STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Starting about 10 years ago, TiVo changed the way that many people watched television. Now, about one-third of American households can pause their live TVs, record multiple shows at once, and skip through commercials. TiVo wants to change TV watching again by selling a box that would draw video from cable, broadcast, Internet streams and downloads - all in one place.
Nate Dimeo reports.
NATE DIMEO: You know "House," the TV show? Cranky doctor? Well, you can watch "House" a ton of different ways. You can watch it live...
(Soundbite of TV show, "House")
Unidentified Man # 1 (Actor): (as character) Twenty-eight-year-old female. Sudden unexplained coagulopathy.
Unidentified Man # 2 (Actor): (as character)Congenital (unintelligible)
Mr. HUGH LAURIE (Actor): (as Dr. Gregory House) Platelets look normal.
DIMEO: You can record it.
(Soundbite of TV show, "House")
Unidentified Man: (as character) Twenty-eight-year-old female. Sudden unexplained coagulopathy.
DIMEO: You can stream it or download it onto your computer. And you can watch all of that "House" right in your own house on your own TV, if youre tech savvy enough and wealthy enough and patient enough - and good enough at keeping lots of wires and remote controls straight. Or, says TiVo's Joe Miller, you could buy a TiVo Premiere.
Mr. JOE MILLER (Retail Sales and Marketing, TiVo): Your TiVo would find you "House" that's on broadcast, "House" if it's in syndication, all of the past seasons that might be on Amazon or might be on other services.
DIMEO: And he says it'll find any "House" that's on YouTube, or let you listen to the "House" soundtrack through a music service. And will play it all on your TV with one box and one set of wires and one remote.
Mr. MILLER: Think of it as kind of Google of television.
DIMEO: Which is, of course, a big claim. But whether this particular product can deliver on it or not, the two companies do share a distinction. Like Google, TiVo not only gave the world a new technology, it also gave it a new verb - as in, did you catch "Idol" last night? No, I TiVo-ed it. But unlike Googling, the vast majority of TiVoing doesn't occur while using an actual TiVo, and that's a problem for the company.
James McQuivey is an analyst at Forrester Research. He says there are about 1.5 million TiVo-brand digital video recorders in American living rooms right now.
Mr. JAMES MCQUIVEY (Analyst, Forrester Research): There are, meanwhile, another 30 million people in the U.S. who have some kind of DVR, and that's a hard reality for TiVo to face when they essentially invented the category.
DIMEO: People love DVRs. They love being able to pause and rewind live TV, zip through commercials. And ever since the cable and satellite companies started making their own boxes, McQuivey says TiVo has found it hard to find new customers.
Mr. MCQUIVEY: A basic DVR made by a cable company, or offered by a cable company, is so much better than what you have when you don't have any DVR at all. You know, it's a little bit like making it just outside the gates of heaven, and it's so pleasant and warm that you don't realize that just a couple steps away, there's even a better experience to be had.
DIMEO: He says TiVo's new product faces new challenges. The current video landscape is intimidating. There are already so many gadgets that do parts of what TiVo's new one is promising to do. You could buy a Roku or a VUDU or a Slingbox, or any number of other boxes. Even if the TiVo Premiere is the one gadget to rule them all, "Lord of the Rings"-style, he says it's expensive and daunting all on its own.
Mr. MCQUIVEY: If they're going to solve all of your video problems, it means it's going to be, by definition, hard to install. So there's a big, upfront hurdle of price and hassle.
DIMEO: Which may be a lot to ask people to do when the whole point of the thing is to eliminate hassles. Even if the TiVo Premiere is the Google of TV, it may be hard to convince people that there isn't a better box coming just down the road.
In fact, Google is supposedly working on a set top box of its own - which just might be the Google of TV.
For NPR News, I'm Nate Dimeo.
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