Is There Still a Need for Network DVRs?

The Supreme Court decided yesterday that it was not going to hear the case of Cablevision vs. the Hollywood networks and studios over remote storage DVRs. Instead, the high court asked the Justice Department to weigh in on whether Cablevision’s proposed centralized video recording service would violate copyright law. Translation: It’ll be months before a decision is made. But does the question even matter any more?

We continue to scratch our heads over why Hollywood is so opposed to the notion of a cable company centrally hosting a subscriber’s DVR; it seems like a win-win-win situation. Cable subscribers would have one less box in the home and get more storage, cable companies could save money by not distributing boxes to every home, and content owners could better control their content and dynamically change ads within recorded shows.

But as usual, by the time this legal bickering concludes (the case has already been going on for three years), technology will be close to leapfrogging the mess entirely. As we saw at last week’s CES, TVs jacking in and receiving content directly over the Internet is the new black. Netflix, Amazon VOD and YouTube are coming to your big-screen TV. Since these services stream content (in HD, no less) there’s no need to record them — users just pluck them out of the video cloud.

Granted, these services still need to work on the amount of content offered and the release windows, but they’re getting better. Which is more than I can say about the prospects for a remote storage DVR.

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