specific users to pinpoint where the file-sharing originated.