With the introduction of TiVo Premiere, the DVR maker has a shot at staying relevant as Internet video grows.
The new set-top box is meant to blur the line between cable and Internet programming. Sure, TiVo boxes already let you watch videos certain Internet sources, but a new interface, Series 4, ties everything together.
For instance, users can search for a movie, actor or genre on TiVo Premiere, and then choose to watch the film from either cable or an Internet source if it's available. TiVo Premiere can also search for TV shows, video podcasts and radio on the Internet. A remote with a slide-out keyboard will be released later this year to make searching easier.
On the downside, existing TiVo owners will need a new box to get the extra features. There's a 320 GB model for US$299 and a 1 TB model for US$499.
TiVo needed this. Internet video is already available on Blu-ray players, television sets and game consoles, and with cable companies offering their own DVRs, TiVo was starting to look like an also-ran. Until cable providers start adding Web video to their own set-top boxes, it'll be hard to find another piece of hardware that does it all. And who knows? Maybe this will force cable to come up with something.
It's been a rocky road for TiVo. The company was thought dead in 2005 after losing a partnership with DirectTV, but then it won a major patent lawsuit against Echostar in 2006. TiVo posted its first annual profit in 2008, but hasn't been able to sustain the gains.