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Television Media

ReplayTV Switches To Subscription Model For New Unit 169

Posted by Hemos
from the but-i-want-it-for-life dept.
aclute writes "ReplayTV is going to move to a subscription-fee for it's new 4500 series in order to "meet the needs of national electronics retailers with lower overall costs and increased promotional opportunities" and "ensure the long-term success of our ReplayTV retail strategy". No talk yet of the cost or a lifetime/yearly option yet. Looks like TiVo might have had the right idea after all." I still want to get a 4500, but the vendor lockin with someone who's being sued by *everyone* does throw some cold water on desire for the machine.
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ReplayTV Switches To Subscription Model For New Unit

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  • Dammit! (Score:4, Funny)

    by indole (177514) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (tsixulf)> on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:38PM (#3410116) Homepage

    Guess I'll be getting that Pong marathon off Kazaa...
  • Tivo was right!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kerneljacabo (320052)
    They had the correct model. Perhaps it wont be so bad-if they have a lifetime/yearly option.
  • G-Guide? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jgartin (177959)
    Just a question. Maybe someone knows the answer. Why don't any of these Tivo-like devices just use the G-Guide listings, like new RCA TV's do? They come right over the cable--I think all PBS stations broadcast this information. There are a few ads, though.
    • Re:G-Guide? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GreenKiwi (221281)
      ... because they want to have control over that data. If they were to just pull the data from cable, they'd have no way of making sure you'd paid your subscription.
      • Re:G-Guide? (Score:3, Informative)

        by shayne321 (106803)
        I'm not familiar with G-Guide, but I don't think they're not using it in order to force you into subscribing. When your PVR phones home it checks to see if it's subscribed and and enables/disables features accordingly. Just stabbing in the dark, but PVRs keep guide data about two weeks out, so unless G-guide provides that much data (complete with subject data, actors, rerun info, etc) it wouldn't be feasible.

        With the new Tivo version 3.0 software that is coming Really Soon Now, stand alone tivos will start getting their guide data over cable by broadcasting it over cheap timeslots and having the tivo tune in to record it. Apparently Tivo found out it's cheaper to buy broadcast time at 4am on discovery and foodtv than to license/support dial-ups for this purpose. The integrated DirecTivos have been getting their guide data and even software upgrades over the dish for a while now (since version 2.5 if I recall). Sometime during the 2am - 5am hour if it's not recording anything it tunes itself to a "reserved" channel which contains the data it needs. Tivo units still phone home nightly though to check your subscription status, report anonymized viewing statistics, and report your PPV purchases (directv units only).

        Shayne

        • Re:G-Guide? (Score:2, Informative)

          by jgartin (177959)
          G-Guide gets listings 1 week in advance. It provides descriptions of the programming which usually include actors, genre, etc--always more than what's available at TVGuide.Com. I'm pretty sure it's something Tivo could use. Even if it isn't maybe it's something you opensource Tivo guys could look into. I know my ATI All-in-Wonder Pro got listings over the cable. Newer All-in-Wonders just get them off the internet, though.
        • D-Tivo's have always gotten their guide data over the satellite feed.

          And they get it continually, not just at the 2am-5am special thing. That special thing (which was added in 2.5) is a feed for software updates, Tivolution Magazine, showcases, etc.

          To answer the original question, G-Guide does *not* contain anywhere nearly as much info as the Tivo downloads. You can see part of the info the Tivo gets on the Standalone by looking at a show description screen and pressing ENTER (with 2.5 or up). That's quite a chunk of data on a lot of shows.

          In essence, all guide systems work based off the data from one of two providers: Tribune Media Services or TVGuide. Neither shows all the data they have on their websites. Tribune puts quite a lot of it on their website at www.zap2it.com. Some more of it (notably First Run Date) can be found thru Yahoo's online listings (which come from the TMS sources).

          All that data is used by the unit for some function or another. Trying to use a different source is fine, but you will lose some functionality. Without First Run Date, for example, you lose the "first run only" recording feature.
      • That's partly my point. They could just pull the G-Guide listings and not have to charge monthly fees. They could charge for the hardware, and licensing fees--once they get Tivo's integrated with TV's.
        • Re:G-Guide? (Score:2, Informative)

          by iansmith (444117)
          No way this would work.

          The whole reason TiVo is so good at what it does is that you have people taking chanel data and hand-editing the goofs and problems, as well as using an expensive feed that is very accurate.

          There simply is no source of guide data available for free that gives data weeks in advance and also keeps track of changes like sudden presidental speeches and lineup and program switches.

          For freeing me of the "of my god it's 7:53 and I need to go home NOW or miss my show" crap, I have no problem with $10 a month.

          TiVo doesn't simply chainge your viewing habits, it changes your life. :-)

          --
          Ian
    • probably because some channels don't broadcast the correct info, some don't broadcast any info, and some think they are too hip to actually say whats on, rather they just put their call letters in the show title section (eg MTV, VH1)

      my TV (sanyo 32") has used this info for about 3 years now, and i find it very useful on the channels that make use of it, but many don't.

      NBC is especially funny, i think they only have 1 or 2 live satellite feeds, so most NBA games they broadcast live show up as "Saturday Night Live" because some genius forgot to switch it on the transmitter.
    • On a sort of related note, I'm looking for open-source software for using Guide+ on a PC with a TV Tuner card, anyone seen any around?
    • That wouldn't work for everyone...

      On a standalone TiVo, most people I know just use the video inputs, so that would require TiVo to change to the PBS station, therefore hindering its ability to let you watch live TV or record something while it does this data capture.

      Also, a standalone TiVo can use both cable and a satellite signal on the same box, so the local PBS station would only have channel lineup/guide data for the cable feed, and it would still need to make a phone call to capture data for the satellite.
    • Re:G-Guide? (Score:2, Informative)

      by jtl (14313)
      I'm guessing you mean the Guide+ data from Gemstar/TV-Guide.

