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Richard Shim

Staff Writer, CNET

Thousands of Comcast subscribers lined up Friday at the Alviso, Calif.-based headquarters of digital-video recorder company TiVo to pick up a free recorder and donate a gift to charity.

From 11 a.m. to past the 1 p.m. deadline, TiVo employees gave away about 2,000 recorders and collected more than 2,000 donated items from Comcast cable subscribers, according to the company. The promotion killed two birds with one stone–poking fun at competitor Comcast and benefitting the San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit organization The Family Giving Tree.

Through a series of communication miscues earlier this month, Comcast subscribers were left with the impression that a $9.99-per-month DVR service that was supposed to be up and running in the Bay Area wasn’t available yet or that there was a shortage of recorders. A check of the Comcast Web site Friday indicated that the DVR service was available in San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.

Comcast customers who were first-time TiVo owners and brought their cable bill and a donation were eligible for the promotion.

DVRs allow viewers to pause live television broadcasts and program systems to record shows to a hard drive. TiVo usually charges $199.99 for the recorders and $12.95 per month for the service. The company is also in the middle of a $100 mail-in rebate promotion for its recorders that lasts until Jan. 1. A lifetime subscription to the service costs $299–that’s the lifetime of the recorder, not an individual.

The service fees were not part of the Friday giveaway.

TiVo representatives estimated there were about 2,500 attendees at the first-come, first-served promotion, but those who came after supplies ran out were given a coupon for an additional $50 off the rebated price. Recorders are $49.95, but the coupon expires at midnight tonight.

“The event was an overwhelming success and we exceeded expectations on every level from attendees to the gifts collected,” said Kathryn Kelly, a TiVo spokeswoman. “We were happily surprised and touched by the goodwill as well as the enthusiasm. It got to the point where our staff was giving people the TiVo shirts off their backs; everyone went home with something.”