|TiVo to Offer Boxes That Go Beyond the Recorder|
By BRAD STONE
SAN FRANCISCO — TiVo, the Silicon Valley pioneer of digital video recorders, is once again trying to get consumers to pay for another set-top box that combines traditional television programming with a vast array of content from the Web.
At an event in New York on Tuesday night, TiVo said it would soon begin selling a new set-top box, called TiVo Premiere. The new device, more slender than previous hardware from TiVo, will put regular program listings from cable and satellite on the same page as related material from the Web.
For example, a prominent search box on the service allows users to look for, say, “The Office,” and quickly find the regular TV listings of forthcoming episodes as well as older episodes for rent on Netflix and Blockbuster, outtakes and deleted scenes from YouTube, and merchandise related to the show for sale at Amazon.com.
“This takes broadband and broadcast and puts them all together as a single experience,” said Tom Rogers, TiVo’s chief executive.
“You have your cable box, your movie box, your music box, your Web box and your DVR all in one.”
TiVo, based in Alviso, Calif., has been struggling for years as cable and satellite companies offer set-top boxes with their own digital video recorders that allow people to pause and digitally record live television.
In November, TiVo said its subscriber base fell by 21 percent, to 2.7 million, from 3.5 million the year before.
The new TiVo Premiere, which will go on sale in April, is aimed at reversing that trend. The basic version of the box can store 45 hours of high-definition programming and costs $300. A premium version called TiVo Premiere XL can store 150 hours and will cost $500.
The company charges additional monthly fees for the service, starting at $12.95.
TiVo will sell the new devices on its Web site and through retailers, including Best Buy. RCN, a cable provider on the East Coast, will make TiVo Premiere boxes available to customers in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.
With the Premiere, TiVo is also presenting new opportunities to advertisers — while taking some away.
Companies can promote themselves prominently from TiVo menus, which include a bar of suggested programs that appear prominently at the top of each screen.
But the TiVo Premiere remote control also has a new scan button that allows a user to easily zoom through a 30-second ad in just one second — which will give viewers a quick “impression” of the ad, but not much more.
The challenge for TiVo, as always, is to persuade consumers to spend the extra money for a premium service, when they can get a free, if inferior, set-top box from their cable or satellite company instead.
The new device “is of course elegant and wonderful in all the ways TiVo has historically been able to deliver,” said James L. McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research.
“The question is, do people need that well designed of a product? That’s got to be very painful for TiVo.”