TiVo and Roku Both Want To Hulu In Your Living Room

TiVo, the company that brought us digital video recording and Roku, who brought to us streaming video, both plan on offering Hulu Plus.  Hulu Plus can bring to your TV programing from ABC, Fox and NBC for $9.99 a month. These plans are just one more indication of how the Internet may just change the way we watch TV — which will be streamed over the Internet.

In a recent article it states that:

In a statement, TiVo said it will offer access to Hulu Plus to its Premiere DVR subscribers. “Adding Hulu Plus to TiVo’s content offering was really the key missing piece to the programming portfolio needed in order to deliver a truly comprehensive advanced television offering,” Tara Maitra, a TiVo vice president and general manager of content services and ad sales, said in the news release.

Roku sells streaming players at prices ranging from $59.99 to $99.99. The boxes connect to Netflix’s instant streaming service, the Pandora music site and other content. In a news release, Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood described his company’s offering as “the most inexpensive device to stream Hulu content” to high-definition TVs.

Both TiVo and Roku are competing with larger companies such as Cupertino-based Apple, which recently started selling its $99 Apple TV device, which connects to Netflix and YouTube, as well as movies and TV shows for rent or sale on Apple’s iTunes store.

Every time a service is added to any of these digital devices it only increases the value for the consumer. The competition between TiVo, Roku, Apple, Google, Boxee Box and any other company entering the fray, will only benefit us with lower costs and better quality programming. We are entering into a new decade where traditional TV services will come under attack.

What we need now is for Walmart to enter the market just as it did with cell phones. :-)

Comments welcome.

Source – San Jose Mercury News

Blockbuster And TiVo Join Forces – Movie Rentals On Demand

Blockbuster and TiVo have joined forces to bring you movies on demand. The joint venture will provide TiVo users with classic movies starting at $2.99 and new releases at $3.99 a pop. A news release states:

Over the coming weeks, Blockbuster will expand its available catalog, adding to TiVo subscribers’ growing choice of premium digital entertainment, including select HD titles. In addition, TiVo DVRs will be sold at thousands of participating BLOCKBUSTER stores nationwide, making it even easier for consumers to transform the way they experience entertainment.

“Blockbuster nights are synonymous with family and fun, something that goes perfectly with the TiVo experience,” said Joe Miller, senior vice president of sales and marketing at TiVo Inc. “By bringing Blockbuster’s content direct to TiVo subscribers, we show once again that TiVo offers much more choice and convenience for our customers compared to other DVR offerings. We are very pleased to say that customers can now walk into a participating BLOCKBUSTER store to purchase TiVo DVRs and that together both companies have succeeded in bringing even more entertainment direct to the living room.”

“When people see BLOCKBUSTER on their TiVo DVR, they’ll instantly recognize that they have a movie lover’s trusted source of entertainment at their fingertips,” said Bruce Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of BLOCKBUSTER On Demand. “We’re thrilled to give consumers another way to enjoy the movies they want most now with the convenience of their TiVo remote control in the comfort of their living room.”

Interesting, but I think Blockbuster and TiVo may be late for the party. This reminds me of what the big three auto companies are trying to do: convince the American consumer that this is a deal. Well, no offense to the folks at Blockbuster and TiVo, but this is no deal. With Netflix offering movie rentals for a low of $8.99 a month, and on demand movies included in the price, I seriously doubt this scheme will save Blockbuster.

But what do you think? Deal or no deal?

Comments welcome.

Best Buy + TiVo = Partnership

Best Buy and TiVo have formed a partnership to promote each other in a way that could benefit both companies. On the one hand, Best Buy will expose consumers to the benefits of TiVo compared to DVR services that satellite companies provide. Best Buy will benefit in that they will be able to advertise their products on TiVo. TiVo has had trouble getting consumers to know exactly the benefits that their products have to offer. Best Buy is in a struggle competing against Amazon and now Wal-Mart.

