TiVo tunes in to Net downloads

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Through the new TiVoCast service, people can download broadband video clips to their TiVo boxes for free from a handful of Internet sites, such as woman-oriented iVillage, technology-focused CNET.com (a CNET News.com sister site), entertainment-grooved Heavy.com, The New York Times, the National Basketball Association and Women's National Basketball Association, and news and political video blog site Rocketboom.

TiVo began testing broadband video downloads last August, previewing Greg the Bunny, Hopeless Pictures, and The Festival before they debuted on the Independent Film Channel. That was later followed up in December with Rocketboom videos, which have been ongoing since then.

"Television is still the preferred platform for watching video," Tara Maitra, TiVo general manger of programming, said in a statement. "The TiVoCast service captures mainstream and specialty-based content on the Web, delivering programming that is not otherwise available through the TV today."

TiVo plans to expand the number of Web sites and videos it offers, Maitra added in a telephone interview, although there is no specific target for such launches.

Subscribers will be able to access the content through the Showcases area of TiVo Central, using a TiVo Series2 DVR box connected to a broadband connection.

TiVo and its partners plan to make money by integrating advertising within the content. That could bode well for TiVo, which has been under pressure to differentiate itself amid growing competition from companies offering DVR service to industry titans such as Cisco Systems and Motorola, which are adding digital recording features to their cable set-top boxes.

TiVo's broadband service comes as greater headway is being made in the development of Internet Protocol television (IPTV). AT&T;, for example, is planning a wide deployment this summer of its Project Lightspeed and U-verse TV service, which has been in a pilot phase.

TiVo, meanwhile, has developed software and a user interface that can be used with IPTV. This technology would help subscribers organize and navigate through programming that may be offered via IPTV in the future.

However, TiVo is still figuring out how this technology will be used with the broadband video clips, Maitra said.

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