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SanDisk Debuts Service to Download TV Shows

Flash memory maker SanDisk on Monday debuted an online video service and a USB flash drive that can carry television programs and videos from a computer for playback on TVs.

The Sansa TakeTV video player - an ensemble of an oversized USB drive, remote control and a small dock that connects to a TV - and its accompanying video service, Fanfare, marks the latest attempt by a company looking to bridge content between the PC and the television.

Similar to using a USB drive to store and move data files, users of TakeTV can drag-and-drop video files stored on their computer - Fanfare downloads, home videos or other unrestricted video content from the Web - onto the device. Users can then plug it into the cradle connected to a TV. A simple menu appears on the TV to scroll through the files for playback.

The TakeTV player is $99.99 for a 4 gigabyte model and $149.99 for an 8 GB one that can hold up to 10 hours of video. Fanfare, in a test stage, offers premium TV shows for $1.99 per download - roughly the same price as rival services, but SanDisk says it hopes to ultimately provide a broad mixture of free and ad-supported content as well as pay-per-download videos.

Fanfare's catalog at launch is small, with about 85 titles. It features TV shows from CBS, including "CSI" and "Survivor," Showtime, TV Guide, and Smithsonian Networks. Dozens of titles are being added each week, SanDisk said.

The online video service is a new venture for Milpitas, Calif.-based SanDisk, which is the leading maker of flash memory cards and holds a distant but steady second-place position behind Apple in the portable media player market with a 10 percent share in the U.S., according to market researcher IDC.

SanDisk saw an opportunity in the fledgling market it didn't want to pass up, said Kate Purmal, senior vice president and general manager of SanDisk's digital content unit.

The distribution of videos, movies and television shows over the Internet is expected to grow as companies ranging from Apple and Wal-Mart Stores to the TV networks themselves compete for the audience. The various methods of getting the video from over the Internet onto the TV, however, has yet to become easy or cheap enough for the mainstream market.

CBS , one of SanDisk's first major partners, found in its consumer research of the TakeTV product that people liked its simplicity, compact size, and price, said David Poltrack, president of CBS Vision.

SanDisk will need to build a larger video catalog to succeed, said Danielle Levitas, analyst at IDC.

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