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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
10 ways Tivo will change your life

Tivo, launched in Britain on Thursday, is the first of a new breed of video recorders - no tapes and no need to program it. It will shake up the way we watch telly, say experts. But how? By BBC News Online's Jonathan Duffy

It's more than just a revolution for TV, it's "the real revolution" according to BBC director general Greg Dyke.

From 1 October, Tivo goes on sale in the UK. It is the brand name for a new type of video recorder that does away with clunky tapes in favour of a computer-style hard disk.

But that's only half the story. Tivo, and other so-called personal video recorders (PVRs), have the potential to revolutionise our TV viewing habits.

Tivo is available in Britain from the start of October
The machines do not have to be told what to record, but instead make an educated guess based on one's individual tastes. It is said to herald the era of "self-scheduling".

So how will these new set top boxes change our lives?

1. No more video grief. Although nine out of 10 households in Britain own a video recorder, millions lie almost dormant. Research last year by Cable & Wireless found a quarter of owners were flummoxed when it came to setting the video to record. PVRs are said to be easier to operate, and with space for 40 hours of recording time on a disk, there should be no need for a last-minute dash to the cornershop for a blank cassette.

Boy with video
Child's play: Want to know how to work the video? Ask the children
2. Auto programme selection. Unlike videos, PVRs do all the work for you. A machine will graze across channels (terrestrial, satellite and cable), recording and grading programmes according to your previous choices and preferences. If you like something, you give it a thumbs up, if not a thumbs down. So, by the time you settle on the couch, you will have a plethora of pre-recorded programmes ready to watch.

3. Cut down adverts. Probably the most controversial aspect of PVRs is the ease with which viewers can skip commercial breaks. Because you are watching pre-recorded TV, the temptation is to fast-forward through adverts. In trials in the United States, 88% of adverts went unwatched. Tivo's main rival in the US, ReplayTV, even has a button that skips forward 30 seconds - the average length of a commercial.

PVR facts
100,000 sold in US by June 2000
Expected to sell 5-7m by 2002
90m by 2010
Tivo and ReplayTV are two main services
Hardware includes Panasonic, Sharp, Sony and Philips
4. A new style of advertising. Leading ad copywriter Trevor Beattie has said advertisers cannot depend on "piggy-backing other forms of entertainment". Programmes will need to contain ads and brands. Advertisers will become programme makers and this will lead to a rash of new soap operas. It also spells a bright future for non-TV concepts such as "viral" or word-of-mouth advertising.

5. Record as you watch. You're watching TV and the telephone rings. With a PVR you can simply press the record button, chat for five minutes, and pick up the programme where you left off. Meanwhile, it continues to record the end of the show.

6. Slow-motion when you want. The same application means viewers can rewind, instantly replay and play back in slow motion anything on TV, and not miss the rest of the show.

Children watching TV
Children of the revolution: PVRs will build profiles of users
7. More subscription fees. Such groundbreaking technology does not come cheap. In the US, a Tivo box is about $399 (275) and there is a monthly subscription. A spokesman for the company says this will be about 10 per month in the UK. A PVR is linked to a telephone line and will make a call every day to update its memory of what programmes will be broadcast when.

8. Bridge the gap between TV platforms. According to Janice Hughes, contributor to the book E-Britannica: The Communications Revolution, children will often watch satellite TV at home, but parents may stick to terrestrial channels. PVRs have no such loyalties/prejudices when choosing which shows to record and so will introduce viewers to "new" channels.

Smash ad
You might actually miss television adverts
9. More niche programmes. The theory is that PVRs will help bring together minority audiences. Viewers will punch in their particular interest, say synchronised swimming, and the box will seek out programmes to do with this. Since the demand has been tapped, programme makers can rent a cheap slot - maybe 4am - to broadcast shows for recording.

10. No need for listing magazines. Paid-for listings magazines such as Radio Times, have seen a 10% year-on-year sales decline because of newspaper TV guide supplements and on-screen programme guides offered by digital broadcasters. PVRs will only exacerbate the situation, allowing viewers to create their own schedules rather than stick to a predetermined one. The publisher of the Radio Times, BBC Worldwide Ltd, is however in talks with Tivo about working together - which could mean an on-screen guide to programmes.

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25 Aug 00 | UK
Greg Dyke's speech in full
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