      Reasons not to use it include, but probably aren't limited to: Using it without a license from Gemstar would get them sued; a license would cost both money and control - they'd likely have to include the Gemstar-supplied ads, for instance; the data's not available for all stations and in all areas; even in areas where it is available, cable providers aren't required to pass it through; providing any value-added features (such as the data that drives the ReplayZones or TiVo's genre suggestions) would still require a separate data feed, even for people who were able to get full complete Guide+ data.
  • Cut out middle man (Score:2, Insightful)

    by crow (16139)
    Retailers expect a given profit margin as a percentage of the sales price. If lifetime service is bundled into the sales price, then you have to inflate the service price to cover the retailer's profit. By selling it direct to the consumer, you don't have to mark it up.
  • by zorba1 (149815) <[zorba1] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:47PM (#3410166)
    It's all about profitability for SONICblue, and they're counting on long-term customers who feel better about spreading out the cost of the service versus paying up front for a lifetime subscription.

    Assuming a lower cost barrier to entry and an ease of unsubscribing with no penalties, it benefits consumers to buy into this model. Consider a better, newer, faster, cheaper technology coming out in 1 year. If the consumer has paid less for the Replay 4500 + 1 year subscription than they would have invested with a lifetime-subscription Replay, they have more incentive to break away and invest in the new technology.

    SONICblue's home is that they are the ones making that better-faster-cheaper technology and roping in existing subscribers to it. They may be too slow, however, as they'll also be concerned with sustaining their Replay business as well.

    I predict a fleet-footed R&D-focused company will edge them out in 1-2 years on this subscription model.
    • Assuming a lower cost barrier to entry and an ease of unsubscribing with no penalties, it benefits consumers to buy into this model.

      The company wouldn't be doing this if they expected to make less money. So, the two ways in which it can help them is (1) attract more customers, or (2) get more money from the same customers they would get at their current model. I'm not so sure that this will attract a lot more customers...

  • by sandidge (150265) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:51PM (#3410184)
    Now, come on that can't be true. I mean, right here in my list of "People I'm Currently Suing" I don't even se... oh... wait, there they are. Ooops... guess you're right.
  • They've said nothing about the details of the pricing model. With any luck, they'll enable both modem and ethernet ports so you can get updates either way. With such a setup, they should charge a lower price for the ethernet-based updates, as they don't have to pay Earthlink (I think that's the ISP they contract with) for the dialups.

    And everyone wants them to offer a lifetime subscription for those of us who hate monthly fees.
    • The latest ReplayTV 4000 boxen are ethernet-only.

      Also, I have heard that the next version will include MP3-streaming, so you can play music from your PC. I don't know if this will be a software update, or perhaps require one of the new boxes, but I guess I'll wait until later this year.

      • The 4000-series boxes have modems and ethernet, but the modems are not turned on by the software. They could turn around tomorrow and start charging for subscriptions for current 4000 owners who want to use the modems (well, not tomorrow, but as soon as they update the software to support it).

        As to MP3 support, you can find some text from mpg123 if you dig through the hard drive on the current 4000 models, or so it has been reported. My guess is that that was a feature planned for the 4000, but it wasn't ready in time for shipping, so it was cut so that they could start making money. At this point, it's probably only a marketing decision as to whether to offer that feature on existing boxes; they are certainly capable of it.
    • I am sure that the one connection/day or whatever doesn't amount to much money on a per-user basis. Ethernet based updates might save sonicblue real money when added across the entire subscriber base, but I can't imagine it make much of a difference in the subscription price.
  • I purchased my replaytv (the old one, panasonic showstopper) from best buy when they dumped replay nation wide. The manager told me that no one was buying them, because the equivalant tivo was ~100 dollars less...of course you had to buy a subscription servive for the tivo, but joe blow average american didn' t understand that at the time of purchase, and thus picked the lower priced tivo.

    This is a move that could allow sonic blue to be picked up by the national chains again...if you can't out sell them, copy their model type of thing.

    btw, yes I got an awesome deal on my replaytv and love it.
  • ShowShifter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lostchicken (226656) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:53PM (#3410210)
    Computer based PVRs are looking better and better.

    Try out ShowShifter [showshifter.com].
    • niche market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by crow (16139) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:05PM (#3410283) Homepage Journal
      Computer-based solutions will always be a niche market. People don't want to leave their computers on all the time. People don't want to connect their computers to their home theaters. Sure, most people here think it is cool, but we're not most people.
      • Ah... both TiVo and Replay are computer based solutions.

        They just hide the bits that look like a computer.

        And there's no reason that a future, home built, system can't do this too. But it requires a very different mindset for the UI - particularly since the user will want to interact via a remote instead of a keyboard (and no, an IR/RF keyboard/mouse isn't good enough - they're too damn big).

        Convergence is finally coming, just not in the way that was expected.
        • It shouldn't be a problem to do that though, capture cards with tuners all come with remotes, and lirc can be set up to make your remote do just about anything.

          All it needs is some decent software really, and of course the ability to stick the video output on the TV - but cheap cards are available to do that now.

          Hmm, all that's got me thinking now... to the python !
    • I did try show shifter. Aside from having the most ameteurish interface I can think of, it doesn't follow any kind of reasonable interface guidelines. Let us know when it becomes usable and doesn't take up the entire screen - god forbid I mnight want to use my computer for watching TV AND doing work at the same time.
      • Sure.

        You can, by double clicking on the title ba (at the top, where it says "ShowShifter"), cause the app to go into a window, Always-on-Top (or not, an option), as well as titlebar-less window. (also optional)

        The interface is really bad, though. It can be changed through skins.
    • Have you even used Tivo? There's no comparing the two. I evaluated ShowShifter about six months ago, just because I was unsatisfied with the software that came with my ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon, and I found ShowShifter to be even worse. First of all, it doesn't record to a standard format, which means if you ever want to watch any of your shows, you have to do it through ShowShifter again. In addition, if you want to get better compression ratios by switching to a different codec, you're out of luck. There's only one format supported, and that's ShowShifter Format (.ssf, IIRC).

      In addition, the evaluation period is way too short. One week wasn't enough time for me to watch a single thing I'd recorded, and since the file format was proprietary, I couldn't even watch it without paying $30.

      It doesn't do any cataloguing or indexing, and makes no attempts to predict what will be on in the next day or two. That's the primary reason I like Tivo, and would be willing to pay for the service. Tivo isn't just some digital VCR where you set a timer and let it record. Tivo actually lets you tell it your favorite shows, and it does the scheduling for you. Like the Simpsons? Never miss an episode again, just tell it "season pass: Simpsons" and it does the rest.