In an article from Silicon Alley Insider they state that:

This deal plugs gaps in both businesses. Best Buy will get visibility outside its stores. TiVo can take advantage of Best Buy’s customer interaction to position itself as more than just a recording device.

TiVo has been struggling to educate customers that they can also use the device to download and stream movies from Amazon and Netflix, watch vidoes on YouTube and buy movie tickets on Fandango.

I went out to the TiVo site to see if I could use their system with DishNetwork. Unfortunately I can’t. But the web site did state that TiVo was in the process of developing their services for Direct TV.

Does anyone reading this use TiVo? What is your opinion of the service?

Comments welcome.


More TiVo Coming To Your Living Room?

There should be an image here!For years, I have had a love-hate relationship with TiVo. Loved them back when it was available on DirecTV, hated the fact that they beat out ReplayTV. In the end though, I am just not sure where my feels for the company are these days.

Luckily my feelings out TiVo are beside the point as their patent holdings will very likely give them the edge they need to gain a stronger foothold into the living rooms of Americans everywhere. And there is also something to be said about giving folks the option of having Roku like functionality as well. Personally, I would like to see more emphasis on web video on standard cable provided DVRs. Maybe TiVo can help here.

For my money, I would not touch TiVo without it being bundled in with my existing DVR. Frankly, having to deal with a tuner and DVR, seperately, is a pain. So if this article is indication that the days of satelite box integration might be back soon, then all the better.

Blockbuster Wants To Be Our OnDemand Video Retailer

Blockbuster has announced that the company has entered into a deal with TiVo to provide OnDemand Video’s to consumer. The #1 movie rental business is changing gears as consumers flock to the Internet to get their movie fix, instead of going to a brick and mortar store. The company is also looking into expanding their offerings into consumer electronics by offering TiVo DVRs, mobile phones, Blu-ray players, and other devices.

In an article from USA Today it further states that:

The alliance comes at an important time for both companies. Blockbuster shares have fallen about 80% over the last 12 months, to 73 cents, as consumer interest in DVDs has flagged.

TiVo shares have dropped only about 22% to $6.98. But it’s struggling to keep customers from switching to lower-priced DVRs offered by cable and satellite companies.

TiVo has 3.3 million subscriptions, its lowest number since 2005. The company hopes to turn that around by persuading cable and satellite providers to offer TiVo’s user interface on non-TiVo DVRs.

Meanwhile, TiVo is trying to make its own DVRs stand out by adding Internet video, including movies from Blockbuster rivals Amazon and Netflix.

Virtually everyone in home entertainment is jockeying for position, with spending for online and mobile videos poised to soar to nearly $1.4 billion in 2012 from about $321 million last year, according to merchant bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

TiVo wants to offer “a complete television experience,” says Tara Maitra, vice president of content and ad sales. Blockbuster’s movie selection will be similar to Amazon’s but different from Netflix’s, which she says “has fewer new releases.”

Will this new alliance between Blockbuster and TiVo be enough? I doubt it. They are competing against cable and satellite companies who already offer DVR for basically free. Netflix with their new video ondeand service is in place and ready to rock and roll.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.


Snowball TiVo

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Yours Digitally,

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Dish Pays TiVo For DVR Infrigement

Just when you thought that the problems for Dish Network were about to be over, Dish ends up paying $104 million to TiVo for violating their DVR patent. But does the story end there? Maybe not. According to an article over at ARS Technica the satellite company may still be in hot water. Seems that Dish has a work around they state gets by TiVo’s patent. According to the article it states that:

That brings us to today’s announcement. DISH had appealed the original TiVo case all the way up to the Supreme Court, which denied the company’s petition for certiorari (a petition to review the decision of the lower courts). As a result, DISH will pay out $104 million to TiVo — the original amount that the jury awarded in 2006, plus interest. “The money is in an escrow account and will be released to TiVo in the next few days,” the company said in a statement issued today.

