Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) will trial a service that offers viewers the chance to catch shows they may have missed without paying a monthly DVR fee or if they didn’t set the recorder. Two catches, according to the NYT: the fast-forward button will be disabled so no ad skipping and the shows will only be available until the end of the same day when they first air. (Conversely, networks usually start streaming broadband versions of prime-time episodes — also with no-skip advertising — the next day.) Unlike Cablevision’s contested effort to create a virtual DVR, this seems to be another effort from TWC to color between the lines.
A no-charge service already in place known as “Start Over” allows digital cable viewers to start some shows any time during the normal broadcast time. It also allows rewind, pause and the ability to change channels and come back to the same show within five minutes — as long as it’s still in the usual broadcast time. Networks choose to participate. Both are incremental changes to encourage the switch to digital cable, add features satellite doesn’t offer and to increase viewing within a narrow window. A third variation on the theme called “Catch Up” is closer to straight VOD and will let viewers catch up in the days and weeks after a show first airs.
Bloomberg” TWC EVP Peter Stern said that the full rollout of “Look Back” and Catch Up” depends on getting copyright approval from programmers. One network so far has signed up for “Look Back.”
— Stern: “One of the things there’s a great deal of controversy about is the impact of DVR on advertising. The features we’re talking about are the antidote.”