Netflix, TiVo team up on broadband movies to the home

Netflix and TiVo have signed an agreement to let TiVo subscribers access Netflix's library of movies over broadband Internet connections, the two companies announced Thursday.

The two US companies did not provide very many details about the agreement in a press release Thursday. They are working out with movie studios the details of exactly how the movies will be distributed, said Kathryn Kelly, a TiVo spokeswoman.

TiVo subscribers would be able to visit Netflix's Web site and either stream movies over a broadband connection or download them to their TiVo boxes, Kelly said. The companies are planning to work together on technology that will secure this content, she said.

No time frame for the rollout has been announced, but the service definitely won't be available this year, Kelly said. The deal is not an exclusive one for either company, she said.

Netflix believes the service will be available in 2005, said Shernaz Devar, a Netflix spokeswoman.

The two companies have very close ties. Until Thursday, TiVo Chief Executive Officer Mike Ramsay sat on the board of directors at Netflix, but he resigned from the board as of Thursday's announcement to prevent any conflicts of interest, the companies said in the release.

Netflix, based in Los Gatos, California, lets subscribers choose their favorites movies on a Web site and have DVDs mailed to them, which they later return by mail. Subscribers to the company's basic plan can have as many as three movies at a time and keep them for as long as they like, but they can't have more than three at any time.

The deal with TiVo will give Netflix an alternative distribution strategy, Devar said. The company believes DVDs will continue to be the dominant medium for movies over the next few years, but the deal with TiVo gives Netflix a start down the road toward the delivery of movies over the Internet, she said.

TiVo has changed the way many people watch television. The Alviso, California, company sells DVRs (digital video recorders) that let users record their favorite television programs onto a hard drive and watch them whenever they like, skipping commercials in the process. The company also provides a service that updates programming schedules and manages the downloads.

Many companies, such as Intel, are working on technology that will let movie studios control how their content is used after it has been downloaded from the Internet. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, actor Morgan Freeman joined Intel President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Otellini to announce that Freeman's movie studio, Revelations Entertainment, will release a movie over the Internet in 2005 the same day it is available in theaters.

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