DirecTV Uncorks Five-Tuner Genie DVR

Multiroom DVR Can Auto-Record Recommended Shows
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DirecTV has named its multiroom HD DVR -- which can record up to five TV channels at the same time -- the “Genie,” adding an automatic-recommendation feature that records shows based on subscribers’ tastes.

The No. 1 satellite operator is positioning the Genie’s five tuners and recommendation features as besting Dish Network’s three-tuner Hopper DVR. However, DirecTV’s box lacks the latter’s controversial automatic ad-skipping feature. In addition, while Genie includes 1 Terabyte of storage, the Hopper has 2 TB.

DirecTV says the Genie can record up to 200 hours of HD programming or 800 hours of SD content, beating typical cable DVRs.

The Genie recommendation engine was developed in-house by DirecTV, as was the middleware for the Genie (formerly called the HR34). With the launch of Genie, DirecTV is now offering client devices, dubbed Genie Mini, although only three remote clients may be used as one time.

"We simply asked consumers what they wished for in the perfect television experience and then set out to develop as many of those features as possible in our new flagship HD DVR," DirecTV chief technology officer Romulo Pontual said in a statement.

The “Genie Recommends” opt-in feature stores recordings of shows similar to TV programs a subscriber has watched, keeping them for up to five weeks.

The Genie currently is available only to new DirecTV customers for no extra charge with a two-year contract, plus three free Mini clients. The operator plans to make it available to all subscribers later this year; the regular price of the Genie DVR is $299 and the client is $49.

U.K.-based Pace manufacturers both the HR34 and the clients. DirecTV’s longtime software partner for set-tops and DVRs is NDS Group, now part of Cisco Systems.

In addition to the Genie Mini, the DVR gateway can be accessed by RVU-enabled TVs, gaming consoles or Blu-ray players. Currently, only Samsung Electronics’ 6000, 6400 and 6420 HDTV models support RVU. The remote viewing option requires DirecTV's Advanced Receiver Service, which costs $20 per month.

Other Genie features include the ability to watch the same recorded show on multiple TVs simultaneously (up to four at a time); view and record on-demand programs in every room; watch, pause, rewind, fast-forward on two channels at the same time; and access to Internet apps including Pandora, ScoreGuide, Facebook, Twitter and others for news, sports and weather info.