TiVo Wins Nod for Users to Share Digital Shows

By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – TiVo Inc., maker of popular digital television recording devices, on Wednesday received approval for technology that would permit users to send copies of digital broadcast shows over the Internet to a limited number of friends.

The Federal Communications Commission voted to certify digital protections on TiVoToGo, which is not yet available but would enable a user to record and send a digital broadcast television show to up to nine others who have been registered on that person’s service and has been given a key to see it.

The approval came despite concerns by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Football League about the risks of unfettered distribution of copyrighted shows and airing regional games outside of their market.

“Each of these technologies has been exhaustively reviewed to ensure contention protection systems prevent the mass indiscriminate redistribution of digital television programming,” said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.

The FCC last year adopted rules to limit distribution of digital, over-the-air television programs over the Internet in an effort to prevent mass illegal copying and sharing, a problem plaguing the music industry.

Most current television shows are shown in an analog format and can lose some quality when recorded. But recorded digital programs do not suffer from that problem, leading to industry concerns about unfettered mass redistribution on the Internet.

The FCC last November required companies to develop measures to prevent consumers from indiscriminately distributing the higher quality digital television shows over the Web.

In addition to approving TiVo’s application, the FCC certified 12 other technologies proposed, including ones by software giant Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp, and RealNetworks Inc. for protecting distribution of digital television broadcasts.

The FCC did not add restrictions on where the recorded shows could be sent, disappointing the MPAA.

“Technologies that enable redistribution of copyrighted TV programming beyond the local TV market disrupt local advertiser-supported broadcasting and harm TV syndication markets,” the MPAA said in a statement.

TiVo has about 1.6 million subscribers who pay a monthly subscription rate or a flat fee for lifetime usage so they can record their favorite television shows and watch them whenever they choose.

It plans to launch a version of TiVoToGo this fall that would allow users to transfer recorded shows to a home computer but has not said when it would launch its version that would allow shows to be shared outside the home.

“TiVo has always tried to maintain an appropriate balance between consumer interests and the rights of content providers,” Chief Executive Mike Ramsey said in a statement.

TiVo is also building alternative products and features into its service as it efforts to branch off from simply digital recording boxes, especially cable and satellite TV providers develop their own recording systems.

Alviso, California-based TiVo shares jumped as much as 11 percent on the news but then closed up less than 1 percent, or 4 cents, to $5.15 a share on Nasdaq.