Monday, June 24, 2013

My DVR Works Better Than Yours

I can't tell you how often we complain in our house that the DVR misses the ending of almost every show we record.  In some cases, it misses the beginning too.  But we grin and bear it and try to move on with our lives.  It certainly adds another black market to the list when consumer start to shun cable for streaming.  And yet, it could be an easy fix.

According to Slate, our problems don't occur in other countries.  They have something called "accurate recording".  "A customer’s DVR, in turn, will not stop recording until it’s been signaled that the present and following information has changed."And according to the article, the US could have this feature.  "The issue, the source said, is that the broadcasters would need to provide them with real-time data on the start and end times of live events. That’s already happening in the United Kingdom and other places with accurate recording, but not in North America."  Seems an easy fix and a great marketing statement to tout.  Heck, we might even stop hating our cable boxes and cable company.

TiVo never seemed to have this problem.  Or perhaps it was because I could add minutes before and after to assure that I got coverage of the program.  My cable box does not have that flexibility.  Cable companies might suggest finding the show by searching on demand but that process remains cumbersome too.  And so we suffer in silence hoping that some executive will listen and improve the DVR experience. 

Next Cable Operator To Merge

Is Charter Cable the next major cable operator to merge with another?  For years, many have speculated that Cablevision, landlocked in the NY DMA, was a likely acquisition target.  As Time Warner Cable (TWC) is the owned the majority of NYC, they seemed the most likely partner.  But that deal has yet to materialize.  A Charter deal with Time Warner has promise, with synergies in the LA DMA, but other markets are less likely to benefit from having TWC systems nearby.  So if TWC is mentioned repeatedly, who would they prefer to merge with first?

In today's NY Post, speculation comes the Tom Rutledge, a former TWC and Cablevision executive now at Charter, would like to merge and run a bigger operation.  "Although Charter is half the size of Time Warner, the fourth-largest pay TV provider, Wall Street would like to see the two combined under the leadership of Rutledge."  And while that may be what Wall Street wants, TWC executives may have their own ideas as to who should be in charge, despite Rutledge having had a very successful career in cable.  And Charter may not sway the vote if it is true that Cablevision is interested in merging.  "All the deal talk has even put Cablevision patriarch Chuck Dolan in 'listening mode' after years of resisting a tie-up with Time Warner Cable, according to a source."  I think if TWC had its say, a Cablevision deal would be its first move.

One thing is clear, regardless of who merges, their is more need to consolidate to improve profit margins through lower license fees and cost efficiencies.  With an increased push toward streaming and a loss of basic cable subscribers through cord cutting, consolidation will enable cable companies to provide a better connection experience, both in the home and out, by expanding its infrastructure.  And who knows, maybe new businesses that can grow as a result of this larger footprint.