This decision does not affect the workaround that DISH has developed for its DVRs, though. That case is still ongoing, and a decision has yet to be made on whether the changes are enough to be noninfringing on TiVo’s patents. “We believe that the design-around does not infringe Tivo’s patent and that Tivo’s pending motion for contempt should be denied,” DISH said. “We look forward to that ruling in the near future.” The company must be pretty confident in its workaround, because if that one doesn’t pass the noninfringement test, then it may find itself being forced into a licensing agreement with TiVo in order to keep its own DVRs functioning.

It was just recently that we learned that Dish has been losing subscribers over the past year as well. It seems that Direct is making inroads into the satellite marketm stealing customers away. If Dish can’t prove its new software doesn’t infringe upon TiVo’s patent, Dish will be forced to license TiVo and pass this on to its subscribers. What do you think?

Comments welcome.


40% Off A TiVo HD Refurb DVR!

There should be an image here!Save off regular retail prices when you get a factory-renewed TiVo DVR with TiVo service — available exclusively at tivo.com. All TiVo factory-renewed products are tested and certified by TiVo and shipped to you free of charge. Plus TiVo’s regular product warranty AND 30-day money back guarantee apply to all factory-renewed DVRs.

For a limited time! Discounted factory-renewed price only $179.99 — that’s 40% savings off the MSRP. This great offer comes just in time to spend hot summer nights at home with your cool TiVo DVR. Record HD shows and replace your cable box forever! Now record two shows at once. Up to 20 hours of HD recordings (or 180 hours in standard definition). Connect to your home network and high-speed Internet connection for access to thousands of movies.

Apple TV, Take 2

As many Apple fanboys and other industry observers already know, Apple released a major overhaul of the embedded software on its Apple TV device. This coincided with the introduction of movie rentals through iTunes.

I’d first become familiar with Apple TV when I purchased one late last year. This new software makes Apple TV, in my opinion, almost a threat to TiVo and Amazon Unbox. I emphasized almost because it still lacks video recording capability. Still, it is a great upgrade, and hopefully the shape of things to come.

I decided to kick the tires on the movie rental feature last night and rented the HD version of Resident Evil: Extinction, which, as zombie movies go, is a lot of fun. The download took a while to complete, although I’m not sure how large a file transfer was involved because that part of the transaction is hidden. Like Amazon Unbox, once the transfer gets to a certain point, you can actually start watching the video while it completes the download in the background.

The video quality was excellent on my 32″ Vizio LCD HD TV. However, I found the sound levels be a little frustrating. During parts of the movie with simple character dialog, I had to crank the volume up, but when any action sequences came up, I had to dial down the volume. My Apple TV is connected to the TV via HDMI cable, and I’m running audio straight through the TV, and not into a receiver. Perhaps that is the issue.

At any rate, those of you with an Apple TV should upgrade it right away if you haven’t already. And those of you curious about the Apple TV, if you have a desire to bring the content stored in your iTunes library on your Mac or PC into your living room or bedroom, it’s a great way to do it.

DVR To PC Transfer

Is there a way to download a recorded program from a DVR to a PC or laptop which would then possibly be burned on to a DVD for permanent storage? –Ben

The Digital Video Recorder (DVR) has replaced the VCR as the de facto standard for most households that want to record television programming.

The range of options include stand alone systems, such as the TiVo, to DVRs that are built into cable and satellite tuner boxes that can record exponentially more programming than our old six-hour VCR tapes.

Since what is recorded is digital, it can be transferred and copied in numerous ways without the traditional loss of quality that occurred when making copies of analog video tapes.

Your exact DVR and PC will determine the options available to you, so checking with your supplier or manufacturer is a good first step (TiVo has the TivoToGo option for instance, while some PCs come equipped with special video cards and software designed to connect to any video signal.)

Typically, DVRs have standard RCA output jacks (coded as red and white for the left and right audio channels and yellow for the video channel) or S-Video jacks that would allow you to transfer the recorded shows from the DVR to your computer.

In order to do this, you will need some special equipment that will allow you to connect the two and capture the video signal as it’s being played.

For most non-technical users, one of the easiest methods that I have found is to purchase a video transfer “kit” that includes the cables, converter box, and recording software in one package.

