Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cablevision Loses Network DVR Case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cablevision Systems Corp. has lost a legal battle against several Hollywood studios and television networks to introduce a network-based digital video recorder service to its subscribers.

Cablevision have lost this case but I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this one, I'm still not sure which way I fall on this decision as I can see both sides of the argument.

In case you haven't been following the case; Cablevision (a USA cable tv provider) has implemented a technology that allowed them to move the DVR's from your home into their network data center.

A Digital Video Recorder (DVR) is just the modern version of a VCR in that a set top box with a hard drive sits in your living room connected to your TV, it is used to record your TV shows for later viewing.

You can use the onscreen TV Guide to record individual shows or you can select an entire season (eg record all Sopranos showing for the next 16 weeks on Monday at 10pm) or you might go through and select record to automatically record any TV show with Mel Gibson acting in it.

My Scientific Atlanta 8300HD box has a hard drive of 160GB that allows me to record between 30 to 40 hours of video depending on the percentage of High Definition shows I record (which takes up more space obviously).

Now what Cablevision have done is move this functionality into a central data center but instead of stacking a room full of these DVR set top boxes from the floor to the ceiling and connecting each one to your home, they have consolidated all of the hard drives and cpu's into a single server.

You are still allocated a fixed amount of space, you can still only view the shows that you have set up in advance to view, you still control it from a remote control in your house but that instead of the video content data sitting in a box under your TV it is sitting in a data center at the end of your cable connection.

The content providers are calling foul on this. Their issue is that it's not legal for Cablevision to 'store and forward' content (often called time shifting) which currently is legal for consumers under 'fair use' rules brought about by earlier betamax vcr rulings.

I can see both sides but eventually I just see this as shifting ground, the same way we move from one technology to another.

With the introduction of the "place shifting" Slingbox's which allow you to watch content from your home DVR on your mobile phone or laptop while working remotely from home eg. in the office (http://deancollinsblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/sling-media-gets-466-million-dollars.html) and multiroom DVR's (eg your DVR in the bedroom can play content recorded on the DVR in the living room) this is just another extension of eventual technology, you can try and fight it or start to change your practises so you benefit from it.

I've got some thoughts on how content providers can make more money from place shifting applications but thats for another time under NDA's and not for public consumption :)


P.S. After I wrote this post I found an interesting piece a friend of mine posted here http://www.rossdawsonblog.com/weblog/archives/2007/03/dreaming_of_new.html and while looking to post a reply to his site I also came across this article http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/02/15/business/commercials.php

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