      ShowShifter, on the other hand, must be programmed manually, like your old VCR that you're starting to use less and less. Wait, that's not true. At least VCR's have VCR Plus. If you want a digital recording program, try the one that came with your TV tuner card. It's probably easier to use, has more options, and has less mickeymouse than ShowShifter.
  • They'll end up just like mobile phones, it seems:

    " Free phone with every packet of cornflakes!* "
    *Subscription required, minimum 1 year at £15 per month
    • Actually, this has always been my view as a good way to do these subscription models. You give away the product for free as long as the customer signs up for a given period of time.

      I had been looking at satellite radio (XM), but couldn't justify spending $300 or more on equipment, then having to spend $10/month to use it. Why couldn't they give you the equipment for free (or at a nice discount), as long as you signed up for 2 years, or something.

      Same could go for TiVo. Give away the hardware free or at a low price, then rope the user into a contract. I think this is how DirecTV and the like do it. I always see ads for FREE DirecTV satellite with 2 year service (or something like that).
  • by crow (16139) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:59PM (#3410247) Homepage Journal
    but the vendor lockin with someone who's being sued by *everyone* does throw some cold water on desire for the machine.

    The lawsuits indicate a long-standing philosophical difference between TiVo and ReplayTV. When both companies released their first products (within a month of each other, I believe), ReplayTV had a 30-second skip button for instantly jumping over commercials, and TiVo said they would not include such a feature to avoid annoying the networks.

    Now ReplayTV 4000 units include more consumer-friendly features that are even more annoying to the networks. They include automatic commercial skipping (the same technology found in some VCRs for detecting commercials). And once you record something, you can send it to a friend's ReplayTV unit using the Internet.

    If anything, the lawsuits are a reason to get a ReplayTV instead of a TiVo. You'll be supporting a company that is pushing the best technology they can; if it forces the networks to rethink their revenue model, that's a problem for the networks to deal with.

    And even if for some reason the networks win their lawsuit, all it is likely to mean is that there will be a software update to disable whatever feature the court rules is illegal.
    • And even if for some reason the networks win their lawsuit, all it is likely to mean is that there will be a software update to disable whatever feature the court rules is illegal.

      And you're stuck with a box that isn't as good as its competitors (Tivo [tivo.com])

      I may give ReplayTV a slight advantage over Tivo because of the Commercial Skip and File Sharing features, but without those features there is no comparison. Tivo wins by a mile

      • by Malachi (5716)
        Can you elaborate on this claim? I've got a Gen 1 Tivo, had one since the beginning. Its been hacked and upgraded.. I pay a subscriptions because I have to not because I want to. I never use their Network showcases or the TiVo spotlight crap.. the only thing I find useful from time to time is its ability to record shows it hypothesises you'd like; this feature is only valued when I've watched everything else I had..

        I've been shopping lately and Replay's broadband sending of programs sounds swank to me, 30 sec jump, nice (although some Tivo modles can hack this one in), everything thing else is the same.. of course the lure was non-subscription.. so I guess now they are ALMOST on an even playing field.

        What I'm waiting to see is when you have 120gb or greater drives in these machines, and you want to start keeping programs for longevity.. There is no aggrigation with the current file models.. no directories or tiers of shows/information. An open API from one of these bastards would be the end-all-be-all because there are never enough features and they take god awful long to code the most simply database queries into their releases.

        I think TiVo is a step behind right now, but that'll always swing back and forth.. I'm just curious how they in your eyes win by a mile right now..

        -M
        • Ease of use. User Interface design. Stability. Longevity (Tivo will be around long after SonicBlue goes under in a pile of lawsuits).

          I've heard nothing but problems from Replay users. Yeah, it has some nice features that distinguish it from Tivo, but at least the Tivo works reliably!

          And the non-subscription argument has *ALWAYS* been crap. Replay built the subscription cost into the cost of the box, Tivo spread it out monthly. But of course, you could have always gotten a Tivo lifetime subscription for $250 (which suprisingly enough, is the cost difference between a comperable Replay box...)
          • Ease of use. User Interface design. Stability. Longevity (Tivo will be around long after SonicBlue goes under in a pile of lawsuits).

            I've heard nothing but problems from Replay users. Yeah, it has some nice features that distinguish it from Tivo, but at least the Tivo works reliably!

            Huh? My ReplayTV 3030 is very easy to use., and it's cheaper in the long run. I bought it for $500 two years ago. A comparable Tivo was $400 back then, so at $10/mo, that Tivo after 2 years was ~$600, while the Replay is still $400.

            This Replay vs. Tivo arguement reminds me of the Mac vs. PC arguements on TCO. It's interesting that once again, people are going for the model that is cheaper up front and not the one that saves them money over time.

            • Huh? My ReplayTV 3030 is very easy to use., and it's cheaper in the long run. I bought it for $500 two years ago. A comparable Tivo was $400 back then, so at $10/mo, that Tivo after 2 years was ~$600, while the Replay is still $400.


              You must have gotten a really good deal, since the 3030 still lists at $599 [amazon.com]. Even reviews from that time period listed it at $599 [reviewboard.com]. So with a $400 Tivo, the difference between the two is $200, which (suprise!) is the same as a lifetime subscription to Tivo was.


              What I don't think you realize is that you can get lifetime subscriptions for the tivo. You don't always have to pay month-to-month.

      • by sct (28839)
        I actually prefer the TiVo method of commerial skipping. Every so often, I will stop and replay a commerial that strikes my fancy. If it doesn't do it on fast forward, then it wouldn't do it at slow speed (with the possible exception of that Rolling Rock / sign languge one, which is witty).


        Just my humble oppinion, I just wish I could get a TiVo2 without loosing my subscription and go with broadband guide downloads- so I could cancel my land line.

    • Dont mean to be a troll but this scares me. If commercials are made useless by this technology how will the networks make money?

      If anything, the lawsuits are a reason to get a ReplayTV instead of a TiVo. You'll be supporting a company that is pushing the best technology they can; if it forces the networks to rethink their revenue model, that's a problem for the networks to deal with.

