Charter Tags TiVo For DVRs, Next-Gen TV

Charter Communications inked a multiyear pact with TiVo to supply DVR set-tops as well as provide technology to merge traditional cable TV with Internet-delivered content.

Under the deal -- which represents one of TiVo's biggest service provider wins in years -- Charter this year will launch TiVo's Premiere DVR in unspecified markets, along with forthcoming multiroom DVR features. The MSO also will use the TiVo guide on non-DVR set-tops.

TiVo "will be our primary multiroom/whole-house solution and preferred DVR service for our customers," Charter spokeswoman Anita Lamont said.

Charter evaluated several options and "the selection of TiVo as a partner was based on our strategy to alter the dynamic of our video business by offering customers a better overall video experience," Lamont said. "Next-gen architecture is here now and having the ability to deploy TiVo to our customers within a few months is appealing."

In a subsequent phase of their partnership, Charter will expand its TiVo-based service with new devices, features and third-party applications using the DVR company's discovery, search, navigation and recommendation features. That, according to Charter, will provide "the best of traditional and next-generation television," combining linear TV, video on demand, Internet video and IP applications all through a single interface.

"We're integrating formerly disparate worlds of traditional television and online content, and making it simple for customers to quickly find the content they're looking for, as well as greatly expand their entertainment choices," Charter president and CEO Mike Lovett said in a statement.

Continued Lovett, "Our strategic relationship with TiVo is a significant step in Charter's multiyear effort to become the solutions provider for home entertainment and consumer information technology. With our superior IP infrastructure, we're leading the way with TiVo to create a user-friendly entertainment experience that leverages an open standards platform to enable IP content and bring a whole new world of applications to the television."

Charter, the fourth-largest U.S. cable operator, has about 4.7 million video subscribers.

Among TiVo's other deals with service providers, Suddenlink Communications and RCN have rolled out TiVo Premiere DVRs with over-the-top content in select markets, and the U.K.'s Virgin Media soft-launched a TiVo service on Cisco boxes last month. DirecTV is expected to debut an HD DVR with TiVo's interface sometime in 2011.

TiVo's distribution deals with Comcast and Cox Communications, on the other hand, never took off as expected although Cox is working with the company to let users of retail TiVos access its VOD service.

"We are thrilled to have been selected by Charter for its next generation video platform, which builds on the distribution momentum we saw throughout 2010 for our products," TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers said in a statement. "Charter's strategic direction is highly aligned with the way we see consumer entertainment demands evolving.... While numerous consumer-electronic players point to so-called connected experiences on various platforms, our relationship with Charter underscores our mutual recognition of the importance of a fully integrated user experience in building a video platform that truly unifies all available content in a world of rapidly expanding choices for the consumer."

The initial TiVo market launches in Charter territories will include Web applications, such as access to local news, sports and weather, as well as Facebook and Twitter updates, right from the TV, plus access to Charter's VOD library, including more than 900 high-definition titles.

Charter's TiVo DVR will provide "Internet video from top destinations," as well as an iPad app to let subscribers browse the program guide and recorded shows, schedule recordings and perform other tasks.

The TiVo Premiere provides storage for up to 45 hours of HD programming or up to 400 hours of standard-definition programming and supports both 1080i and 1080p HD formats.

Certain features of Internet-connected TiVos, however, will not be available through Charter, such as Netflix's instant-streaming service. In the case of Netflix, TiVo's rights to offer the streaming capabilities don't extend to devices distributed via multichannel video programming distributors.

Separately, TiVo is still awaiting a decision in its litigation against Dish Network, pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In addition, TiVo has patent-infringement suits pending against Verizon Communications and AT&T, and the company is itself the target of a patent lawsuit from Microsoft, whose Mediaroom IPTV software is used by AT&T.