German media software company, Nero and US PVR middleware vendor, Tivo are to launch their PC-based PVR product in October 2008, rolling out initially in the US, Canada and Mexico. Nero LiquidTV|Tivo PC will allow PC owners to convert their PC into a Tivo PVR and was first announced in November 2007. As well as providing the usual Tivo features LiquidTV will also allow users to transfer content recorded on the PC to portable media players, a process often referred to as 'side-casting'. Two packages will be offered to consumers; A $199 retail package comprising a tuner card, Tivo remote control and IR blaster available only in the US and Canada and a $99 software download option. Both versions include a year's subscription to the Tivo service.
In addition to accessing content through the PC, the new application will also allow side-casting to mobile and portable devices, as well as burning content onto DVDs using Nero software and home networking to other Tivo devices.
This new product is not technically revolutionary but it is the first public foray by a TV brand into the consumer PC-to-TV space. Tivo's product digitises an analogue output from a set-top box and encodes it onto a PC hard drive without copy protection with native MPEG-4 encoding. While essentially a software product, this product fulfils a similar function to a selection of (largely unbranded) analogue-to-digital boxes that will connect any analogue output to a PC. In order to differentiate from other, more basic offerings, Tivo is bundling a 12 month subscription to its proprietary PVR and scheduling service. However, the most appealing element of the offering is likely to be the ease of transferring recorded content to other devices, such as portable media players or storing on DVD.
While much of the premium content available over pay platforms will be scrambled for analogue transfer by Macrovision, the majority of content will be freely recordable using the Tivo system. This could potentially step on the toes of some TV operators hoping to monetise this kind of service, which could mean that Tivo is bundled into a subscription package, in much the same way that Sling Media's Slingbox has been for operators such as UPC in Europe. Without a route to protect or monetise content, Tivo is relying primarily on its online PVR subscription package, which helps to filter and record content for viewers.
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