By Greg Sandoval, AP Technology Writer | August 12, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO --Add TiVo Inc. to the list of companies trying to wed the Internet to television. The digital recording company will soon allow customers to download TV shows to their set-top boxes via the Internet -- even before the shows air on TV.
TiVo has struck a deal with the Independent Film Channel to transmit several of the cable channel's shows through a broadband connection as part of a trial program. Participating customers will begin receiving the shows next week, said TiVo spokesman Elliot Sloane.
Sloan confirmed that TiVo sent messages to its customers -- later posted on the technology Web log Engadget.com -- offering to transmit three IFC shows beginning Aug. 19, before they aired on the cable channel.
Content on demand has long been a holy grail for Internet and cable companies as they hunt for the next generation of television. No one yet has found a way to overcome the considerable technological hurdles, such as finding a speedy way to pump two-hour movies through broadband, or convince Hollywood that its content won't be pirated and that it can profit from Internet broadcasts.
Still, Internet connections are picking up speed and moving closer to a reliable delivery method for broadcast-quality video. Should the day come that video is downloaded at the touch of a button, some stakeholders foresee a vast video universe of endless variety.
TiVo has offered its 3.3 million customers a form of watch-what-they-want, when-they-want-it luxury since it launched in1997, but the service remains restricted to broadcast schedules, and customers must program their set-top box to record shows.
Right now, fans of the spy drama "Alias" must wait until weekly episodes are broadcast on ABC. Conceivably, an Internet broadcaster could strike a deal with a studio to offer customers a season's worth of shows at once.
The question is, why would any studio with a hot show want to hand over its content to TiVo?