This morning, I woke up to a barrage of press releases from TiVo, touting various Internet-to-TV initiatives and content supply partnerships. Let’s dig in and see what it all adds up to.
One True Media
A supply agreement with tiny upstart One True Media will give TiVo users a way to turn their home movies and digital photo albums into private TiVo channels. Anyone with the personal channel code and a TiVo Series 2 or 3 player will be able to watch your wedding video or baby photos, giving TiVo customers a handy way of sharing their homemade content with friends and family.
One True Media’s biggest customer to date has been Babycenter.com, which should give you some idea of the target audience here. The service sounds useful and could give TiVo users a new reason for recommending the service to friends and family. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and there’s no shortage of content to share these days—thanks to the popularity of camera phones and as evidenced by the success of YouTube. TiVo could look really smart if this thing takes off. The service should be available in early 2007, free for the viewing, though uploading will require a $3.99-per-month account with One True Media.
An upgrade to TiVo’s Desktop Plus software, slated for release before the new year, will let users convert videos into TV-viewable formats and stream them to their television over a local network. Version 2.4 of the software will transcode any QuickTime, MPEG-4, WMA, or other popular video format into TiVo-standard NTSC-format MPEG-2. The feature is designed to simplify in-home video streaming, blurring the digital divide between the PC and the living room entertainment system.
“It’s not TV until it’s on TV and now TiVo is the only DVR available today that makes watching Web video on TV easy,” said Tom Rogers, President and CEO of TiVo. “There is an explosion in video on the Web that is not intended to be rights-protected and now the consumer can decide which of that video he or she would like to view on the TV set.”
The upgrade will be free for current users of TiVo Desktop Plus 2.3. Everyone else will have to pay $24.95 for the software. Series 2 receivers will be needed at first, with a Series 3 version planned for next year.
CBS Interactive signed on to deliver content through the TiVoCast service, bringing a variety of CBS-produced TV shows and exclusive Web clips to the TiVo platform. “TiVo’s TiVoCast service allows for us to extend our reach, join other content innovators, and ultimately learn more about our audience with content such as Katie Couric’s ‘Eye To Eye’ from CBSNews.com, fantasy football shows from CBS SportsLine.com, or the wealth of original programming currently available on CBS.com,” said CBS Interactive president Quincy Smith.
Alongside CBS, TiVo also brought in content deals with Reuters, Forbes, diabetes information provider dLife, fine living channel Plum TV, and independent short-film producer Nano. Existing partners include the NBA and WNBA, CNet, iVillage, and the New York Times, and all of this content is freely available to any Series 2 owner—once again, Series 3 support is planned for later this year.
The Guru Guide recommendation system also got a shot in the arm through a deal with talent agency International Creative Management. Celebrities like Carrot Top, Bryan Adams, Usher, Woody Allen, Christopher Walken, and Bernie Mac will provide recommendations for TV shows, films and downloadable video, along with up-to-date information about that celebrity’s current and upcoming projects. The celebrities will join the guru lineup in the first half of 2007, and it won’t cost end-users a dime.
Tying it all together
Finally, a “unified search” feature will launch next year, giving customers a single tool for searching on-air and online content. With the plethora of new services joining the fray, a simple inteface to handle it all becomes imperative, especially since TiVo has long been known for its user-friendly systems.
“For more than 10 years, people have talked about the TV and Internet coming together,” said Tom Rogers, President and CEO of TiVo. “The dramatic expansion of video options is being driven by the amount of video now available via the power of broadband distribution. Not a day goes by without an announcement about some studio, network, programmer, or Internet company providing yet even more video content online. TiVo provides the only approach that brings it all, broadcast, cable, broadband, together into a seamless experience for the viewer.”
That is a succinct summary of what these announcements are all about. TiVo is trying hard to stay with the times and adapt to the rising popularity of online videos. Add in the licensing opportunities opened up by legal successes against EchoStar, and perhaps we’ll see cable customers clamoring for their providers to upgrade their generic DVR boxes to TiVo-supported software, the way Cox Cable and Comcast already did. 2007 could be a good year for the digital video pioneer.