These kits are converting the analog output from your DVR into digital, so it’s not as clean as a pure digital transfer, but if you want it to be easy, this may be your solution.

I have had good success with the Video Xpress system from ADS Tech ($50) that allows you to capture any analog video output (VCR, DVD, DVR, camcorder, etc.) to your computer through a special box that connects to a USB 2.0 connection.

Once you install the software on your laptop and connect all the cables, you simply press the play button on your DVR and the record button in the software on your laptop to record the video stream real-time.

Once you have captured the video, you can do simple edits and then burn it to CD, DVD, or convert it for use on other devices such as Sony’s PSP or video iPods.

If you are interested in other video capture options including HDTV or direct to disc, take a look at the other offerings at ADS Tech’s Web site.

Another company that has some interesting offerings is Pinnacle Systems, including a brand new product called Pinnacle Video Transfer ($130).

The difference in the Pinnacle Video Transfer system is that you don’t even need a PC to transfer your video from your DVR to an iPod, PSP, USB 2.0 hard drive, or USB flash memory device.

Once it is on an external hard drive or flash memory stick, you can transfer it to any PC to burn DVDs, video CDs, or whatever you want to do with it.

Ken Colburn
President of Data Doctors Computer Services, Host of the award-winning Computer Corner radio show, and Author of Computer Q&A in the East Valley Tribune newspapers.

DVR Evolution – TiVo HD

I’m what you call a DVR fanatic. I started using PVR/DVR technology in its infancy, back when Panasonic was one of the first to market a consumer DVR, called the “Showstopper.” The Showstopper technology was eventually taken over by SonicBlue under the brand ReplayTV. ReplayTV came out with some very innovative features, such as the ability to network its DVRs and share recorded programs with others using the same hardware. Then came a series of lawsuits which all but crippled this business.

ReplayTV no longer makes stand-alone DVR boxes, and is now run by Digital Networks North America. It continues to operate in this space, but it makes DVR software and add-ons for PCs only.

TiVo is arguably the most recognizable brand name in this market. At first, I used to shun TiVo, especially in its early days. This was because it was slower to build in some of the features that were already available on my ReplayTV DVRs. But it did its homework and has evolved its DVRs to offer a myriad of new capabilities that captured my interest.

One day, I was on an American Express Web site when I saw a special they were running on the TiVo HD. The special included the TiVo HD unit, one year of activation, and a TiVo wireless network adapter. I couldn’t resist, so I ordered one up. There was some kind of delivery foul-up — UPS said that the unit was delivered, on a day and time I was home — but I never saw the box, despite keeping an eye out for it. After going back and forth with UPS and TiVO, TiVo credited me the original order and re-shipped it. The second shipment arrived intact, although I still often wonder what happened to the first one. You do hear about people who stalk delivery trucks around the holidays and take off with packages left on doorsteps. If that was the case — it was pretty ballsy given that I was home. Still, TiVo does track serial numbers, and it ought to be able to tell if somebody attempts to hook it up and activate it, and perhaps back-trace through an ISP to locate it.

But back to the main point of my story — the TiVo HD unit itself. I didn’t have time to hook it up until after the holidays. But when I did hook it up, it was quite easy. Ironically, I don’t have a TV signal source hooked up to it yet, and that’s because I can’t split my cable signal any more than it already is. Eventually, when I watch all the recorded contact on the ReplayTV DVR the TiVo HD is sitting on top of, I may switch the cabling around so the TiVo is hooked up to the cable feed.

Despite not having the TiVo hooked up to a signal, I am still actively using it. I’ve linked it to my Amazon Unbox account, and have already downloaded some content to it. I think the picture quality of the Unbox videos and movies is superior to that of content I’ve put on my Apple TV via iTunes. I’ve downloaded TiVo Desktop, the free version, although I haven’t really started to use it yet. It offers a paid version that will allow you to convert recorded videos so they can be put on your iPod, so I may eventually opt for that.

