Ex-TiVo Execs Sell Web-Video Device in Challenge to Roku

The co-founders of TiVo Inc., the company that introduced time-shifted viewing to television audiences, are back with a device for Web-based video that will compete with Roku Inc. players and Google Inc.’s Chromecast.

The $49 Qplay adapter, introduced today, connects to TVs and uses an app on Apple Inc.’s iPad to search across YouTube, Vine, Vimeo and other sites for free video. Users can create custom channels, called “Qs,” that sift the Web for content that suits their interests, said Mike Ramsay, chief executive officer of the San Jose, California-based startup and former CEO of TiVo, the pioneer of digital video recorders.

Ramsay and Qplay co-founder James Barton, TiVo’s former chief technical officer, are looking to leapfrog competitors with search and the ability to personalize viewing across hundreds of providers. The company takes advantage of cloud-based technology and the flexibility that mobile devices bring to watching television.

“The finding and playing of Internet video is a real pain,” Ramsay said in an interview. “It used to be we had to search between 500 channels; now it’s 500 apps.”

Qplay was founded in August 2012 with initial funding from Redpoint Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Ramsay, who led San Jose, California-based TiVo from its founding in 1997 until 2005, is Qplay’s CEO. He declined to say how much has been invested. Barton, who left TiVo in 2012, is the new company’s chief technical officer.

‘Shook Up’

“We invested in Qplay because we believe in Mike and Jim,” Geoff Yang, a partner at Redpoint, said in a statement. “What they accomplished at TiVo shook up the industry and gave consumers a new way to watch TV. We expect nothing less of them as they now target the Internet video space.”

Ramsay and Barton helped create TiVo’s digital recording service, which allows viewers to record shows to a hard drive and offers recommendations based on previously viewed content.

QPlay, first available through an application on the iPad, lets users create their own channels, for example one based on the just-ended Winter Olympics. They can also watch curated content, channels such as CNN, or follow ones created by others.

While the iPad app is used for discovery, playback and control, a Qplay TV Adapter, smaller than a deck of cards, integrates with the TV, and a cloud service manages and accesses content, the company said.

Qplay also includes links to Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and other social websites, collecting videos that friends post. Links to Netflix Inc. and Hulu LLC will come “in the near term,” Ramsay said without elaborating. Premium services will come later, he said.

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