DirecTV prepares to launch Genie DVR

DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) will soon begin marketing Genie, a high-definition DVR that can automatically record TV shows based on a subscriber's viewing habits, VP of Public Relations Darris Gringeri told FierceCable Wednesday.

Genie is the new brand for DirecTV's Home Media Center, which runs on the HR34 servers and C31-700 RVU client devices manufactured by Pace (LSE: PIC). The DVR contains five tuners and 1 terabyte of storage space. Gringeri said DirecTV plans to launch the Genie product on Oct. 11.

DirecTV online retailer Solid Signal posted a review of the Genie functionality offered in the new DVR on YouTube last month. Once a subscriber activates the "Genie recommends" feature, it will automatically record programs that it expects a subscriber will be interested in viewing. If a subscriber watches one of the programs recorded by Genie, he'll be prompted at the end of the show to choose whether or not to record the series on a regular basis. It's similar to the "TiVo Suggestions" feature that TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO) offers its DVR customers.

Genie could help DirecTV compete with the new Hopper multiroom DVR and Joey client receivers that rival Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) began marketing earlier this year. Hopper offers a feature called Primetime Anytime, which uses one of the six Hopper tuners to record every primetime program on the Big Four broadcast networks. Fox, CBS, NBC and other broadcasters are waging a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Dish aimed at forcing it to drop the AutoHop function available on the DVR, which subscribers can use to automatically remove all of the commercials in Primetime Anytime programs.

The biggest difference between Genie and Dish's Primetime Anytime is that Genie records programs that it expects subscribers will be interested in, while Dish records every primetime show on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, even if a subscriber doesn't watch network TV series. And while Dish's AutoHop can remove all commercials from TV shows, DirecTV subscribers watching programs recorded by Genie have to hit the fast-forward button on their remote controls if they want to skip the commercials.

DirecTV subscribers who buy connected TVs from Samsung may also be able to access Genie programming without using a set-top. The companies, which are both members of the RVU Alliance, announced in January that they would team up to offer a product that relies on Remote User Interface (RUI) technology. Samsung said it will embed RVU protocol in its entire line of smart TVs. Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is also a member of the RVU Alliance. The telco has said it plans to deploy an energy efficient home video gateway from Motorola Mobility that will be able to shuttle video to multiple thin client set-tops and other IP-connected devices in FiOS TV subscriber homes.

DirecTV's home media center was a finalist last month at IBC's Innovation Awards in Amsterdam. In addition to Pace, the company teamed up with technology vendors Broadcom, Entropic Communications, Jethead Development and Samsung on the product.

The Genie launch is a big win for Pace, which is battling Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), Motorola Mobility, Samsung, Huawei, Technicolor and other set-top vendors. Pace is also supplying Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) with the gateway that the MSO is using for the rollout of its Xfinity X1 next generation digital video service, which offers subscribers a cloud-based interactive program guide. 

For more:
- see the Genie demo video

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