The TiVo HD also has other Internet “smarts” built into it, and I haven’t quite had time to kick the tires on all of the different features yet. Still, this is a reasonably priced DVR that offers a ton of great features. I can see it becoming a mainstay in my entertainment setup for some time to come.

TiVo Announces Photo-Sharing Service

Its been a big third quarter for TiVo.

Your TiVo can now tap into your family memories. TiVo has announced that users will be able to browse photo collections from Photobucket and Picasa Also, if you’ve got a Series 3 TiVo you’ll be able to browse everything in High-Defenition. We’ll bet grandma never looked so wrinkly before.

If you have access to other usernames you’ll be able to view their photos as well, so your family may only need to share a username and password with you in order to access your your photos in Hi-Def.

This announcement comes on the heels of another TiVo feature that will allow users for a $13/month subscription, full access to Real’s Rhapsody’s music collection..

What's My Best Digital Video Recording Option?

DVRs and PVRs, which are basically the same thing, allow you to watch television whenever you want to, instead of when they’re broadcast: you simply record the program and play it back when you want to.

Corey in the chat room wanted to know what the best DVR is: TiVo, Windows Media Center, or MythTV?

Chris uses the Comcast branded DVR, but that’s because it makes it easier for him to record his cable shows for playback. What’s best for you, however, depends on what you want to do with it.

If you’re a fan of Open Source, you’ll probably be happy with MythTV:

MythTV is a homebrew PVR project that I’ve been working on in my spare time. It’s been under heavy development for almost four years, and is now quite useable and featureful.

If you want to synchronize your video files with a portable device, you’ll be happier with TiVo, which allows you to port the TiVo-to-go files:

Your TiVo box, powered by the amazing TiVo service, automatically finds and digitally records all of your favorite shows, every time they’re on. Every episode of your favorite series. Every Coppola movie. Every home improvement program. Even Dora cartoons! Whatever you choose. All while you’re out living life. Plus, only TiVo lets you watch your favorite shows any time, anywhere.

Microsoft also offers Windows Media Center, which offers a familiar interface:

Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 powers the all-in-one PC and entertainment center for your entire home. Get all the advanced computing power of Windows XP and enjoy your favorite entertainment on your PC – watch DVDs, record TV, listen to music, share your digital photos, and more.

Snapstream makes BeyondTV, which gives you the full capabilities of a DVR system while running under Windows:

Record and watch TV with your PC. Gain control over your entertainment experience. With Beyond TV, you determine what you want to watch and when you want to watch it. With incredible features and extensive setting options, TV is under your control.

What DVR/PVR do you use?

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[tags]tivo, pvr, dvr, mythtv, windows media center[/tags]

Make a Media Center

You’ve probably got a few dozen CDs and DVDs lying around. Oh, and there’s probably thousands of digital photos and videos on your computer. Then, there’s the… hey, do you have a Media Center in your family room? Marcelo Litovsky is making a name for himself by making them for folks:

I read your article about the upcoming of Media Center PCs. Although this is not new technology, it is catching up in 2006. HP, Dell (Alienware), Gateway – they all have them. Microsoft Released the OEM version of MCE, giving a lot of people the opportunity to build and sell their own Media Center PCs.

Last year, Bill Gates gave Windows Media Center Edition a big push at CES. Microsoft started to promote this product and PC vendors followed. That demand triggered a competition at the component level. CPU and video card vendors joined in. You can see this reflected on all the computer publications out there. Ads for MCE based PCs are countless.

You can run into any computer store these days and buy one. Or, just order it online – no shortage there either. But, unlike a limited-purpose DVR, you are buying a PC. This comes with its own problems; when Microsoft releases a fix, patch, update, etc. it is not possible that they have tested it on every possible combination of hardware out there (things do break). Same goes with other hardware and software vendors. If you are like me, the whole family suffers. The kids cannot watch TV or their recorded show – and you come home to a “Send this error report to Microsoft” message, or a device driver that no longer works.
Continue reading “Make a Media Center”