TiVo Tests TV Download Service

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Add TiVo Inc. (TIVO) to the list of companies trying to wed the Internet to television. The digital recording company is preparing to enable customers to download TV shows to their set-top boxes via the Internet — even before the shows air on TV.

TiVo has struck a deal with the Independent Film Channel (search) to transmit several of the cable channel's shows through a broadband connection as part of a trial program. A group of customers were asked to take part in the test and those who chose to participate will begin receiving the IFC shows next week, said TiVo spokesman Elliot Sloane.

Content on demand has long been a holy grail for Internet and cable companies as they try to create the next generation of television. No one yet has found a way to overcome key technological hurdles, such as finding a speedy way to pump two-hour movies through broadband, or convince Hollywood that it can profit from Internet broadcasts.

Still, broadband connections are picking up speed, and are moving closer to becoming a reliable delivery method for broadcast-quality video. Should the day come that video is downloaded at the touch of a button, some of the stakeholders in the sector foresee a vast video universe of endless variety.

For TiVo, the news comes a day after the company saw its stock fall more than 6 percent following a media report that DirecTV (search) was planning to stop marketing the service to its 14 million customers. News Corp.-owned DirecTV is planning to throw support behind a competing digital recording company. About 70 percent of TiVo's 3.3 million users have come from its deal with DirecTV.

News Corp. (NWS) is the parent company of the Fox News Channel, which operates FOXNews.com.

TiVo shares were up 3 cents at $5.65 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.