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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Program your TiVo through Yahoo

Yahoo continued its steady push beyond personal computers and into the living room, announcing Monday a partnership with TiVo that allows people to program their digital video recorders over the Internet.

The ability to remotely instruct a TiVo device what to record is not itself a breakthrough; TiVo users can already do that through the company's Web site.

But the collaboration kicks off what could turn into a broader partnership, the companies said. By the end of the year, for instance, TiVo subscribers might be able to start accessing certain Yahoo services -- such as photos, weather and traffic -- through their TiVo set-top boxes.

The deal is yet another signal that Yahoo intends to be a major player in the convergence of Internet and television technologies.

The Sunnyvale company has been trying to move its content and services onto other devices besides the PC; it has a partnership with SBC Communications that could eventually push Yahoo-branded content onto mobile phones and home stereo systems.

``It's sort of like you're seeing Yahoo spread its wings and be more of a portal that ties into the TV in your home,'' said Michael Goodman, an analyst with the Yankee Group.

David Katz, head of sports and entertainment for Yahoo, said the deal furthers the company's ``mission of delivering what consumers want, when, how and where they want it.''

Monday's deal should help extend the reach of both companies' brands, particularly TiVo, headquartered in Alviso, north of San Jose.

At one time the lone player in the digital video recorder industry, TiVo has seen its market share eroded by competitive digital recorder-makers and scheduling services, including the cable and satellite companies who used to be its partners.

Satellite TV service DirecTV, for instance, used to sell TiVo-branded digital video recorders but recently launched an aggressive marketing campaign for its own video recorder.

Under the new partnership with Yahoo, visitors to Yahoo's TV schedule page will see a prominent TiVo link that allows them to add programs to the recording schedules for their Series 2 recorders.

``We think there's a great deal of compatibility among our brands and customer bases and subscribers and their interests in entertainment,'' said Naveen Chopra, director of business development for TiVo.

Analyst Phil Leigh of research firm Inside Digital Media said he can foresee people searching for video content through the Internet and simultaneously scheduling it for recording on their TiVos.

``I think the integration of video search and TiVo is coming,'' he said.

TiVos have been connected to the Internet for years. But the company has resisted the temptation to just offer subscribers Internet access through their televisions -- a model attempted by other companies over the years without much success. Instead, Chopra said, TiVo is focused on developing ``specific applications well-suited to the TV,'' such as the ability to order movie theater tickets via TV while simultaneously watching a Julia Roberts movie.

``We're very focused on what makes sense,'' Chopra said.

Similarly, Yahoo has been studying the best ways to take advantage of the convergence of the Internet and TV. The Sunnyvale Internet giant has partnerships with both SBC and Verizon, two communications companies hoping to bring Internet-based televisions into homes.

Yahoo could use those partnerships to put some of its services onto TV sets.

Also Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Yahoo and SBC will soon introduce a co-branded cell phone that would integrate with Yahoo services such as music, photos and e-mail. Yahoo had no comment on the report.

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