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TiVo Rolls Out ’Net-connecting Boxes

TiVo, the tech company that pioneered the digital video recorder, announced new models that transmit Web content to TVs. The new TiVo Premiere and Premiere XL can access cable programming and YouTube videos alike, as well as hold a near-library of HD content. The Premiere, retailing for $300, holds 45 hours of HD or 400 hours of SD content on a 320 GB drive. The $500, 1 terabyte XL handles 150 hours of HD or 1,350 hours of SD.

Both models have CableCard slots, meaning they can take the place of a cable set-top box. They support ATSC over-the-air reception and Verizon’s FiOS fiber-optic TV as well. Outputs include the usual suspects: HDMI, component, composite, analog and optical audio. Video output modes--480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Connections--Ethernet, USB 2.0 and E-SATA. The XL also has a “learning remote,” is THX certified (Tomlinson Holman eXperiment) and features a THX Optimizer video calibration tool.

The Premiere models will eventually feature integrated support for Pandora radio and widget provider FrameChannel.

They’re slated to roll out in April, through TiVo’s Web site, retail partner Best Buy, and cable overbuilder RCN.

“I’m very pleased to report that based on our field test results, we will begin to roll out TiVo as our primary advanced box in all of our markets, one by one, in the second quarter of this year,” said RCN President and CEO Peter Aquino.

TiVo is taking pre-orders on for the Premiere models; subscription package prices are not listed, though monthly average revenue per user was $7.65 as of Oct. 31, 2009, the end of TiVo’s fiscal 2010 third quarter. TiVo had 1.5 million standalone subscribers at the time, and another 1.2 million through a partnership with DirecTV. The total--2.7 million--was down from nearly 3.5 million the year earlier. Net loss was $6.7 million for the quarter, in which TiVo spent $87.8 million on the Echostar litigation.

Microsoft recently sued TiVo for patent infringement in California Northern District Court in San Francisco. The case is considered a move to counter a suit TiVo filed against AT&T. TiVo went after AT&T and Verizon for allegedly using its time-shifting technology in their set-tops. A similar suit against Dish Network and its satellite-sister, Echostar, has been dragging on for years.

TiVo (NASDAQ: TiVo) is scheduled to announced F4Q10 and full-year 2010 results Monday, March 8. Shares of the company, trading at around $10.20 in early afternoon, have dropped just 2 percent year-to-date. The Web-enabled set-top news gave it a boost of just under 2 percent. -- Deborah D. McAdams