Personal-video-recording technology developer CacheVision is planning to commence market trials of its service with several cable operators early next year, said Stevan Eidson, CacheVision’s vice president of marketing.
The company, which was formed last year as a joint venture between consumer electronics manufacturer Thomson Multimedia and disk drive producer Seagate Technologies, enters the PVR market at a time when the cable industry’s deployments of PVR services remain sluggish despite market participants’ publicly expressed enthusiasm for the technologies.
“There have been a couple of obstacles that have kept [the PVR market] from growing,” Mr. Eidson said. “The price points are still too high-in the $550 to $700 range. The consumer is questioning whether they’re paying for something they’ve gotten already [a VCR]. That’s pretty limiting as far as what your market potential is.”
Personal-video-recording hardware manufacturers have to date sold their appliances in retail stores for an average price of $399, with additional monthly services fees often attached. While CacheVision isn’t disclosing the exact pricing of its products and services, the company will sell PVR-enabled devices and software for “less” than competitors such as Pace, Pioneer, EchoStar, Microsoft’s UltimateTV, TiVo, Keen Personal Media and Metabyte Networks, Mr. Eidson said.
And unlike most of the other technology developers currently testing the PVR waters that are limiting themselves to particular delivery vehicles (software for operators, hardware for operators or hardware available at retail), CacheVision has a three-pronged strategy. A complete PVR box for the retail marketplace, software to be licensed to cable and direct-broadcast-satellite providers and “sidecar” attachments for cable operators’ existing set-top boxes are all included in CacheVision’s basket of products.
The core of the company’s technology is a small disk drive (31/2 inches) that includes a PVR-capable circuit board. The apparatus is less expensive to manufacture than other currently available PVR hardware, Mr. Eidson said.
Despite the company’s affiliation with Thomson and Seagate, two of the largest players in the consumer electronics and disk drive industries, Mr. Eidson said CacheVision isn’t limited by exclusive arrangement with those partners. In fact, the company is planning to sell at retail devices branded by several of Thomson’s competitors, including Sony Electronics and Philips.
“We do not provide branded products at all,” Mr. Eidson said, noting that consumers won’t see CacheVision’s name in stores.
As cable industry insiders could have predicted, CacheVision is joining the procession of the hundreds of cable technology vendors billing themselves as “end-to-end solutions.”
“We feel that PVR is a key feature,” Mr. Eidson said, “but it’s an enabling feature rather than a feature people are going to be willing to pay for. You have to have other means of generating revenues from the box.”
To further that end, the company is planning to group its PVR offering for cable and direct broadcast satellite operators with several other home entertainment offerings, such as targeted advertising, t-commerce, digital music channels and a quasi-video-on-demand feature that would let viewers select from a pre-stored library of their favorite television programs.
And although the forthcoming Thomson, Philips and Sony retail appliances endowed with CacheVision’s technology will provide personal-video-recording services, Mr. Eidson said those devices may not be marketed strictly as personal video recorders. Rather, they will be sold as home entertainment consoles complete with other features, such as DVD players.
Like many of its rivals, CacheVision is hoping to allay the fears of technophobes by weaving its menu of PVR features into an easily navigable electronic programming guide. By crafting its own EPG, the company is riding the rising wave of cable industry technology purveyors (Cablevision, Pioneer, Scientific-Atlanta) that are creating their own guides rather than succumbing to the demands of litigious guide developer Gemstar-TV Guide.
Mr. Eidson pointed out that one of CacheVision’s investing principals, Thomson Multimedia, is also an investor in Gemstar, which could facilitate negotiations between CacheVision and Gemstar. “We’ve been working through Thomson with Gemstar, but with Gemstar, anything takes a long time,” he said.