Sonicblue May Bail
A January 17 report from Reuters news service notes that Sonicblue, Inc., the maker of ReplayTV digital video recorders (DVRs) and Rio digital music players, is considering selling the company to escape massive debt. "The goal of this process is to clear the way for the company's businesses to continue their strong growth in the market, unburdened by the amount of debt now carried on the company's balance sheet," CEO Greg Ballard said in a prepared statement. ReplayTV is the only real competitor to TiVo, another maker of DVRs (also known as personal video recorders).
Sonicblue's debt is in excess of $335.5 million, according to a November filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Analysts say the company's $16.5 million line of credit is due in March, followed by $178 million in convertible debt that matures in October. The Santa Clara, CA–based company had revenue of about $205 million for the first nine months of 2002.
Sonicblue has been under continual legal pressure from the film and television industries for a program-sharing feature that allows Replay users to forward recorded TV shows to each other. DVRs also allow users to skip commercials, a feature that has been attacked by television executives for "violating the contract between viewers and broadcasters" that insured continuing advertising revenue for the networks.
In a related development, a Replay users website has shut down its file-sharing service, caving into pressure from Hollywood and TV networks. Chad Little, owner of the Planet Replay site, said he decided to dismantle the file-sharing service after being deposed by entertainment industry attorneys. Planet Replay has no official connection to ReplayTV.