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Sky TV gazumps TiVo with remote recording

With the launch of the TVNZ-backed TiVo just months away, Sky TV has announced it will match the service’s killer point-of-difference - from Friday week.

Sky TV’s MySky subscribers - representing around 10% of its customer base - will be the new Remote Recording feature from Friday 21.

The service, modelled on those already launched by Foxtel in Australia and BSkyB in the UK, will let subscribers remotely set their MySky decoders via the web. After accessing a password-protected area of SkyTV’s website, they will be able to click on the shows they want to record.

A basic txt-to-record option will be available for cellphones from the 21st, with a more fully-featured mobile service on the way.

A little competition
Many hurdles (below) have to be jumped before TVNZ can deliver TiVo locally, but it’s already had one pleasing effect: waking Sky TV (NZX: SKT) from its torpor. The pay TV company has had remote recording on its to-do list for two years, but only now felt moved to implement the feature.

When TiVo originally launched in the US, its features were utterly unique. But that was a decade ago. By the time TVNZ bought a third share of Australasian licensee Hybrid TV Services from Seven Media for $9.8 million, clearing the way for a local launch, few of TiVo’s tricks remained unique - but in the local market, remote recording was one of them.

In Australia, TiVo users can remotely programme their set-top boxes, for any free-to-air channel, via Seven’s Yahoo7.

Here, TVNZ plans to offer remote recording via its own website.

She's a hard road
The state broadcaster has pledged to get TiVo to customers Christmas.

However, its path to launch remains unclear.

TiVo’s broadcast TV feed will be taken directly from Freeview HD - making the service, from one angle, look like Freeview on steroids.

TVNZ considers that this arrangement automatically corals Freeview partners into it TiVo universe. MediaWorks has told NBR that this is definitely not the case, and that it Freeview agreement does not cover “bolt-ons” like TiVo.

The two companies have had preliminary discussions about TV3 and C4 going on TiVo but, with the clock ticking, there’s still no sign of any breakthrough.

A Mediaworks insider told NBR the company is concerned that although TiVo’s interface is famously user-friendly, the set-top boxes due for New Zealand release require a broadband connection - both for the delivery of on-demand TV shows and moves via IPTV (which will supplement the Freeview HD broadcast TV feed) and for the more meat-and-potatoes function of delivering the electronic programming guide (EPG).

Mediaworks fears the whole arrangement is too complex. An additional problem is that almost all New Zealanders are on capped internet plans, and most would bust their monthly data caps within hours if downloading pay TV shows and movies.

Still a couple of edges
Assuming it does make it to launch (as TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis points out, all the free-to-air channels eventually signed on for Seven's effort in Australia), TiVo will still have some unique features, including the world's most user-friendly interface, a facility that automatically records shows featuring a favourite actor or director, a big selection of games for download, and the ability to order pizza with your remote.

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions
10

Remote recording a killer point of difference? Does it cater for Dolby sound also? Wow! Where do I sign.

I think it is. If I had a dollar for every time I forgot to set a recording (either for a one-off or a series) ... I think it will rock to be able to sit at work and set your MySky, or TiVo box, via the web.

Mate, either you don't know that theres a life beyond your couch or like me, you'd have around $6 based on your theory.

I hope that in the near future once Tivo is launched that you will be able to download an App from the App Store for your iPhone to remotely record and even view programmes. How great would that be!?!?! Would freak my wife out!

The geniuses that run TVNZ left flatfooted again - surely not? Chris is right that they have at least spurred Sky into action.

The days of monoply digital tv providers such as sky, foxtel and BskyB should soon be over. They no longer have a point of difference in technology. Their monoply of content should change due to the improved technology from the free to air tv stations. So good on TVNZ for having a go a challenging the status quo. Maybe sky will try a bit harder to be a better digital tv provider.

Mediaworks are not going to simply 'give" their programming to TVNZ/Tivo - having TV3/4 freeview on Tivo would strengthen the Tivo platform and help TVNZ take adverstising revenue from Freeview channels to IPTV (Tivo/TVNZ) content.

This is going to be like Prime on Freeview.

TVNZ don't play to the community's best interest - they wouldn't allow an EPG pre Freeview(claimed copyright) < that would have allowed Windows Media Centre etc to provide full Tivo features in NZ years ago (including programming from Cell Phone / the web) - been there done that and better than Tivo (playback from any PC in house and XBox360 under TV).

TV is about to change and it's called ziln

People still watch TV? This surprises me.

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