Sonicblue sees ReplayTV service unchanged

Should the sale of ReplayTV be approved by the District Court in San Jose, California, its future would then lie in the hands of Japan’s D&M Holdings Inc.

ReplayTV allows users to save television programming to a hard drive within a set-top box.

“The service is going to continue without interruption,” said Jim Hollingsworth, vice president of marketing at Sonicblue, based in Santa Clara, California. “Through the transition it will stay exactly as it is.”

But he added that since January, when Sonicblue announced a plan to possibly sell its assets, the company placed a preference on suitors who sought the units as a whole rather than those interested in, for example, taking the technology and patents, dismantling the service and firing the staff.

“It’s anticipated that the people related to the businesses will continue to manage them moving forwards in virtually all the acquisition scenarios we are aware of,” Hollingsworth said.

Of course, once the deal is done, D&M — should its proposal prevail against any potential counterbidders in the bankruptcy process — is free to do as it pleases. Under the pact, D&M would acquires the assets for $40 million plus the assumption of about $5 million in liabilities.

A U.S. spokeswoman for D&M, which sells high-end consumer audio products under the brands Denon and Marantz, said the company would not comment on its plans until the proceedings were completed.

Danielle Levitas, an analyst at International Data Corp., said that while ReplayTV was a small player, Sonicblue won praise for stuffing the machine with attractive features such as the ability to skip over commercials during recording or to share recorded programs over home networks and the Internet.

An option available to D&M, should it acquire ReplayTV, includes retooling the service to add audio features, a strength of its current brands, she said.

“(They may develop) a version of ReplayTV to be a high-end video service, or play up the audio as much as video, or will they have a high-end version for networking entertainment and mainstream PVR (product)? It remains to be seen,” she said.

Sonicblue’s Hollingsworth said “prepackaged” bankruptcies — so called because they begin with potential asset values and buyers already proposed — typically are settled quickly, and he sees this deal sewn up by the end of April.

ReplayTV ran a distant third in the market for personal video recorders, or PVRs, behind satellite television provider EchoStar Communications Corp. DISH.O and TiVo Inc. TIVO.O which are believed to have more than 600,000 PVR users each.

Sonicblue agreed to sell its GoVideo unit, which makes DVD players and other devices, to Opta Systems LLC, owned by Carmco Investments LLC, for $12.5 million.

The company said last week its debt and other liabilities totaled nearly $305 million at the end of 2002, equal to the value of its assets.

Shares of Sonicblue were flat at about 5 cents a share on Tuesday in Nasdaq trade. The stock traded as high as $3.25 in the past year.

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