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Panasonic To Market ReplayTV

Panasonic today announced plans to market a line of hard disc recorders using technology from Replay Networks. While specific features were not discussed the companies did say ReplayTV devices would be available for this year’s holiday selling season. An entry-level model should sell for around $699 and a top-of-the line device should go for about $1,000.

“This new product represents just one more part of Panasonic’s digital equation,” said Don Iwatani, president of Panasonic Consumer Electronics.

The agreement means Replay Networks is stepping up competition with rival TiVo, which announced one major deal with Philips in January at the Consumer Electronics Show and another deal with NBC just today. Philips said then that it would develop several TiVo-enabled devices. While Replay did announce a deal at CES with high-end video hardware maker Runco, Panasonic should be the first third party to bring ReplayTV devices to market. Runco said it would develop a ReplayTV device only when a high-definition version becomes possible. Replay Networks sells a limited number of its own branded set-top boxes through its web site and a toll-free number.

“This development significantly broadens distribution channels and, as a result, greatly widens the audience for the Replay Network Service,” said Anthony Wood, Replay Networks’ CEO. “We’re excited to be working closely with a company like Panasonic, whose proven marketing and distribution expertise can help ensure that personal television becomes a viable consumer product category.”

With a ReplayTV set-top box and the free Replay Networks service, TV viewers can create personalized, on-demand “channels” based on different themes, actors or favorite shows.

“Hard disc recorders with ReplayTV offer consumers a seamless interface with broadcast TV that clearly enhances viewing enjoyment,” said Andrew Nelkin, general manager of Panasonic’s consumer video division. “We’re optimistic that this capability, when introduced through [our] extensive distribution channels, will help establish hard disc recorders as a viable and desired product category in a very short time.”

Nelkin said ReplayTV’s ease of use would be enticing to consumers. “There’s no need to worry about whether you have correctly programmed [the device] or to wait until a program finishes recording to begin watching it,” he said. “We see tremendous potential for this type of product. Its capabilities jibe with what consumers want, the price will be reasonable, and it’s backed by a good business model. This could very well change the way we watch television.”