Investors Flock To Personal TV Firms

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TiVo and Replay Networks continued to line up strategic investors, some of which are also expected to offer programming tie-ins with the two platforms.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based TiVo announced that eight major media companies have shown support for its personal TV device by taking equity stakes in the company. Several days earlier, the company filed for an initial public offering.

The latest investors -- which join DirecTv, NBC, Philips and Showtime as TiVo stakeholders -- include TV networks CBS and Walt Disney (the owner of ABC), cable companies Comcast, Cox Communications, Discovery Communications and Liberty Media, and publishers Advance/Newhouse and TV Guide Interactive.

Last spring, TiVo began selling through its web site set-top boxes fitted with large-capacity Quantum-sourced hard drives to save TV programs to disk. Philips plans to offer a version through retail channels later in the year, and next year DirecTv will coordinate marketing efforts on a satellite set-top receiver incorporating the TiVo system.

TiVo will administer the service portion of the system, which brings "push-style" personalization to TV viewing for a $9.95 monthly fee. TiVo software will learn viewer preferences to search out programs that match their interests and save them to the hard disk for later viewing.

Immediately on the heels of the TiVo announcement, its biggest rival -- Replay Networks -- circulated a memo to the press saying it is planning a similar announcement.

Replay said it would announce a $65 million investment from a "syndicate including some of the largest media companies in the world." However, TiVo postponed the announcement at press time due to some "exciting new developments."

TiVo said its investment news would also include "major strategic alliances. For several of these companies this represents their first investment in the personal television market."

Meanwhile, Metabyte's MbTV Network, a "personalized video system" unit, followed its recent alliance with hard disk developer Seagate (TWICE, July 26, p. 17) by announcing a "strategic relationship" with C-Cube Microsystems to develop MbTV-enabled Digital Video Recorders (DVR) using C-Cube's DVxplore single-chip MPEG-2 CODEC.

The companies said they will develop both set-top-box- and PC-based reference designs for MbTV Networks' personalized television software and C-Cube's real-time video encode/decode hardware. Like TiVo, the system will learn viewer preferences to automatically find and record appropriate programming to a large A/V hard disk.

Metabyte is looking for consumer electronics partners to build and market the system into their product lines.


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