UPC confirms July launch for PVR

21 May 2007

UPC will launch its long-awaited personal video recorder (PVR) this July, siliconrepublic.com has learned. It finally will give the cable TV operator a competing technology to the service offered by its rival Sky.

A personal video recorder (PVR), also referred to as a digital video recorder, can record live TV for playback when the user wants.

The technology is integrated into the set-top box required for digital TV, so consumers don’t need to program their video recorders or DVD recorders. PVRs can be programmed to record entire series.

The box, manufactured by French firm Thomson, will have a storage capacity of up to 160GB and will be able to hold around 80 hours of saved TV. UPC sales and marketing director Mark Coan confirmed it will be launched in Ireland this July.

The service is currently being trialed in Dublin but it won’t be commercially available for another two months. “We want to make sure the service is right,” Coan told siliconrepublic.com. “It’s going to be aggressively priced,” he added.

Coan confirmed that the PVR box will be compatible with UPC’s planned video-on-demand (VOD) service. No launch date has been set for this yet and it’s unlikely to be available in Ireland before next year.

UPC is the group name for the Irish cable TV providers NTL and Chorus. According to its most recent annual results, the company has 594,100 TV customers in Ireland, of which 272,000 are analogue, 210,800 are digital and 111,300 are on the MMDS platform.

Coan said that UPC intends to roll out its high-definition (HD) service before the end of the year. This technology, which is only available on digital TV, offers much four times the picture quality of standard definition TV as well as surround sound.

UPC is investing €300m over three years into upgrading its network to offer these services – and to play catch-up with long-time competitor Sky, which launched its Sky+ PVR technology almost four years ago and HD last year.

Sky Ireland has 484,000 digital TV subscribers, or roughly one in three Irish homes. An estimated 12,500 people subscribe to Sky’s HD service and around 80,000 use the Sky+ TV recorder.

By Gordon Smith