Personal-video-recording company ReplayTV Inc. announced plans last week to launch a new Web portal, www.myreplaytv.com, which will allow subscribers to activate their service's television-recording features from anywhere they have access to the Internet.
Business travelers, for example, could check remaining storage on their PVRs remotely and activate the service to add new shows to be recorded.
The Web portal will launch in October along with a new ReplayTV 3.0 software download to the company's existing subscriber base, senior vice president of sales and marketing Jim Hollingsworth said.
"This is one of the first meaningful applications where you'll be able to control a home audio/ video device through the Internet," he added.
But the Web application won't work in real time, at least not during the initial launch. The consumer set-tops are not directly connected to the Internet, but they communicate with a ReplayTV server by telephone in the middle of the night.
ReplayTV subscribers outside of the home could set their PVRs to record a show the following morning, for example, but could not record a show scheduled to air that evening.
To access their PVR information on the Web, users would need to register their set-top's serial numbers, and would then be given passwords for future use.
"Registration has to be very secure," Hollingsworth said. "You wouldn't want to have someone else be able to change what's on your hard drive or see what's already recorded. Privacy is a very big concern of ours, and we're working diligently to make sure it's maintained."
In addition to providing out-of-home access to the recording device, the Web site also offers additional searching capabilities that consumers may be reluctant to access from their sofas, using a handheld remote control instead of a keyboard.
"We like to think of it as the 15-inch versus the 15-foot experience," Hollingsworth said.
ReplayTV has not yet announced sponsors or advertisers for the portal. "Our No. 1 priority is to make sure the consumer features work properly," Hollingsworth said.
Ultimately, however, the company plans to offer not only programming promotions, but also other information and offers based on subscribers' past behavior with the product. New York Yankees fans, for example, may see links to baseball-related Web sites or online ticket services.
Although Hollingsworth said ReplayTV is the first to announce PVR technology that can be controlled over the Internet, he expects others to follow suit. "They'd be foolish if they didn't," he added.