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S-A, Keen Set to Reveal PVR Effort

Keen Personal Media today (Oct. 16) is expected to announce a deal to license its personal-video recorder software to set-top maker Scientific-Atlanta Inc.

The PVR company and S-A also plan to jointly develop recording technology-digital-video storage on a hard disk-designed especially for cable.

A subsidiary of hard-drive manufacturer Western Digital Corp. formed several months back to take advantage of the burgeoning PVR market. Keen has been in discussions with six top MSOs, vice president of marketing Greg Kalsow said last month. No deals have been signed, he added.

To help set its service apart, Keen will incorporate a seamless graphical-user interface that resembles the cable operator's interactive program guide of choice, Kalsow added.

The PVR would be integrated into cable set-top boxes and use the same remote control that subscribers already employ.

"The MSOs, we believe, want an integrated set-top box," Kalsow said. But Keen also plans to develop a side-car attachment for use with the millions of digital set-top boxes already in the field.

The PVR, which Keen calls "TV4Me," would ultimately be marketed under the cable operator's brand name, Kalsow noted.

The service would establish separate user profiles for up to six family members. It would recommend programming for those viewers based, in part, on past usage habits, such as who is more likely to watch during the day and who watches in the evening or on Saturday mornings.

Keen wants a share of incremental revenues, rather than money from the sale of the technology itself, Kalsow said. He expects to see initial customer trials of TV4Me early next year.

Kalsow claimed that it's not too late to enter the PVR market, and that there is room for players besides TiVo Inc. and ReplayTV Inc.

"They've done a marvelous job creating awareness" for the category, Kalsow noted. "We think that will help us."

Keen plans to concentrate its initial efforts on digital cable, rather than direct-broadcast satellite.

"We think the biggest opportunity is with the MSOs," Kalsow said. "We think this can actually help them roll out digital, that it can convince their customers to make the switch to digital."

The first combination DirecTV Inc. and TiVo receivers recently hit retail shelves. Last week, Hughes Electronics Corp. senior executive vice president Eddy Hartenstein said Good Guys!, the first retailer to sell the combination DBS and PVR boxes, sold its entire initial shipment within a day and a half.

Both Replay and TiVo have started to test services with cable customers through limited MSO trials. Replay recently said it would partner with Vulcan Ventures Inc., S-A rival Motorola Broadband Communications Sector and Charter Communications Inc. to incorporate its recording features into digital set-tops.