AOL to test TiVo-like Mystro Service

In its annual filing with securities regulators, AOL Time Warner said that it expected to test the new service it has been secretly developing — known as Mystro TV — in 2003.

At its core, the Mystro TV service would use a cable system to allow viewers to watch programming on their own schedules and with the ability to fast-forward and rewind, features that are built in to TiVo Inc.’s TIVO.O digital video recorders.

“Mystro TV will store video content at a cable operator’s facilities and allow subscribers to access these stored programs through the operator’s cable system at any time,” the company said in its SEC filing.

“For example, if Mystro TV is successfully developed and the appropriate rights secured from owners of video programming, a subscriber could use the Mystro TV service to watch a program that aired the previous day, or to begin watching from the beginning a show already in progress,” AOL said.

The regulatory filing did not include any further details on when the service would be tested, its pricing or on the details of how it would work for viewers and broadcasters.

AOL’s holdings include TV networks Turner Broadcasting and the WB, Warner Bros. television studio, which produces “Friends,” and Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable operator.

The New York Times, which was the first to report the details of AOL’s Mystro project, said it would allow networks to determine which shows could be rescheduled and to insert commercials into replays.

That latter feature would address a major risk to the networks, which fear that widespread adoption of digital recording services could allow audiences to skip through commercials, eroding advertising revenues.

Although satellite TV providers such as EchoStar DISH.O and DirecTV have offered customers personal video technology for years, cable operators have only turned to the technology more recently.

U.S. cable companies had bet heavily on alternative technology, including digital systems and video-on-demand services, which allow customers to buy and view programming any time they choose.

Source: Reuters