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Time Warner Launches Virtual Drive, Calls It PVR

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Time Warner Cable (TWC), like many other forward-thinking cable operators, started working on a personal video recorder back in 2003 as a hedge against the growing popularity of TiVo (TIVO). Four years later, the company has finally gotten around to releasing its service, except it lacks any ability to skip through commercials or fast-forward through video.

Cablevision (CVC), another New York-based cable operator, last year was trying to launch its own centralized DVR, but its forward thinking got the company sued. The TV executives missed the point: If the content was centralized, there was very little chance of people ripping it off their drives to share with friends.

Time Warner Cable didn’t want to take the risk, and instead came up with what is essentially a virtual hard drive, devoid of any intelligence. As for the inability to fast-forward, Mike Masnick at Techdirt puts it best: “The lack of the skipping features is an attempt to appease the content owners and advertising community, and once again proves that cable operators don’t seem to realize that subscription paying people are their primary (and only) customers.”

The service reminds me of a Dodo, and like the bird it is going to be extinct soon. And to think that it took them four years to come up with it; you have to wonder about the technical abilities of the incumbents.

8 Responses to “Time Warner Launches Virtual Drive, Calls It PVR”

  1. Om,

    You’re quite right. Start-over isn’t PVR, whatever the marketing guys call it.

    What it is, is popular!

    Look-back is even more interesting, since now you don’t even have to make it to your TV within the show’s scheduled hour! You just have to make it to the TV SOMETIME during the day! Cool!


  2. Kumar,

    just wondering does Start Over qualify as a PVR. To me it doesn’t/ Regardless, your point is well taken.

    On the issue of virtual drive, well what I mean is what kind of a PVR is it if you can skip or forward video. It is just virtual storage of video with playback functionality.

    I was going with sarcasm with the “Virtual Drive”

  3. tvjunkie

    Cable’s actually been doing some pretty cool stuff for a long time – they’re probably slower than I’d like to do some of the things they’re doing, but hey, have the satellite guys been any better? And I don’t see the phone guys doing anything major with that service yet!

    Vyyo, TellyTopia, TVGuide – they’re some of the cooler startups in the Cable space that’re helping the cable guy get into the internet age.

    Hey, when Mark Cuban starts saying that the Internet is dead and Cable has the ability to be the saviour – we gotta think!

    The Mark Cuban episode shows cable’s got potential. Will they realise it? Donno. I sure hope they do. Check out this open letter from the previous poster:

  4. Om,

    The Cable TV industry is watching TWC’s “Start-over” and “Look-back” initiatives closely. The early consensus seems to be that the viewers like it.

    Start-over is for people who get home at 6:10PM and want to watch the 6:00PM news from the start – one click and you can watch it from the beginning. The viewer doesn’t know that it’s VOD behind the scenes, of course – it doesn’t need a VOD menu to access.

    Look-back is more ambitious and lets you see more things that aired that same day, I believe.

    I believe Start-over is free, not sure about Look-back. Where did you see the “virtual drive” feature? Could you please share more about that?

    Time Warner is doing things incrementally, and their consumers like it. From talking to several TWC people, a very large percentage of people in South Carolina were using start-over – much higher than were using VOD…

  5. hey andre,

    you sure that is the case. isn’t that more like a VoD – video on demand service that lets you forward and rewind stuff. I have not lived in new york for about 5 years so might not know.

  6. Here in NYC I pay $9/month for Time Warner Cable’s “DVR” service. It does not have the cripples you reference here. I was under the impression that this new “PVR” functionality was going to be added for free to the standard cable box.

    I think it’s a step up from the current cable box that doesn’t have any DVR-type functionality, even with the limitations on commercial fast forwarding…