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TiVo, Amazon Offer Downloads and TiVo announced a partnership to sell downloads of video programs to TiVo DVRs for playback on household TV screens.

The new service, called Unbox on TiVo, will begin in a test today using an unannounced number of TiVo users. The full service is slated to roll out later in the year to approximately 1.5 million TiVo subscribers that have either Series 2 or 3 DVRs and broadband Internet capability.

The service, which will be handled through, will offer users the ability to select and purchase movies and videos from among thousands of titles produced by several major movie studios, as well as TV shows. Initially, content sources include CBS, Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Bros.

Additional agreements with other studios and networks are expected in the near future, the companies said.

Downloaded TV episodes will sell for $1.99 each, and pricing for movies will range between $9.99 and $14.99, the companies said. Movie rentals will start at $1.99.

The Unbox on TiVo service is an extension of the Unbox service that launched last year. Purchased videos can be sent from a PC to a TiVo box in addition to laptops and portable media players. Unbox currently uses Windows DRM, but another content protection system will be used to secure content stored on TiVo devices.

TiVo had previously announced plans to offer a video download service with the mail-order movie rental outfit Netflix, but that deal was eventually scrapped.

TiVo said Amazon will offer a large customer base to draw from, and distribution rights to a larger library of content.

Videos may be sent to a TiVo box or a computer and can also be used on portable devices. Purchased videos that have been deleted from the TiVo hard drive can be downloaded again from Unbox, the companies said.

The announcement followed by a day Wal-Mart’s entry into the online video download business through a movie download store. (See p. 4.)

Unlike most competitive solutions, however, the Unbox on TiVo service will allow downloaded files to be deposited directly on the hard drive of a TiVo DVR connected to a household TV set. Most competitive services require the file to be stored on a PC or laptop.

Apple, also, has announced plans to launch its Apple TV system, using a set-top box that will stream videos from the Internet directly to a TV screen.

Sony also plans to offer this year video streaming using a broadband module that plugs into select BRAVIA LCD TVs.