      Yeah well i would rather deal with the commercals then to have to deal with commercals built into the shows... Imagine a Farscape episode with a starship with a coke picture on it.

      If the in show commercals dont show up then you will have the networks trying to do the same thing the cd companys are doing and try to make the tivo like devices completely useless with copy protection... I will take the technology with the commercials im not ready to deal with tech blocking/unblocking war to start with PVRs and Networks.
      • Do you work for the RIAA? You both seem to think the same way.

        Good companies react to changes in the marketplace and adjust their models to continue to make money. Other companies try to legislate around technology and forget that you can't un-invent something. Once the technology is there, you can shove the genie back into the bottle.

        The networks will have to figure out other ways to make money. Either make the ads more entertaining (so you will stop and watch them). Or something else. Just because we're comfortable with the status-quo, doesn't mean that change is bad! Embrace Change! Hug a Penguin!
      • If the in show commercals dont show up then you will have the networks trying to do the same thing the cd companys are doing and try to make the tivo like devices completely useless with copy protection...

        I think they may have already started. I've been noticing "hiccups" in my ReplayTV 2020, mostly when recording from Fox. The hiccup lasts 2-5 seconds, and has jerky video and no audio.

        Now, this could be a problem with my unit, or with my cable. I'm not sure how to diagnose it to that level. But I haven't noticed it on non-Fox shows, nor have I noticed it on the show I tape (the ReplayTV doesn't have dual tuners, and 24 and Smallville are both too good to miss ;-). (I tape Smallville, from the WB network.)

        Has anyone else noticed this issue, especially with older-model ReplayTV units?

        • Interesting. I see the hiccups on TNT, but not on Fox; and the hiccups are associated with artifacts that are visible (but not too objectionable) on tape.

          I did have to get a powered splitter to allow my 2020 to handle some channels. Conversations with the Replay tech support guys at the time convinced me that the RF design was a little weak.

          Hacking my 2020 to add an 80GB disk gave it a much-increased lifetime, but I'm wondering whether it's time for an upgrade. There are features of Tivo I like, and features of the Replay 4000 series that I like; it'll be a difficult choice.

          Allen
      • "Dont mean to be a troll but this scares me. If commercials are made useless by this technology how will the networks make money?"

        Product placement. You already see it happening in movies and now prominently in Survivor.

        Like a gas, advertisers expand to fill the medium.
    • by Arkham (10779) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:52PM (#3410618)
      I'm turning off my +1 bonus since this is a bit of a rant. However, its a rant with some insider knowledge, so it may be worth reading. I used to work for a company that has been mentioned here on Slashdot twice. They make/made a multimedia convergence box that ran Linux and did DVD, MP3 ripping, MP3 jukebox, streaming audio and video, etc.

      Our company effectively ran out of money last July/Aug./Sept. We still had partners with a major newspaper for $2M in advertising, and with a major audo components manufacturer (if you look at the box you would know whose products it looks like).

      Anyway, we were looking for buyers, and SonicBlue made an offer. We accepted it, and the lawyers went into legal stuff. For months we all waited, until SonicBlue eventually pissed off our other partners so much that they walked from the deal. Needless to say, without the advertising money we were not as desirable and SonicBlue dumped us.

      I guess my point is, SonicBlue is a bad company. They have a bunch of cash in the form of stock from the video card days, and they are spending it screwing up small companies (like us and the Rio Car).

      I met Ken Potashner (sp?), CEO of SonicBlue. He was a whiny, slick marketer guy, may he roast in hell.

      TiVo is a good company that customers can believe in. They make a good product (I have one), and they don't screw over their customers or business partners. I hope TiVo captures the whole market and SonicBlue goes bankrupt. Now that UltimateTV has been cancelled [quicken.com] by Microsoft, it's a two horse race.
      • its a rant with some insider knowledge

        To me, your rant sounds very much like you have an axe to grind.. although you make some good points, it sounds like you have a personal vendetta against SonicBlue..

        TiVo is a good company that customers can believe in ... they don't screw over their customers

        That is pretty much a matter of opinion.. let me use the words of a Tivo spokesperson (Richard Bullwinkle) to refute it:

        (he's talking about hackers extracting the video from the Tivo)
        we have to write code that makes it as difficult as we can. We are very aware that there is no hacker-proof system, but we try to make it very difficult... Conceivably TiVo will provide technology that will allow users to share video within their home, but not allow it to be sent outside the home ... we must protect the content providers


        Doesn't sound very much to me like a company that's concerned about their customers at all.. I can almost hear him saying "I mean, the nerve of people, trying to share something they've recorded off TV - What's next? lending video tapes to friends?"

        What it comes down to (at least for me) is this: Replay has better technology, and doesn't cowtow to "content providers" at the expense of their customers. To me, that makes them a better company than Tivo
        • To me, your rant sounds very much like you have an axe to grind..

          Well, I DID say it was a rant. I do have a problem with SB as a company, but I wouldn't call it a vendetta. I just won't support a company that I think is so careless with the lives of other people.

          ([Richard Bullwinkle]'s talking about hackers extracting the video from the Tivo)

          we have to write code that makes it as difficult as we can. We are very aware that there is no hacker-proof system, but we try to make it very difficult... Conceivably TiVo will provide technology that will allow users to share video within their home, but not allow it to be sent outside the home ... we must protect the content providers

          If you follow the threads with Richard (a.k.a. Tivolutionary) on the AVS TiVo forum, you know that he is the TiVo hacker's biggest advocate in the company. The fact that they added TiVoNet (ethernet) support in the 3.0 software for hackers tells you how TiVo feels about hacking their boxes.

          When I worked at the company I mentioned in my last post, we encountered this as well. We managed to get a license for the Microsoft WMA and WMV codec source, which we compiled and had running on Linux. Our contract with MS basically said we had to make every effort to prevent their codecs from getting out. That is the main reason our box was locked down so tight. If we had not gone to such lengths, we could have been liable if/when our box was hacked. If not for things like that, we could have had the box more open for hackers to play with.

          The quote from Tivolutionary above is talking about the legal issues that got SB sued -- which TiVo does not want to have happen to them. Sending recorded shows over the internet may really be a copyright violation, and very possibly falls outside of fair use (IANAL). Even if it doesn't, it's not a clear line one way or the other, so TiVo is being careful. That is what I'd do if it were my company.

