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Manufacturers shipping out record numbers of digital video recorders

LAWRENCEVILLE

The voracious consumer demand for digital video recorders continues to increase so fast it's creating a shortfall of the devices at one local cable provider.

Charter Communications is putting metro Atlanta customers on waiting lists for DVRs, which enable viewers to record and play back TV programs.

Charter has experienced shortages in other markets, spokeswoman Anita Lamont said.

"We are completely astonished how quickly the supply has diminished," Lamont said. "We did not expect the early adopters (of this technology) to be lined up, ready and waiting."

Other companies, including Scientific-Atlanta, Motorola and Tivo, have been swept up in the DVR craze.

Lawrenceville-based Scientific-Atlanta, which makes DVRs for Charter and other cable operators, shipped 556,000 of the devices in its fiscal second quarter - a new record.

So far, the company has distributed 4.3 million DVRs.

Motorola, which also shipped a little more than a half million DVRs in its previous quarter, has seen its production of the units soar. Motorola shipped less than 100,000 DVRs in 2003. Last year, the company sent 2.2 million DVRs to its customers.

Scientific-Atlanta and Motorola are shipping about five DVR-ready set top boxes for every one cable box without DVR, according to financial results from both companies.

DVR demand is a relatively recent phenomenon, but the technology has been around for years.

Digital video recording was first tested in 1965 when CBS looked at potential to freeze-frame and rewind broadcasts of sporting events. The earliest consumer DVRs were launched in 1999 by Replay TV and Tivo, which markets the devices directly to consumers.

As part of a promotional event last year, Tivo held a mock funeral paying tribute to the forlorn VCR, which cannot perform a DVR's tricks, including pausing live TV and skipping commercials.

Tivo had 4.4 million subscribers at the end of January - a 45 percent increase over the past year.

Katie Ho, Tivo vice president of marketing, said DVR is enjoying remarkable popularity for several reasons, including greater consumer awareness and its simplicity of use.

Said Ho: "Above all, consumers love the control and convenience the device gives them."