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Rovi's Passport Set To Get Remote DVR, VOD Search

Rovi plans to add Web-based DVR scheduling, video-on-demand search and whole-home VOD in the next versions of its Passport interactive program guide.

The company, previously called Macrovision Solutions, plans to make the new features of Passport available for service providers in two releases in the first half of 2010 running natively on various set-top boxes.

The "remote record" feature would let subscribers set recordings on their DVR from any device that can connect to the Web. Another Internet-enabled feature for Passport is a VOD pick list feature that allows users to browse on-demand content via a Web application and bookmark programming for later viewing.

The Web-based features will require operators to deploy a separate system for handling the online user interface, said Corey Ferengul, executive vice president of marketing and product management for Rovi. "We're enabling the front-end but we're not trying to get into that business," he said. "We're not proposing to be the entire solution, but we're saying we can make it work for [operators]."

VOD search in the next Passport release, dubbed 3.7 internally, will be integrated with the current search function in the IPG to let users search titles, description and cast to find new content. Whole-home VOD will let someone start a VOD session in one room on a Passport-enabled set-top and then stop and resume play in another room on a different Passport-enabled box.

In addition, Passport 3.7 is slated to include a power-on channel "homepage" (pictured, left) that shows up automatically when a set-top is turned on. MSOs can use the menu to send targeted messages, as well as designate the navigation path to direct subscribers to a specified area after a VOD program has finished.

"This is a canvas the operator can define with their branding and navigation characteristics," Rovi vice president of vertical marketing Sharon Metz said.

Rovi will show the new Passport features at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo Oct. 28-30 in Denver.

Separately, the current iteration of the i-Guide IPG -- developed through Rovi's joint venture with Comcast -- supports remote DVR management along with other enhancements. Comcast has begun deploying i-Guide A28 and expects to complete rolling it out through early 2010.

Meanwhile, Rovi also has developed a tru2way-based version of Passport. Ferengul said "we're seeing varying levels of interest in tru2way," adding that operators are much more interested in the lighter-weight Enhanced TV Interchange Format (EBIF) technology.

The current versions of Passport do not have an EBIF user agent, but Ferengul said Rovi is actively developing support for the spec. "We will go from zero to 90 pretty quick," he said.

The Passport 3.5 also offers multiroom DVR features, delivered via the Multimedia over Coax Alliance specification. Ferengul said version 3.5 has not been deployed yet by any operators but that the IPG is in their labs.

The Passport guide -- deployed to about 3.9 million U.S. homes -- is marketed to service providers in the United States, Canada and Latin America. Operators using the IPG include Cox Communications, RCN and Mexico's Megacable.

Rovi this summer changed its name from Macrovision Solutions, which previously acquired Gemstar-TV Guide International. The Passport guide was owned by Aptiv, acquired by Gemstar-TV Guide in 2007, and was originally developed by Pioneer.