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Netflix to Stream Content on TiVo

30 Oct, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Online DVD rental pioneer Netflix and digital video recording pioneer TiVo Oct. 30 began to beta-test delivering movie and episodic television streams directly to the TV.

The tests, conducted in several thousand U.S. households, allow Netflix and TiVo Series 3, HD and HD XL subscribers free access to more 12,000 programming streams. A nationwide rollout of the program is slated for early December.

The TiVo agreement marks the fifth streaming deal (of 100 planned) Los Gatos, Calif.-based Netflix has struck with device manufacturers. Others include Samsung and LG Blu-ray players, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the proprietary set-top box manufactured by Roku.

Online reports said Xbox 360 Nov. 19 will begin offering the first Netflix streams available in high-definition.

Additionally, the online DVD rental pioneer last week announced it will begin using new software that for the first time will let Mac users stream movies on their computers.

TiVo, which has attempted to reinvent itself as a streaming player to combat competition from third-party DVRs, previously inked deals with YouTube, Amazon, CBS and ABC.

Streaming selections are done through a Netflix queue-based user interface, which is automatically displayed on the TV via the TiVo service.

Navigation of Netflix titles via a TiVo control is the primary concern of independent analyst Richard Doherty with The Envisioneering Group, an avid fan of the Roku set-top box.

He said TiVo navigation is not compatible with the Netflix queues used on PCs, Roku and LG devices. In addition, to accommodate the processing power required to stream Netflix titles, Doherty said Roku and LG incorporated a proprietary MXP chip made by Intel.

“TiVo may also have to use some kind of progressive download to allow their processor to convert the data,” Doherty said. “We are cautiously optimistic.”

TiVo spokesperson Krista Wierzbicki said the navigational issue had required replacing the standard TiVo fast-forward, instant replay and rewind features with appropriate Netflix tools. She said processor requirements were no different than what TiVo faced with streaming YouTube videos.

Netflix spokesperson Steve Swasey said the software required to stream titles via TiVo was identical to the other devices.

Stacey Widlitz, analyst with Pali Research in New York, said increased distribution channels for Netflix streams could not ignore the requirement of a subscription, which she said is under pressure in the current economic slowdown compared to a la carte DVD rentals.

“A subscription fee seems like an easy cost for consumers to eliminate in tough times,” Widlitz said in a note.


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