Sonicblue, Hollywood seek peace

Jul 22, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Sonicblue wants to settle with Hollywood.
Ken Potashner, the head of the company that makes the ReplayTV personal video recorder, told Electronic Media that his company has been negotiating privately with the Hollywood entertainment companies that oppose its PVR technology and has offered to modify the features Hollywood has found objectionable enough to crusade against and litigate over.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, whose ReplayTV PVR can skip commercials and send pristine copies of movies and TV shows to other Replay owners via a broadband connection to the Internet, has been sued by Viacom, The Walt Disney Co., NBC and Time Warner Entertainment, among others. All these companies allege that ReplayTV PVR promotes copyright infringement. Turner Broadcasting Chairman and CEO Jamie Kellner has led the nonlegal charge against the company and PVRs in general, repeatedly saying, in effect, that the new technology that allows the “zapping” of commercials will ruin the business of advertiser-supported television.
Mr. Potashner, who spoke on a panel at the CTAM Summit, cable’s annual marketing and educational convention, which was held in Boston last week, later told EM that Sonicblue has been negotiating with its opponents both singly and as a group.
“We’d be willing to tailor [the commercial skipping and Internet-transmission] features in some way that could make them more palatable, if there was the right business proposition back to me,” he said.
Specifically, “Instead of a full skipping over a commercial, we could put in a quick glimpse of that commercial you’re skipping,” Mr. Potashner said. “Going over the Net, I don’t envision that going away, but I’ve already put substantial constraints [on the technology] in terms of how many places you can send it, what content you can send. For instance, today you can’t send pay-per-view, but you can send premium programming. So there’s flexibility.”
The “right business proposition back” from Hollywood to Mr. Potashner said, is “not so much money as opposed to partnership; that we are the technology of choice to execute some set of services by the networks, by the studios.”
While the talks continue, the preparations for litigation proceed slowly forward. In the meantime, “We’re selling lot of systems,” Mr. Potashner said.