          What it comes down to (at least for me) is this: Replay has better technology, and doesn't cowtow to "content providers" at the expense of their customers.

          Well, I certainly would disagree about Reply/SB having better technology. I have used both boxes, and I like the TiVo better. Yes, Replay has two specific features (sharing and commercial skip), but if those features do prove to be illegal, you can hardly blame TiVo for not having them. TiVo has some unique features as well.

          If you read the AVS forums, you will see that TiVo's customers understand TiVo's choices about these legal issues very clearly.

  • Good! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Because I'm damn sick and tired of clueless ReplayTV users trying to tell me their DVR is better than my TiVo because they think they aren't paying for subscriptions. (That's because they paid for it up-front in the cost of the unit, but now the point is moot.)
    • Maybe you should have read the article: This new pricing model does not apply to SONICblue's current ReplayTV 4000 or to prior offerings, which will continue to include a lifetime service subscription. So all those so-called clueless ReplayTV users who currently own older models are exempt.
  • Its /.ed (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    But the the lovley folks [linux-kernel.tk] have mirrored it :)
  • SONICblue sucks (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I will never buy any product from SONICblue again, although I already have a 3060 (and am satisfied with it as a functional PVR).

    A friend of mine had a 3060 (a 60 hour replaytv) that failed. He sent it in for repair (this was after SONICblue bought replaytv). When they returned a replacement he didn't immediately open the box -- he didn't need it for a few months. When the box was finally opened, there was a 2020 (a 20 hour version - of the previous generation) inside.

    When he called their support to straighten it out, they accused him of trying to swindle them. Months later, the matter still isn't resolved.

    As far as them changing their pricing model - I don't care. I don't care if they go down in flames. I don't care if one day my 3060 can't connect because they've gone bust. There are plenty of competing products of equal or better capability -- so who cares if a company with crappy service disappears.
    • Re:SONICblue sucks (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's hardly crappy service. They replaced the unit, and (apparently) messed up, but your friend didn't check to make sure the package he took reciept for was correct. If he had reported it immediatly and gotten the run around that would be one thing, but to call up and say "that unit you sent me a few months ago is the wrong one I want a replacement" smells of swindle.
  • Why would anyone buy this when there are tons of old ShowStopper and older ReplayTV units available used or open-item (I got a ShowStopper 20hr for $75 at BestBuy) for way less? They're incredibly easy to upgrade to obscenely long record times. And their service is free. I can't see any reason to buy a new unit. What additional features could they add? Is this just going to make the old "free" and upgradable models more expensive on the secondary market? Food for thought.
  • Text (Score:5, Informative)

    by namtog (247864) <namtog@namtog.com> on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:14PM (#3410325) Homepage
    SONICblue To Implement Service-Based Pricing Model For New ReplayTV Products; New Model Uncouples Service Fees From Retail Pricing to Better Meet Retailers' Needs
    April 25, 2002 08:03:00 AM ET

    SANTA CLARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 25, 2002-- SONICblue(TM) Incorporated SBLU announced today that it will apply a service-based pricing model to new ReplayTV(R) products -- beginning with its forthcoming ReplayTV 4500 series, the next generation ReplayTV offering. Separating service subscription rates from the retail price of the ReplayTV unit, SONICblue's new pricing model will better meet the needs of national electronics retailers with lower overall costs and increased promotional opportunities.

    "We intend to achieve 30% market share for digital video recorders this year based largely on our entry into mainstream retail channels," said Steve Shannon, vice president, ReplayTV product marketing, SONICblue. "The addition of new models and pricing are just a few of the changes we'll be making to ensure the long-term success of our ReplayTV retail strategy."

    Further details of SONICblue's service-based pricing model will be made available when the new ReplayTV 4500 series is officially unveiled this summer.

    This new pricing model does not apply to SONICblue's current ReplayTV 4000 or to prior offerings, which will continue to include a lifetime service subscription. The ReplayTV 4000 line will end of life with the launch of the new ReplayTV 4500 series.

    About SONICblue Incorporated (www.SONICblue.com)

    SONICblue is a leader in the converging Internet, digital media, entertainment and consumer electronics markets. Working with partners that include some of the biggest brands in consumer electronics, SONICblue creates and markets products that let consumers enjoy all the benefits of a digital home and connected lifestyle. SONICblue holds significant financial assets, global marketing capabilities and a focused technology portfolio that includes Rio(R) digital audio players; ReplayTV(R) personal television technology and software solutions; and Go-Video(R) integrated DVD+VCRs, Dual-Deck(TM) VCRs, and digital home theater systems.

    Except for the historical information contained herein, the matters set forth in this press release, such as SONICblue's release of its ReplayTV 4500, implementation of the new pricing model, SONICblue's introduction of new ReplayTV models and pricing options, the ability to achieve lower overall costs and increased promotional opportunities, entry into mainstream retail channels, the intended 30% market share in the digital video recorder market, its success in better meeting the needs of the mainstream retail channel, are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the "safe harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially, including, but not limited to the ability of the Company to enter into licensing agreements with manufacturers, the ability of the Company, its suppliers, retailers and distributors to meet scheduled release dates, the impact of competitive products and pricing and of alternative technological advances, the outcome of SONICblue's existing litigation concerning the ReplayTV products and other risks detailed from time to time in the SEC reports of SONICblue Incorporated, including its annual report on Form 10-K for the period ended December 31, 2001. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof. SONICblue disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

    Note to Editors: SONICblue and Dual-Deck are trademarks of SONICblue Incorporated. ReplayTV, Go-Video, and Rio are registered trademarks of SONICblue Incorporated. All other products and brand names as they appear in this release are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders. All specifications may be changed without notice.

    Contact Information:
    SONICblue, Santa Clara
    Tracy Perry, 408/588-8086 (Investor Relations)
    tperry@SONICblue.com
    or
    The Bohle Company
    Jason Wanacott, 310/785-0515 ext. 211 (Press)
    jason@bohle.com

  • If they can cut the base price of the unit, subscriptions are good in my book.

