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TiVo’s Next Frontier: What to Watch on Live TV

DVR company updates iPad app with real-time recommendations, which will mix in social data and critics' picks

TiVo, the company that sparked the rise of time-shifted TV, now wants to give users a personalized cheat-sheet of what to tune in to right now — eventually incorporating suggestions from friends and critics’ picks.

DVR maker is going back to the future with the “What to Watch Now” feature for its iPad app, which displays popular programs airing at the time, categorized by genre in a visual format. The recommendations are based on aggregated TiVo user data, plus individual viewing history.

“It goes to the heart of a next key phase for TiVo’s focus,” TiVo topper Tom Rogers said in an interview. “What we started with was this problem of how do you take a vast array of content you may watch at any time and reduce it to a feature that filters down to what is important to you when you turn on the television set.”

TiVo plans to release the updated iPad app Thursday morning. “What to Watch Now” groups programs in six categories: Popular TV, updated every 30 minutes; sports, ranked by “excitement level” ratings from Thuuz about live games; movies; kids; favorite channels; and My Shows, which lists DVR recordings.

“It does a lot to discover content that’s coming through your system that you just weren’t aware you were paying for,” TiVo product marketing veep Jim Denney said. While it’s geared toward live tune-in, he added, users also will be able to set recordings for upcoming shows for later viewing.

Pay TV ops including DirecTV and Cox Communications offer similar content recommendations. But Denney said TiVo’s implementation is broader, showing 20 suggested titles per category.

The new feature will work with both TiVo boxes supplied to cable operators and sold at retail. Company also is developing “What to Watch Now” to run on TiVo DVRs directly, which Denney expects to roll out sometime later this year.

Over the next few months, TiVo will layer in two other data sources into What to Watch Now, Rogers said: ratings by professional film and TV critics and social recommendations.

“We think the combination of knowing what’s popular broadly, combined with your viewing history, your favorite reviewers and your social world, will rein that into a very manageable screen that tells you what is available right then and now to watch,” Rogers said.

Denney said TiVo developed the recommendations engine in-house. Eventually, he said, the feature could extend to broadband-delivered video content available through TiVo DVRs.

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