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Web Content Makes Advances Into Television Market

Mar 17, 2008 12:00 PM


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The blurring of the lines between Internet-based content and network TV continues as TiVo announced this week that it has added do-it-yourself video broadcaster YouTube to its stable of offerings. The TiVo news came the same week that Panasonic reiterated plans to deliver its own YouTube-ready plasma TVs later this year. Both companies are banking on the popularity of the wildly popular YouTube content as a way to keep viewers’ eyes glued to the family TV and not the PC.

The YouTube feature will only be available to TiVo subscribers with Series3 boxes connected via broadband to the Internet, giving longstanding TiVo customers another reason to upgrade, in addition to HDTV. Users will be able to log into their YouTube accounts and search for specific content. TiVo Series3 customers also have access to other web-based content including TiVo Cast; aggregated content from The New York Times, The Onion, CNET, Nickelodeon, and PodShowTV; music from Real Networks’ Rhapsody music service; photos and slideshows from Picasa and Photobucket; Internet radio from live365.com; and weather and traffic from Yahoo.

Meeting with journalists this week to discuss the expansion of the Viera brand in the U.S., Panasonic executives elaborated on 2008 products announced at CES, including the YouTube-ready PZ850 series. Execs said the TVs will offer family members full YouTube functionality including the ability to log into separate accounts and access playlists. Featuring an H.264 video decoder, the flagship PZ850 series TVs will offer a host of web-based services under the VieraCast umbrella that users will access via a labeled button on their remote controls.

Additional web content for VieraCast includes on-demand information from The Weather Channel, photos and slideshows from Picasa, and Bloomberg news. The PZ850 series TVs, due in summer in 46in., 50in., 58in. and 65in. screen sizes, will feature 30,000:1 native contrast ratio, pro calibration settings, 4 HDMI inputs, RS-232 control, and manual swivel bases. Panasonic plans a formal announcement of the PZ850 series later this spring.

Sony, Samsung, and Sharp also have Ethernet TVs in the works that will bring a variety of web-based content to the TV. Sony has a year’s jump on the pack with its Bravia VideoLink modules that plug into the back of select Bravia TVs. Sony announced plans at CES to expand its content offerings from trailers, sports, and photo sites to include certain full-length movies and TV shows from CBS Interactive.

Meanwhile, TiVo follows Apple TV as the other set-top box on the market that enables consumers to view YouTube content on their TVs. Apple sweetened the pot on the $299 Apple TV earlier this year when it announced availability of video rentals via the box, although the promised number of rental titles has fallen short of expectations thus far. At press time, the iTunes store showed fewer than 100 movies available as rentals.



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