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Panasonic, Replay Ink Deal

Replay Networks, developer of a hard-disk-based personal video recording system, said that Matsushita Kotobuki Electronics has agreed to license its technology to manufacture a line of hard-disk video recorders for the Panasonic line this fall.

Panasonic consumer video general manager Andrew Nelkin said his company will market a line of set-top Replay hard-disk recorders (HDRs) this fall in prices ranging from $699-$1,000, with models differentiated by disk capacity.

The Replay system is similar to one being launched now by TiVo. Both use telephone connections to deliver program guides that viewers use to schedule program recordings and input information about favorite shows, genres, actors, etc., so that the system can find suitable programming to record.

TiVo’s system goes a step further by offering an intuitive push-style service in which the recorder learns viewer’s preferences to automatically find and record programs that it determines the viewer may find appealing.

However, TiVo charges $9.95 per month, while the Replay service is free.

Replay also allows viewers to fast forward through recorded commercials, while TiVo makes advertising an integral part of its recording system, including fine-tuning ads to viewer demographics.

Nelkin said Panasonic plans to educate consumers to the capabilities of HDRs through a comprehensive ad campaign covering print, broadcast Internet and direct mail.

The deal with Replay is not exclusive, but Panasonic will be looking for ways of differentiating its device from those other future licenses may introduce, he said. Panasonic may look to integrate the HDRs into television sets.

Replay is currently selling Replay-branded HDRs through its web site.

Although believed to be similar to the recorders Panasonic is planning, small differences exist. For instance, the Replay recorders include IEEE-1394 FireWire connections for connection to future digital products. But due to ongoing copy-protection concerns, the first-generation Panasonic recorders will not include such capability, the company said.