Org urges talks with TiVo, Replay

Coalition targets personal TV services

As expected, News Corp., Time Warner, CBS, Disney and Discovery Communications confirmed Thursday the formation of the Advanced Television Copyright Coalition, which aims to protect broadcasters from the makers of personal television services that enable viewers to replay broadcasts and, in some cases, skip commercials.

The coalition will sue if necessary to force service providers, such as TiVo Inc. and Replay Networks, to be subject to negotiations similar to the way studios license shows to networks or cable channels grant carriage to cable systems.

“If advanced television services emerge (follow) existing copyright principles, everyone will be well served,” coalition members said in a joint statement.

Deleting commercials

TiVo and Replay’s services are housed inside cable boxes that serve as advanced videocassette recorders, automatically recording shows that customers have preselected on a hard drive. The problem for broadcasters is that a user can watch shows at any time and either skip through the commercials or zap them altogether with the push of a button.

The services also include their own revenue streams from advertising, subscription or both — they can even insert their own advertising in place of the network’s advertising. A study by Forester Research predicts that personal TV services could cut television ad viewing nearly in half within 10 years.

A TiVo player costs about $500, can store about 14 hours of TV programming and requires a subscription fee of about $10 a month for access to electronic program schedules.

The media companies say they would prefer to avoid an adversarial relationship with the TV services and don’t want to stop the adoption of the personal video recorders.

Protection for future

Bert Carp, a Washington lawyer for the coalition, said that if coalition members have a problem with personal television service providers, it probably won’t be with TiVo and Replay, considering they already have investments in the two companies. The companies are trying to protect themselves from future players in the market segment, including services from OpenTV, DirecTV and Microsoft’s WebTV.

Discovery and News Corp. affiliate TV Guide Interactive recently became minority investors in TiVo. NBC, CBS, ABC and Showtime Networks are already investors and have agreed to support TiVo and Replay on some level, because the services are seen as a step toward more interactive television, a development in which the nets all want to participate.

TiVo is repped by CAA, while Replay is supported by ICM.

(Jill Goldsmith and Chris Stern in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report).

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