Amazon is reported to be developing a product with local storage that records programmes and can deliver them to other devices. Internally codenamed ‘Frank’, it is conceived as a new type of digital video recorder for the online era. Seen as a threat to TiVo, it could further establish the Amazon ecosystem in the living room.
The Frank DVR can apparently connect to Fire TV boxes and deliver video to other devices, like smartphones. It is a product of the Amazon research and development centre, which also created the Echo smart speaker.
Amazon is also updating the software for its Fire TV stick, which plugs into televisions, and is seeking to integrate its capabilities directly into the displays from more manufacturers.
The recording capability puts it in competition with TiVo, one of the pioneers of the digital video recorder, as well as traditional television service providers that offer similar capabilities, some of them licensing software or patents from TiVo for their own products.
It is not currently clear how far the Amazon device will have similar features. The initial report, from Bloomberg, cited an unnamed source familiar with the plans but offered little detail and added that the plans could either be delayed or cancelled.
There is certainly an opportunity for a product that can record free-to-air television and make it available on demand to multiple screens, from smartphones to large-screen displays.
That said, TiVo has failed to make much of an impact on the retail market, despite becoming a high profile pioneer. The company holds several patents that have been successfully asserted against service providers and increasingly partners with some of them to support their services.
TiVo has a total installed base of 22 million subscriber households, although only a small minority of those are from retail products. TiVo recently indicated that it was partnering with a third party, understood to be Arris, to take on manufacturing and retail sales. The company is currently evaluating its strategic options, which could include the sale of all or parts of the company.
Amazon Prime has over 100 million members worldwide. Many subscribe for other benefits, including free delivery, but its bundled video services helps to drive adoption and retention.