    Paying £200 for a lifetime's subscription may sound good, but it's limited to the unit, rather than the user. A lower starting cost/subscription based model strikes me as a better idea as you'll be able to upgrade to something better more often.
  • Can you buy these things without the subscription?My point is that we have VCR's that don't need a subscription. I know how to program a VCR. I don't need a subscription that lets me choose "The Simpsons" and then does the work for me. I think I can figure out when the simpsons is on. I can press a record button also. Without a subscription service people would be able to just record whatever they wanted and then the companies wouldn't be able to track the viewing habits to sell to large media conglomerates. Does anybody make a PVR that you program yourself(like an old fashioned VCR)? without any subscription or big brother intervention?(besides your PC, of course. I'm talking about a set-top box.)
    • If those are the features you want, then a VCR is probably the correct tool for your needs.

      The only reason I would buy a PVR is for all that other jazz.

    • Well, obviously you haven't used a ReplayTV. In fact, you can do all the stuff you want to do with ReplayTV with no subscription--it has a manual record option like your VCR. However, it's far easier to have a program listing on your ReplayTV. I can, for example, tell it to record any five most recent episodes of the Simpsons on any channel whenever they happen to be on. It will just record them day after day without my having to mess with it. If the network changes the time it starts, that's no problem. It will adjust. Your VCR can't do that. Nor can it do any of the other nice things, like recording 20/30/60/150 hours of programming without having to change any tapes, and jump right to the episode you want to see when you want it. Not to mention skip the annoying commercials.

      Once I got a ReplayTV, my VCR was effectively dead. I only keep it around to play old tapes.
    • A PVR without the subscription service is no better than a fancy VCR. The whole *point* of the PVR is the subscription service, IMHO. Because it gives a lot of power to you, the viewer. I'm a busy guy, and I'm sure a lot of us here are busy guys/gals too. I don't always have time to scour through the TV Guide or newspaper or whatever to find the shows I want, then hit a bunch of buttons to program them. With my RTV, I can say "Record 'Iron Chef'" and it will dutifully record it... EVEN IF THE PROGRAM MOVES, CHANGES TIME SLOTS, SWITCHES TO A DIFFERENT CHANNEL, ETC. Try that with your VCR.

      Also, with the "Replay Zones" feature, you can oftentimes find cool/interesting shows that you would otherwise not know anything about. For example, I'm really into sci-fi type stuff, so I added the SciFi Zones channel. My RTV unit dutifully records anything with a sci-fi theme, be it a movie, TV series, whatever. True, I pick up some crap along the way, but I also discover many neat shows that I've never heard of that are interesting and fun to watch. It really _is_ revolutionizing the way we watch TV. Since I got my RTV unit (Panasonic Showstopper, $400 minus $100 rebate minus $100 open box discount, immediately upgraded to double the capacity) my TV viewing habits have totally changed. I can now watch what I want, when I want, on my own terms. And with a couple presses of a button, I can skip commercials.

      In regards to the "phone home" feature, where it tells the networks what you watch, there's something to think about here: Nielsen ratings. TV programs' popularity are gauged by so-called "Nielsen families." Basically, there are many handpicked groups of people, all over the country, that are given a little book, and told to record what they watch and when they watch it. This data is collected by the networks, and it literally determines what programs live or die. In effect, the TV programming was being controlled by a small, hand-picked elite class. But with RTV units sending their data back to home base, _all of us_ essentially become Nielsen families. Maybe, just maybe this will help keep the "cool" shows on TV and drive out the crap.
      Anyway, enough ranting for one day. We now return you to the regularly scheduled Slashdot article.
    • I think you're missing the point of the PVR - it's a PERSONAL Video Recorder. If you just want a hard drive recorder go see JVC - they make a recorder with HD and VHS in one unit - no real intelligence just the ability to record to HD then archive to VHS later.

      The PERSONAL point comes in to play when you have something like TiVo as let it start to run your TV viewing.

      I'm based in the UK and 2 years ago I would make sure that I got home by certain times to watch programmes 2 or three days a week. Many times the trains would stuff this up for me and I'd miss the beginnings.

      I also relied on my flatmate recording stuff while I was out or setting the video (Back then our digital satellite receiver didn't have any way of changing channel at a specific time - come to think of it that's still not possible. Damn you Murdoch)

      I often missed shows and ended up havng to wait a year for repeats of for then to arrive on the BBC before seeing what I had missed.

      Now however I work until I want to leave, I go out whenever I want and I don't think I've thought about sitting down at a specific time to watch a scheduled show once in the last year or so. TiVo just records everything I want and a load of stuff I like but am not bothered about.

      I couldn't tell you when half of these shows are on - I watch them when it suits me - sometimes I watch the adverts too ;o)

      The revolutionary thing, or TiVolutionary thing if Mr. Bullwinkle is reading, about the PVR is not that it's got a hard disk, noth that it means you can choose a programme by name rather than channel and time but that it frees you from decisions and schedules and missing stuff.

      I'd not give up my TiVo now, which unfortunately limits me to living in the UK or US :o)

      M@t :o)
  • by jchristopher (198929) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:30PM (#3410424)
    I'm sure I'm not the only one who has major concerns about buying a device that can be deactivated if Replay goes under.

    As a consumer, I'm simply not interested in any device that can be 'sued' out of existence. My VCR is ten years old, and will continue to work until the day it croaks. Even if VCRs are declared illegal tomorrow, it will sit in my house and function as long as I want.

    Personally, I would not buy a device (like the Replay) that becomes a paperweight if Replay ends up on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

    And let me make something clear - I have no problem with them charging a monthly fee in exchange for service - it's then my choice to decide whether their service is worth the fee.

    The concern is whether they'll be around to provide that service at all. By making the device worthless without the service, they have crippled the product.

    • As a consumer, I'm simply not interested in any device that can be 'sued' out of existence. My VCR is ten years old, and will continue to work until the day it croaks. Even if VCRs are declared illegal tomorrow, it will sit in my house and function as long as I want.

      Personally, I would not buy a device (like the Replay) that becomes a paperweight if Replay ends up on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

      You can still do manual records using a ReplayTV, so if that day comes, your ReplayTV is now a VCR.

      • Can you do time based recording?

        My understand with Tivo is that they removed that capability without subscription last year, so as to discourage people buying it as a VCR.

