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New service will send downloads straight to DVRs

Wed, 02/07/2007 - 7:28am

Copyright 2007 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
By David Lieberman, USA TODAY

NEW YORK - TiVo and Amazon will unveil today a service that lets customers buy and download movies and TV shows to their TiVo DVR for viewing on their TVs - one-upping rivals offering such downloads only to computers.

The companies say they will test "Amazon Unbox on TiVo" in a few hundred homes for an undisclosed period. Then they will offer it to any of the 600,000 TiVo subscribers who have their DVR connected to a broadband home network.

"We're taking this world of digital video content that is now available via broadband to PC users and putting it smack in the middle of the living room to make it a comfortable television viewing experience," says TiVo CEO Tom Rogers.

Wal-Mart, CinemaNow, Movielink and other providers require customers to store downloads on a computer. With some effort and additional equipment the video could be displayed on a TV but it is primarily for viewing on a PC.

Those who get a version of TiVo through DirecTV - about 63% of TiVo's 4.4 million subscriptions - won't be able to use the service. The same will be true for Comcast customers when the cable company offers a TiVo service in its cable DVRs, expected later this year.

CBS, Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros. have agreed to let Amazon offer productions to TiVo users. Rogers says Sony "has indicated they're looking to be part of this at time of launch."

Disney doesn't offer films on Unbox, but may soon.

"We have a strong relationship with Disney," says Bill Carr, Amazon's vice president of digital media. "It hasn't been worked out yet, but it will be."

Amazon offers downloads of recent movies for about $14.99 and episodes of TV shows for $1.99. Those prices are slightly higher than Wal-Mart's new download service: For example, "Superman Returns" costs $14.88 there.

But Carr says that "Amazon is known for being very competitive."

How the service will work: TiVo users will go to Amazon.com to sign up and designate where they want movies and TV shows they buy to be sent. Unbox will send purchases to two TiVos, two Windows PCs or one of each. The PC then can load the video on up to two portable devices using Windows copy protection (no iPods). Buyers can burn DVD copies for backup, but they won't play in a DVD player. The Unbox service also keeps a record of purchases and will send backup copies if needed.

Macintosh users won't be able to put Unbox films on their Mac, but can download them to their TiVos.

Carr says it will take about an hour to download a typical movie with high-speed Internet service.

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