TiVo Reaches Accord to Build OpenCable DVR

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TiVo has reached an agreement with major cable operators on a blueprint for a retail digital video recorder that will use the industry's OpenCable Platform middleware specification, after cable agreed to make certain “clarifications and adjustments” to the technology, the DVR company said in a filing this week with the Federal Communications Commission.

Moreover, TiVo said, with the adjustments it sought, OpenCable was preferable to the Consumer Electronics Association's Digital Cable Ready Plus (DCR+) proposal for standardizing access to two-way cable services.

TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers, in prepared remarks Wednesday announcing third-quarter earnings,  said the agreement means future TiVo devices will be able to access two-way cable services in any system that supports OpenCable.

“While the technical specifications are still being worked out, such a set-top box will mean TiVo subscribers will be able to get full access to cable VOD and other two-way cable services,” Rogers said.

That also means that a standalone TiVo box -- sold at retail – “could fully substitute” for a set-top box supplied by a cable operator, he said.

In a Nov. 27 letter to the FCC, TiVo said had previously “expressed concerns about the cable industry’s OpenCable Application Platform ('OCAP') specifications and license terms.”

According to TiVo, the cable industry has agreed to make adjustments to the OpenCable specification for the DVR maker to “build what TiVo believes can be a viable retail DVR with OCAP.”

Specifically, an OpenCable-based TiVo DVR would have a “TiVo mode” displaying all linear channels (including switched digital video channels) with the TiVo user interface and full DVR functionality as well as a “cable mode” displaying all cable programming services with the cable operator’s user interface but without DVR functionality.

TiVo also told the FCC that this “refined version of OCAP” is a preferable solution to DCR+ for a variety of reasons, including time-to-market and the ability to receive all of cable’s two-way services.

As the company said in its letter: “Manufacturers, cable companies, and consumers will benefit most from an OCAP-based solution that enables the creation of differentiated retail devices such as TiVo DVRs and allows all of cable’s two-way services to reach the consumer within a reasonable time.

In contrast, a DCR+-based solution would take longer to implement and result in devices with more limited functionality that would not enjoy the full support of the cable industry.”

In his prepared comments Wednesday, Rogers said, “We believe that this dialogue with the cable industry has been very constructive, and demonstrates the cable industry’s genuine desire to work with TiVo, not to mention the clear recognition that TiVo is an important offering for cable subscribers.”

Earlier this week, TiVo and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association -- along with CableLabs -- announced that major operators expect to offer a Universal Serial Bus adapter to TiVo customers that will allow the DVRs to access switched digital video channels.

Last month, the CEOs of the two biggest cable operators – Comcast’s Brian Roberts and Time Warner Cable's Glenn Britt -- personally lobbied FCC commissioners to reject DCR+ and emphasized the industry's commitment to the OpenCable Platform.

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