        I agree with the other poster. I'll buy one of these DVR devices when by itself it will replace a VCR. If I want the subscription so I can get automated TV Guide, then maybe I'll consider that as well, but if I don't want it... I don't want it...

        • My understanding is that hackers in the Tivo community have figured out how to completely circumvent the subscription model and retrieve all their data over the web from zap2it using the TiVoNet cards. So, I figure I'll support Tivo because I love their product. But, should they ever go under, I know that the hacker community will immediately release this info and I'll still be able to use my Tivo to it's full advantage.
    • A lesson I learned the hard way.

      Does anyone else remember in? Interactive Network.

      Damn I loved that thing. Too bad they went under. Was lots of fun predicting what plays football teams would run.
    • And when they go under you thank your chosen diety for the hard-core ReplayTV Hackers like Todd Larason and Lee Thompson who have disassembled the thing into pieces, written up specs for every little thing that it does, and started re-implementing most of its functionality with open-source code. Check out:

      http://www.molehill.org/twiki/bin/view/Replay [molehill.org]

      For publically availiable specifications/code on all the cool stuff Replay does.

      If SonicBlue goes under, then open source guys get together, re-implement the server side of a lot of the stuff that the ReplayTV servers do and you're still up and running, this time for free (maybe).

      Same goes for all the Tivo hackers out there working day and night to figure out how these boxes work just in case the day comes when the lights go out.
  • I still want to get a 4500, but the vendor lockin with someone who's being sued by *everyone* does throw some cold water on desire for the machine.

    By the time you read this somebody will at your front door telling you that indeed the new subscription model is lowering the upfront cost to soothe your fears of lockin... - please sign on the dotted lin. Oh yes but you'll still get stung for the cost of the unit when the company bombs!

  • I totally agree with the sentiments of others, with paying subscription fees if the equipment cost is lowered. But it seems to me that gone are the days when equipment cost was cut drastically in order gain customers and revenue from service fees. A lot of cell providers are even turning away from the free phone deals of the past, or they give you a free phone so crummy you won't want to use it. Satellite providers still charge a lot of money for up-front equipment costs, trying to woo customers with programming credit to make it seem like less of a blow.
  • My brother has a TiVo, and I like to play around with it when I visit him, but I haven't had the desire to own one myself. My big hangup is all the "extras" that I don't need. I just want a simple hard-drive based set-top box. Simple VCR-like functionality -- fast forward, rewind, pause. I DON'T need it to "guess" what it wants to record for me, I don't need a guide, I just want to program it like I do a VCR. Is that too much to ask for?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Check out this series of comics:

    http://www.pvponline.com/archive.php3?archive=2001 1109 [pvponline.com]

    (click on the Next button to see the story unfold)

  • I think this is a good thing even for the customers. My Tivo is getting ready to die, and if I had paid the 'lifetime' (the Tivo's, not mine) subscription fee, I'd be a little miffed at having to do it again when I get a new unit. I might even switch to the Moxie if it lives up to its hype, so that's another reason to prefer a monthly subscription: you can abandon it at any time if something better comes along.
  • my ideal PVR (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jchristopher (198929)
    My ideal PVR is as follows. As far as I know, no one sells it right now.

    It's a box with video in/out that sits between my cable/satellite box and my TV. It can record 20 or so hours of video.

    It is available at a reaonsable cost (say $200) with no monthly fee. Since it does not download TV listings, there should not be a recurring or one-time "lifetime" fee.

    When I want to record something I press a red button on my remote. It begins recording and prompts me for a unique name to identify the segment, or I can just accept the default. (A timestamp, perhaps).

    It should always be running, so I can pause what I'm watching if needed.

    Finally, there should be a 'program' button. The program button allow me to record a specific channel, for a specific duration, at a certain time.

    There should be some rudimentary onscreen interface to navigate the things I've already recorded or delete them.

    Additionally, the onscreen interface should let me choose what I want to record from (VHS, DVD, satellite, cable, video camera) based on the multiple video inputs on the back of the device.

    It does not need to be intelligent, downloading listings and automatically recording shit on my behalf. Nor should it need to be hooked up to a phone line, since there is no reason the mfr. ever needs to hear from me again, since I OWN the box. I don't have a phone line anyway, I have cellular.

    As far as I know, no one sells a box like this. I believe many people would buy it, though.

    • It's called "ReplayTV."
    • I would not be one of the people rushing out to buy this product. I don't have the time to pore through TV Guide (or any on-line equivalent) on a weekly basis to find all of the programs I might want to watch and then program them in. I don't have time to monitor those sources for "special date and time" airings of my favorite shows. I don't have the inkling to check whether this week's episode of my favorite show is a repeat or a first-run.

      I certainly would not mind having the features you list, but I would not be interested in any such device that makes it harder, not easier, to watch the kinds of programs I want to watch when I want to watch them. Your "ideal" machine would be painful and thus far from ideal for me. I would guess that a majority of American consumers would also find your "ideal" less than spiffy.

      For the record, I'm quite happy with my current TiVo, don't mind the subscription (I feel I more than get what I pay for), and am looking at upgrading the hardware with my next bonus check.

      JOhn.
    • Maybe not PERFECT but there are many TiVo owners that don't use the service. I know my HDR212 (20hr) was $199 (as low as $175) a year ago. Now you have to look on eBay for whatever is left.
  • Quoted from http://news.com/2100-1040-827418.html [news.com]:
    The new recorders, which are set to hit the market in the second half of the year, will be similar to the ReplayTV 4000 machines but will have smaller hard drives and will feature DVD playback.
  • These things need to become a commodity, like VCRs, mass produced in huge volume by low-end consumer electronics companies. Companies that don't want to be in the "service" business, but just want to move product and forget about it. The companies that make 90+% of the consumer electronics in the world.

    Now, if VA Linux/Software/Snackfoods didn't have its collective head up its ass, they'd be negotiating a deal to sell a Linux-based PVR software package to manufacturers in the Far East and Mexico.

  • I bought a replyTV when they first came out. Now they've been bought out, and the new company is wanting to do subscriptions -- after I already paid $995 (or so) for 7 hours + lifetime subscription. I thought that meant the lifetime of the device, but now I wonder if it means the lifetime of SonicBlue's patience with Replay's old marketing scheme.I've already put up with the addition of ads instead of content on my pause button; I wonder what other changes are coming.

