The new service called TiVoCast would deliver over a broadband connection online video from partners that include the National Basketball Association, the Women's National Basketball Association, The New York Times, Heavy.com, iVillage and CNET Networks.
The move is the latest in TiVo's strategy to join others in merging the TV in the living room with the Web. While online video in the United States has grown in popularity with the increase in broadband adoption, the medium won't take off as an advertising vehicle until it's delivered on TV screens, and not just computer monitors, analysts say.
TiVo apparently agrees.
"Television is still the preferred platform for watching video," Tara Maitra, TiVo's vice president and general manager for programming, said in a statement.
The latest announcement is not TiVo's first attempt to merge the Web with TV. In December, the Alviso, Calif., company rolled out a host of online services for subscribers that included Web radio from Live365, entertainment content from portal Yahoo Inc. and the ability to access movie reviews and buy tickets from Fandango.
The TiVoCast service takes the first announcement further in the area of online video. TiVo subscribers would be able to find content through the set-top box's Showcase area on TiVo Central, the main menu of the service. The content would be offered free of charge to subscribers, and TiVo partners would have the ability to integrate advertising within the content.
To access any of TiVo's online services, a subscriber would need a broadband-connected TiVo Series2 DVR.
In bringing the Web to the living room, TiVo is beginning to look like a TV service and a potential competitor to the cable operators it has been trying to partner with, The Diffusion Group said in a recent research note.
"TiVo's evolutionary path is moving it ever onward toward direct competition with the same service operators with which it is looking to partner, a position that puts TiVo in a bit of a pickle," Diffusion senior consultant Colin Dixon said in the report.
TiVo, which was the first to market with a digital video recorder, is struggling to remain relevant as cable operators and telephone companies start delivering similar capabilities in set-top boxes. JupiterResearch expects DVRs incorporated in those devices to dominate the market in a few years, whereas today, standalone DVRs, like TiVo's, dominate.
Recent deals with cable operator Comcast and satellite TV provider DirecTV do not provide the kind of penetration TiVo needs, given that both companies have only agreed to offer TiVo as a high-end service. Since that is unlikely to significantly boost subscriber growth, TiVo has had little choice but to look to the Web.
"TiVo has the intellectual property to become a unique force among TV operators," Dixon said. "To do so, however, it must position itself as a full-fledge TV services operator, not as an operator adjunct as it is today. TiVo must recognize that its success will be earned at the expense of operators such as DirecTV and Comcast, not in concert with them."
While Wednesday's announcement is a start, TiVo will have to go much further in signing up more content providers, such as the Internet's largest online video site YouTube.
TiVo is not the first to merge TV and the Internet. Microsoft, for example, has a partnership with entertainment network MTV, a division of Viacom Inc., to develop programming that would be accessible through a PC running Windows XP Media Center.