Amazon Is Planning Live TV Recorder, Challenging TiVo

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is developing a new device that records live TV, working around cable providers and encroaching on TiVo Corp.’s market, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The device, dubbed "Frank" inside Amazon, is a new type of digital video recorder for the streaming era. It would include physical storage and connect to Amazon’s existing Fire TV boxes, the living room hub for the company’s online video efforts, according to the person. They asked not to be identified discussing unannounced product details. An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment.

The Frank DVR has the same wireless technology that Amazon’s Echo speakers use to connect to Fire TV boxes. Users will be able to record live TV and stream the video to a smartphone so it can be watched later. That functionality is similar to offerings from TiVo and Dish Network Corp.’s Slingbox. Amazon hasn’t made a final decision on rolling out the streaming feature, the person said, noting that the plans could either be canceled or delayed.

TiVo shares fell as much as 10 percent in afternoon trading in New York.

Currently, Fire TVs stream live content via the Amazon Channels service, which includes programming from providers like HBO, but the box can’t store video locally. Amazon is also working to better highlight live content to Fire TV users.

The e-commerce giant’s Lab 126 research and development center is working on the DVR, the latest in a series of connected gadgets aimed at the home. The group created the Echo speaker and is building a home robot known as Project Vesta.

Amazon wants to occupy living rooms through its devices and services. The company has been investing in original movies, TV shows and live sports to make its Prime membership an alternative to streaming services like Netflix Inc. Prime members pay annual or monthly fees for shipping discounts, video and other perks. Customers who watch Amazon video content spend more on other company offerings and are more likely to renew memberships.

Amazon also plans to update its Fire TV stick -- a smaller version of the Fire TV box -- with newer software, the person added. It’s also looking to get Fire TV software and video content onto more TVs made by other companies. Right now, Amazon sells Fire TV sets built by Toshiba Corp. and Westinghouse, and is seeking more manufacturing partners to better compete with Roku Inc., which features its software in many TV models.

Fire TV streaming devices are among Amazon’s best-selling products. Earlier this year, Amazon teamed up with Best Buy Co. to sell Fire TV-branded televisions made by Toshiba and Insignia.

For more on Amazon’s expansion efforts, check out the Decrypted podcast:

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