    Of course, I could just buy a new PVR, but why? It's not like there's enough "good" TV to justify me getting on a 2 or 3 year upgrade treadmill.
  • I never did think the "lifetime subscription" model was viable, and the 4000 is so outrageously expensive that I never seriously considered upgrading to it. But I think they've already lost the mindset to Tivo: Tivo has almost become a generic term now, in common usage. And much as I hate the user interface on Tivo, I find that it leads me to using it much more as intended and in some ways a little more convenient (if only they'd get the performance up to something reasonable!). And Tivo has one thing that I've not seen on a Replay: an integrated satellite receiver so it stores the bits off the air and doesn't have to recompress. The quality thus achieved is far better than any current Replay model. So, I think Replay is history. I hope I'm wrong, because the competition they provide is invaluable.
  • Hemos wrote ...but the vendor lockin with someone who's being sued by *everyone* does throw some cold water on desire for the machine.

    So tell me... how exactly is paying the fee up front (for a cost that'll probably equal about 2 to 2.5 years worth of "subscription") a better idea? You do realize that exactly what you do when you buy a Replay machine, right?

    If you throw down your extra $200-$250 as part of the cost of the machine and 6 months later they're sued out of business, then what? At least with a subscription you're NOT locked in.

    -S

  • Program listings? It just doesn't make economic sense.

    Broadcasters spend billions promoting their shows. Why would they want to restrict the listing info?

    Let's say we build freelistings.org. and allow pvr makers (sw and hw) to "link" their devices to it. FOX, ABC, and NBC refuse to publish on it, but PBS buys in. A few other broadcasters decide they have nothing to lose, but might gain viewers by publishing to the listing svc. Soon, advertisers wise up and demand that the programs they are sponsoring on FOX, ABC, etc. be listed on the service.

    Wouldn't it just be a matter of time before all broadcasters publish the listing info in some XML based format?

    They *want* us to watch, but they don't want us to know what's on? ERROR! DOES NOT COMPUTE!
  • The simple fact of the matter is that the 4000 series is absolutely kick ass. I recently got one for my wife and I don't know how I watched TV without it!

    This past weekend I sat down with Replayer (a Java app that sucks shows off of a 4000 unit), a MPEG-2 to MPEG-1 converter, a small video editor, and Nero (the *best* CD burning software for win32) and made VCDs of all of my recorded Good Eats episodes (a great cooking show on Food Network).

    It took me about 1/2 the day to figure out the process, but now that I've got it sorted out I only have to invest about 10 minutes in burning a VCD (the process takes about 3 hours in total but that's mostly in the sucking the show off of the Replay and converting it to MPEG-1)

    The other thing that I haven't heard mentioned much is that people have figured out quite a bit about how the Replay's network stuff works... I know you can suck the guide off now, and I wouldn't be suprised if someone already has way to set the guide too.

    Basically, if you want to get a Replay but are afraid of them getting sued into oblivion, don't worry, I am certain someone will come up with a way to read guide info... there are just too many Replay hackers out there for it *not* to happen.

    Also, yes, the are expensive, but I have a real problem with subscription based services for information that I believe ought to be free. I had no problem shelling out th $800 I spent on my Replay to both get the time and space shifting I wanted and to support a company thats fighting *for* fair use.

  • I decided it was finally time to buy one of these gizmos (a personal video recorder, or PVR), and proceeded last weekend to try to buy one.

    Surprise: you can't buy them. ReplayTV is not carried in any store, and your only option is to mail-order it at a price of $700 for a 30-hour machine that requires a broadband connection to use.

    By comparison, TiVo is promoting a $400 box that stores 60 hours of programs, but it lacks a commercial-skip or even a skip-30-seconds button, and it adds that $13-per-month subscription. And TiVo made the odd decision to sign an exclusive deal with Best Buy, but Best Buy won't show the unit "in use" -- all you can do is watch a canned infomercial on a fuzzy TV screen -- and Best Buy buries the thing mid-aisle (and the topper is that it's not actually in stock).

    Finally, there's UltimateTV, which requires a DirecTV satellite and subscription ($48 plus tax per month is the minimum subcription, including the $32 base price, plus $6 more for local channels, plus $10 per month for the UltimateTV service). I was attracted to the $199 RCA version. Again, you can't actually see it in use -- not at Best Buy (again, you can watch a fuzzy infomercial), nor at Radio Shack (where it's not in stock anyway), nor at Circuit City (also out of stock). Call and ask UltimateTV and they'll give you a long list of other retail stores (including Wal-Mart) -- none of which actually sell UltimateTV. The most amusing call was to the Sony store at the Sony Metreon center in San Francisco -- they have never even heard of the Sony UltimateTV unit.

    To their credit, Good Guys had an RCA UltimateTV unit on display, connected to a satellite and able to record two channels at once and display the (limited) picture-in-picture mode. After a few minutes, a clerk tracked down the remote control. After a few minutes, I was impressed enough to say "okay, I'll buy it." Surprise: it's not in stock, and the store has no idea when it will be back in stock.

    Best Buy had a stack of units in stock (all resealed-opened boxes), but when I tried to buy one, they announced that I'd have to sign a "commitment agreement" binding myself to a minimum one year of service. Since their in-store price tags and brochures made no mention of this $400 "extra," I objected and refused to sign, and they refused to sell me the unit at ANY price. (Yeah, I could sue them since their practice is illegal, like so many other Best Buy bait-and-switch tactics -- but it's not worth the effort).

    See also http://www.markwelch.com/perspective/pvr.htm [markwelch.com] (I wrote that commentary on Sunday, before I managed to see the UltimateTV at The Good Guys, and before I tried to buy it at Best Buy).

    • Series 2 Tivo branded standalone boxes are exclusive to Best Buy and buying from Tivo directly, but other manufacturers are not. There will be other brand names (Philips, Sony, etc) coming out at some future point.

      Oh, and Tivo does have a hidden skip 30 seconds feature. Hit Select Play Select Three Zero Select on the remote while watching any recording and voila, the Skip To End button is now a 30 second skip. Do it again to turn it back off.

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