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Sony, Best Buy Announce TiVo Ties

Sony has joined the ranks of consumer electronics manufacturers that plan to make and market Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) for the TiVo platform.

The two corporations recently an-nounced a multifaceted partnership in which Sony will take an 8.8% equity stake in TiVo and a seat on its board of directors for an undisclosed sum.

Sony said it will develop, manufacture and market TiVo recorders through its CE arm and will supply movies, TV programs and interactive games for the TiVo service through Sony’s movie and television companies.

Simultaneous with the Sony/TiVo announcement, superstore chain Best Buy announced it is the first national retail operation to carry the Philips stand-alone TiVo PVR.

The model Best Buy began selling this month offers up to 14 hours of programming storage capacity at one time and carries a $499 suggested retail price. Best Buy said the box is available in 333 stores across 36 states.

Although Sony declined to elaborate on how it plans to deliver interactive gaming through a TiVo receiver, it did reveal that Jeopardy and The Wheel of Fortune TV game shows would be the first broadcasts to incorporate the play-at-home applications. Sony explained this would allow a viewer to watch the game show and play along using an onscreen-interactive overlay.

A week earlier, Sony said it would make similar interactive gaming enhancements available for the WebTV platform. It is expected that TiVo will tie into the broadcasts through the dial-up telephone modem it uses to download program listings, while WebTV will access similar applications over the Internet.

Sony would not discuss pricing or availability dates for the first Sony TiVo PVR, but said initial versions will not incorporate DirecTv receivers.

Philips announced in January that it would produce TiVo PVRs in both stand-alone set-top boxes and incorporated into DirecTv integrated receiver descramblers (IRDs).

The TiVo system is a hard-drive-based video recorder linked with an intuitive automatic recording system.

Each night the TiVo service downloads via modem listings for programs available in any area through off-air, cable or satellite sources. System software then uses user preference settings to automatically find and record those programs suited to a user’s profile.

The service is available to users in two subscription options: a $9.95 monthly fee or a one-time $199 lifetime fee.

Sony said it would work with TiVo to incorporate the system into other products. The company said the deal with TiVo is not exclusive, and it may still introduce products through a recently announced alliance with Western Digital for A/V hard drives.

As previously announced, the TiVo platform is designed around Quantum’s large-capacity A/V hard drives.

Sony’s minority stake in TiVo joins a growing list of strategic partners, including Advance/Newhouse, CBS, Comcast, Cox, DirecTv, Discovery, Disney, E! Entertainment, HBO, Liberty Media, NBC, Philips, Showtime, The Weather Channel, TV Guide Interactive and ZDTV.