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Time Warner’s Collins Retiring, His Unit Shifting

Sources close to Time Warner Inc. said Thursday that former Time Warner Cable chairman Joe Collins has decided to retire at year’s end as chairman of the company’s Interactive Personal Media group, which has been developing a networked digital-video-recording system called "MystroTV."

The MystroTV unit is being absorbed into Time Warner Cable -- a move that could lead to job cuts, a source said.

Rumors of Mystro staff cuts abounded in Denver Thursday, but an informed source close to Time Warner said no specific job cuts had been announced or identified.

A rumor that Time Warner was "pulling the plug" on MystroTV was unfounded, the source said. Employees were informed of the unit’s reporting shift Thursday, as were MystroTV vendors.

The unit has "100-plus" employees divided between New York and Denver. Its leadership also includes former Time Warner Cable chief technical officer James Chiddix as president.

The unit was formed, with Collins at its head, in early 2001.

For two years, it has been working on a navigational guide and the storage, streaming and content-ingestion techniques needed to watch any show on-demand, regardless of when it aired and regardless of whether viewers had an "appointment," as with TiVo Inc. or DVR technologies, to record a show.

Questions remain about how MystroTV will maneuver through the tricky landscape of copyright law, but technological aspects were "working very well" at Time Warner Cable's Green Bay, Wis., technical test site, a source said.

Many within and outside of the company view the effort as a service that the cable industry could offer but one that satellite providers would never be able to offer.

The informed source said Time Warner Cable remains committed to the project.

Collins joined Time Warner Cable predecessor American Television & Communications Corp. out of Harvard University in 1972. He rose to chairman in 1989.