Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Networking DVRs Finding More Opportunity

Cablevision's early push for a cloud based DVR service for its subscribers showed that they clearly saw the future. And yet they were also forced to go it alone against content companies concerned with remote digital copies. It has taken Cablevision some time to settle lawsuits and move forward. And only recently has Cablevision "...started providing a remote-storage recording service in the city and that it had stopped buying physical digital video recorders." Well another cable operator may have also seen the light.

"Comcast will test the so-called cloud-based recording service in some markets late this year or early next year," according to Tony Werner, their CTO. With the legitimacy of the cloud pushed by Cablevision, Apple, and others, the time to remove the set top box from the TV seems to have arrived. And a cloud based or Network DVR (N-DVR) should also help cable operators to offer DVR content to other non TV devices, providing more benefits to a cable subscription package.

Certainly, this should be a concern to TV manufacturers, like Tivo. Hopefully, their software may be of value to cable operators in a N-DVR world; otherwise, there may be little reason for cable operators to want to negotiate with Tivo, simply because cable operators stop buying set top boxes.

But there are concerns with a N-DVR approach. For customers, a concern might be that a network version might have limited trick features attached to it. It is likely that a N-DVR will limit the commercial skipping fast forward feature that has been so widely applauded by DVR users. Another concern is that some content providers may force operators to not allow N-DVR of their content. For example, live sporting events like MLB or NFL games that viewers might N-DVR at home and then would watch on a mobile device. It limits for the sport content the chance to sell a second subscription web package to that cable customer. And customers might get annoyed that some content cannot be saved for later.

Regardless, the cloud is pushing ahead and will no doubt create some initial unsettling conditions. Over time, it will be the ideal choice for the sharing and watching of content, whenever, wherever, and whatever you choose.