SAN JOSE, Calif. – Thanks to digital video recorders, a new generation of children will grow up accustomed to getting television when they want it. Now, TiVo Inc. is making it easier for parents to make sure at least some of those shows are educational.
Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have for years required broadcasters to feature at least three hours per week of educational and informational programming for children. The shows are tagged as "E/I."
With an upcoming feature, parents who have standalone Series2 machines and subscribe to its service will be able to access a menu of such nationally broadcast shows, no matter what channel — or hour — they run.
TiVo will find shows tagged "E/I," adding them to a new restricted KidZone section where parents will be able to select the programming they wish to regularly record and playback for their children.
TiVo's KidZone parental-control feature, which will also include a list of shows recommended by three parent advocacy groups, will be launched at no extra charge midyear.
"This major breakthrough of technology through public and private cooperation directly addresses the goals that Congress and the FCC had when they created the children's Educational and Informational programming category," said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.
Upton, TiVo executives, and parent advocacy groups plan to unveil the new educational programming feature at a media event Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
TiVo estimates that most television markets have 50 or more "E/I" shows per week. TiVo will feature nationally broadcast "E/I" programs and hopes to introduce parents to shows they may not have known existed.
Aside from well-known Big Bird and Elmo on "Sesame Street," there are also "Maya and Miguel," "Dora the Explorer" and dozens of other shows categorized as "E/I."
But the shows aren't always easy to find, nor are they necessarily on at the same time children are likely to be sitting in front of a TV.
In Seattle, "The Backyardigans" runs Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. In Philadelphia, "Gerbert" runs Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 7 a.m.
The new feature comes less than two weeks after TiVo first announced KidZone, which will allow parents to set up their TV to block out any live or taped programming except for a preapproved list of shows that parents deem proper for their children.
Using a passcode, parents could then open up the TV for other programming when the kids are away.
Besides the educational shows, KidZone will list suggested programming from three advocacy groups — the Parents Television Council, Common Sense Media and Parents' Choice Foundation. Users could choose to record from any part of the list.
KidZone will work only for roughly a third of TiVo's 4.4 million subscribers — those who own stand-alone Series2 TiVo DVRs, and not the ones built into DirecTV satellite receivers or the older Series1 stand-alone boxes. It's TiVo's latest initiative to help set it apart from a growing list of rival DVR offerings.