TiVo Brings YouTube to Boob Tube

Digital video recorder pioneer TiVo today announced that it struck a deal to bring YouTube videos to TV. Through the cleverly named TiVo-YouTube service, subscribers will be able to search through the massive YouTube user-generated clip library on the home theater system. The capability will become available later this year to TiVo subs with broadband connections and Series3 HD TiVo set-top DVRs.

The arrangement is the converse of the typical TV/PC model, where broadcast networks in particular have increasingly redistributed television fare on the ’Net. CBS offers full episodes of prime time show on its Web site; ABC has an HD player. NBC and Fox this week officially launched Hulu, a TV show Web site in development for the last year. CW, TBS and TNT also have
full episodes
of network shows available online. Individual stations are even buying syndicated shows to put online, according to a report from The New York Times.

Recent research from Horowitz Associates in N.Y. indicated that 16 percent of broadband users watched full episodes of TV shows last year. The majority of those who responded said they watched online episodes after missing the original on TV. Another advantage of watching shows online is the pause and rewind functions inherent in most multimedia players. The trade-off is typically reduced video quality.

While a lot of broadband providers crow about beefy download speeds in the 3 Mbps range, that’s typically under ideal conditions next to the headend or hub. Download speeds of around 800 kbps aren’t uncommon and not nearly substantial enough to support CBS’s full-sized media player, for example.

YouTiVoTube will determine if there is indeed an appetite for watching reams of short-form videos on larger screens, but prime time audience cannibalism seems unlikely. YouTube had 74.5 million viewers last November, according to
. Fox exceeded that by 23 million in a few hours during the Super Bowl.

Still, YouTube does have the most video consumption of any site, anywhere, anytime, and TiVo is nothing if not a pioneer in multimedia experimentation, having marketed the first consumer DVRs more than 10 years ago. The Alviso, Calif., company has only 1.75 million subscribers, but recently won a patent infringement lawsuit with EchoStar for its time-shifting technology. The victory will open the door to more mass adoption deals by large distributors, like the ones TiVo now has with Comcast and Cox. TiVo service is available on Comcast systems in New England, and technical trials are underway with Cox.