The most remarkable thing about Yahoo Inc. and TiVo Inc.’s agreement to allow Yahoo Web surfers to program their digital video recorders with a mouse click is what the deal doesn’t include.
Under the agreement announced last week, Yahoo and TiVo won’t allow Web surfers to download video content from Yahoo to TiVo receivers. That’s long been a goal for TiVo, which has flirted with the idea of allowing Netflix customers to download movies to DVRs.
TiVo and Yahoo also said they won’t sell banner ads to programmers on Yahoo that would allow TiVo subscribers to program their DVRs to record shows pitched in the ads.
“The technology is definitely there to do something like that,” TiVo director of business development Naveen Chopra said. “It’s not something that we have included in the discussions with Yahoo.”
Yahoo and TiVo are letting Web surfers program their DVRs through the Web portal, but that’s not a new concept. Since April 2003, TiVo has allowed subscribers with its Series 2 receivers, which represent about one-third of its customers, to program their DVRs through TiVo.com. TiVo also cut a deal with America Online in April 2003 to allow subscribers to allow remote DVR programming.
Chopra declined to quantify how many TiVo customers program their DVRs via the Internet. But he said 50,000 TiVo customers visit TiVo Central Online (tivo.com/tco), the Web site that hosts the feature.
Yahoo spokeswoman Nissa Anklesaria said TiVo customers will be able to download weather and traffic information, and photos to their DVRs “within the next few months.” But she said Yahoo and TiVo have no plans to allow the latter’s customers to transfer video content to their receivers.
TiVo has long sought to make a business of collecting subscription fees in exchange for allowing customers to download video content from the Web.
In September 2004, TiVo sparked attention on Wall Street by saying it had an agreement with CD-rental firm Netflix to develop technology and work with Hollywood studios to allow TiVo customers to download movies directly to the DVR.
That deal now appears dead in the water. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told analysts during an earnings call on Oct. 19 that the companies haven’t been able to obtain any content for a Netflix-TiVo offering. “There’s no work going on right now,” he said.
TiVo’s Chopra declined to discuss the Netflix deal.
TiVo also ran two trials in recent months with cable networks Independent Film Channel and College Sports Television that allowed a select number of TiVo customers to download content from the networks via the Internet to their TiVo receivers.
CSTV CEO Brian Bedol said he was pleased with the number of TiVo customers that downloaded a Navy-Air Force football game, but said he couldn’t quantify how many actually did because of a nondisclosure agreement with TiVo.
“From our standpoint, it wasn’t a numbers game. It was really, 'Is there a way that we can create yet one more connection point with college-sports fans?’ ” Bedol said.
Chopra said TiVo hopes to eventually allow subscribers to download content via the Internet to their DVRs, but doesn’t have any other deals lined up with programmers.
DirecTV customers with TiVo will not be able to use Yahoo to program their DVRs because DirecTV wasn’t involved in the agreement, DirecTV spokesman Robert Marsocci said.