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Virgin Media Testing TiVo’s Network DVR

Las Vegas – International CES -- Virgin Media, the U.K. cable operator now owned by Liberty Global, is one of the cable operators overseas that’s kicking the tires on a network DVR that TiVo has under development.

“It’s a fairly small trial at this point in time,” Jeff Klugman, TiVo’s executive vice president of product and revenue, said here on Wednesday in reference to the trial with Virgin. He said other nDVR pilots are underway with other yet-unnamed international cable operators. Com Hem of Sweden and ONO of Spain are among TiVo’s other MSO partners outside of the U.S.

Klugman said TiVo is seeing “strong interest” among some of its U.S. MSO partners and virtually all of its international service provider customers.   He said TiVo plans to roll out the nDVR product commercially later this year.

Klugman said TiVo is providing the front end software and interface for the service and is working with a broad set of vendors to provide the backend storage, processing and encoding components. Harmonic is its first announced integration partner for TiVo's nDVR.

Here at the show, TiVo is showing off a prototype of its network DVR. Klugman said TiVo is crafting it in a way that will allow MSOs to set the rules that govern the nDVR, including if it can stream from a shared copy of a program, or, as is the case with Cablevision Systems’ remote-storage DVR, require that the system create unique copies of each program selected for recording by the customer.

TiVo’s system is also capable of storing a several days-worth of programming, by network or individual show, or, if the rules allow, provide perpetual, infinite storage. It can also disable trick-play functions during commercials or leave them be. Boiled down, TiVo’s front end allows its MSOs to “dial in the rules," Klugman said.

He also confirmed that TiVo has 4K/Ultra HD support on product roadmap, and that the company expects to support native 4K later this year on its new retail-focused Roamio line of DVRs, MSO-distributed TiVo hardware, and on software that it ports to third-party DVRs from suppliers such as Pace.

Because 4K is in the early stages of deployment, he views 4K support as a “future-proofing” measure. “We’re still trying to judge the timing on it,” he said.