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Comcast makes PVR push

Just a week after Time Warner Cable announced that it would test ReplayTV's personal video recorder (PVR) technology in Los Angeles, Comcast Cable unveiled plans to launch PVR-based services from both TiVo and ReplayTV in New Jersey.

Comcast, which invested in TiVo in July 1999, is teaming with the San Jose, Calif.-based company for a limited commercial launch of the TiVo "Personal TV Service" to 40,000 subscribers in Cherry Hill, N.J. Starting Aug. 1, subscribers will be able to lease a TiVo personal video recorder with 30-hour storage capability and receive the TiVo service by paying a monthly fee to Comcast, which will install the PVR.

The fee will probably be $18.95 a month and will be split between TiVo and Comcast, according to TiVo Director of Business Development Edward Lichty.

At retail, a 30-hour TiVo box sells for $399; the TiVo service costs $9.95 a month. Lichty says that TiVo will front the costs of the TiVo boxes, manufactured by Philips, for the Comcast launch. He sees the deal as an important step toward integrating the TiVo service into cable set-tops.

"I think, in the long term, being in the set-top is the direction we want to head," says Lichty. "This is a good way to initiate a co-marketing relationship with an MSO, and it provides another pricing oathe retail model. It extends TiVo's pricing strategy to cover everything."

The TiVo boxes supplied by Comcast will be configured for subscribers' channel lineups, Lichty says. But TiVo doesn't plan to create any special features within its electronic program guide to promote Comcast services, such as pay-per-view movies, and viewers will have a choice of using either the TiVo or Comcast EPG. The companies will jointly market the service to existing Comcast subscribers.

The Comcast deal is the first time TiVo has rolled out its service with a cable or DBS provider.

Comcast will use ReplayTV to offer PVR functionality to 220,000 subscribers in Burlington County, N.J. As part of a market trial that begins in August, Comcast customers will be able to lease a ReplayTV box, which starts at $499 for 20 hours of storage, for $11.95 a month. The price includes the free ReplayTV service and free installation by Comcast.

Comcast will use the PVR trials to gauge how the TiVo and ReplayTV devices affect subscribers' viewing habits, as well as to discover how long installations take and what impact the services have on call volume at the MSO's customer service centers.