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Cable Companies Despise PVRs 726

Posted by timothy
from the convenience-is-awful dept.
sbombay writes "I just came back from Broadband Plus (formerly the Western Cable Show) and was disappointed to find that cable companies despise PVRs. In his keynote speech, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said that the PVR amounts to 'the Napster of the future.' Cable World has a story about the speech and quotes from other cable execs bashing the PVR. The cable industry's opposition to the PVR boils down to two things -- PVRs help satellite companies (Dish and DirecTV) provide services like Video On Demand (VOD) and a PVR in a cable home cuts into VOD revenue. Any of the sessions at the show that touched the topic of PVRs were an opportunity for the cable industry to slam the PVR. The strongest attack came from Gary Lauder, a venture capitalist who has funded many cable related companies. During his 15-minute presentation, Lauder slammed his Replay box, 'it's too hot,' 'my wife doesn't know how to use it,' and he even tried to fry an egg on his PVR. He also openly called on the cable companies and Hollywood to sue the PVR companies for copyright infringement. If you love your PVR, the cable industry is not your friend." Update: 12/09 18:33 GMT by T : Gary Lauder wrote to say that this account misquotes and misinterprets his speech on certain points. Read below for his reaction.
Gary Lauder writes: "I have 3 PVR's and love the functionality. My wife knows how to use it. The misquotation is that she did not know how to reboot it when it locked up. This was a piece of data in support of the following position:

My position that I expressed in my speech and that was inaccurately portrayed: PVR functionality should be provisioned from the headend for the following reasons (which ultimately will benefit consumers):

  1. VOD servers cost much less
    • If video servers @ $350/stream (Soon Component cost declining 40%/year
    • @ 10% simultaneous use, costs $35/sub.
    • PVRs cost >10X more
    • When simultaneous use = 50%, server costs will have declined >5X
  2. Disk noise wakes my wife
  3. Replay box hot enough to fry an egg -- Is that a feature?
  4. Disk size limitations mean obsolescence, esp. with HDTV
  5. Available on every set-top in house Average of 1.7 PVRs/PVR household
  6. No pro-activity/anticipation required
  7. Records multiple concurrent shows
  8. NW storage could always have max. res.
  9. Uses existing deployed base
  10. Moving parts break more often
  11. Box complexity means more crashes & customer support costs

My basic thesis is that PVRs + Satellite will eat cable's lunch, and since it's unambiguous that cable needs to get the copyright clearances to offer programming from the head-end, they should start now. It is the case that I suggested that if a Supreme Court case was brought on the legality of each feature of PVRs were brought, some would lose. I also suggested an alternative business model to make everybody happy to avoid the all-or-nothing result that has been occurring in the RIAA vs. Napster wars.

I suggested that consumers pay 1 cent per commercial skipped (which is about the same as what advertisers pay). That would be equivalent to $10/thousand commercials skipped. I think that's reasonable. I also suggested that targeted advertising could be a win-win for all involved by delivering ads in areas that are of greater interest to the viewer so that there would be less incentive to skip and fewer ads would have to be delivered due to the higher prices paid for the targeted group. I also predicted that this dynamic combined with competition between satellite and cable would ultimately make both services free."

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Cable Companies Despise PVRs

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  • bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:22PM (#4844121)
    If cable companies despise PVRs, why does AT&T sell Tivo, branded under their cable service?
    • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jtkooch (553641) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:30PM (#4844197)
      I would assume the cable companies would love PVR's. I got HBO only after I got my TiVo, b/c now I can watch the Soprano's when it fits into my schedule, not theirs. It's not quite on demand programming, but the benefits and features cost the cable industry nothing.
      • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cmeans (81143) <cmeans.intfar@com> on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:34PM (#4844247) Homepage Journal
        You can't (if you were) trying to equate HBO with a cable company. HBO is subscription based, so there's no ads (as such) to skip over/fast forward through. Yes they do advertize their own programming, but if you're paying for the HBO service...why should they care if you're actually watching it or not?

        Cable companies, on the other hand, have to deal with advertizers who are seeing their dollars, potentially, go to waste on PVR users.

        P.S. I love my TiVo, I am watching a lot more TV than I ever did before, and a lot fewer ads.

        • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

          by avdp (22065) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:59PM (#4844485)
          I think the point is that he is signing up for premium channels (and he might not without a PVR). The cable companies does make money on premium channels. I guess not 100% of the premium fee goes to the premium company.
        • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

          by macrom (537566) <macrom75@hotmail.com> on Monday December 09, 2002 @01:24PM (#4844711) Homepage
          Cable companies, on the other hand, have to deal with advertizers who are seeing their dollars, potentially, go to waste on PVR users.

          This may be discussed below, but I haven't seen it...

          Here is what I don't understand. Let's say I tape all of my Monday night shows for 2 hours using my PVR. As far as my satellite company is concerned, I *watched* those shows and all of the accompanying ads. Chalk up another viewer with the other 10 million that watched the same thing. So where's the problem here? Just because my PVR recorded the show for me doesn't change the fact that the show was "watched". Unless the cable and satellite companies are reporting true viewers versus virtual viewers, in which case they're the dolts that are counting the viewship in a bizarre manner. Once the show has been aired, what do they care if I watch the commercials or not?

          Another thing I notice is that the cable companies are the ones complaining. I don't see the major networks crying foul : NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox (here in the States, at least). Or are they raising a stink as well and I'm just not reading the right articles?

          However you look at it, though, it just boils down to control. These execs are pissed that the public actually has a modicum of control over how and when they view their television, and the lack of their precise control is what they're truly pissed about.
        • Re:bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dcmeserve (615081) on Monday December 09, 2002 @07:30PM (#4848528) Homepage Journal
          > P.S. I love my TiVo, I am watching a lot more TV than I ever did before, and a lot fewer ads.

          Now that I have TiVo, I am actually paying a lot more attention to ads than I used to.

          Before, when commercials would come up, my finger would go reflexively to the "mute" button, and I'd start chatting w/ my fellow viewers, or similarly divert my attention to some other activity. My brain was practiced enough for me to almost always know, almost subconsciously, when the program was coming back on, simply from the timing.

          Now, with TiVo, that timing is out the window, because the commercials scan by so quickly. At the same time, I am also paying a lot more attention to what I see, because I'm watching for the program to start again. Sometimes I see a rather interesting or bizzare image, and I wonder "what was *that*??" -- so I stop the ffwd, and acutally *watch the commercial*.

          If I've seen that commercial before, I don't bother stopping to look at it, but of course that means that *it's already in my head*, and the ad's mission has been a success!

          I actually prefer TiVo's standard ffwd style to the 30-second-skip, because I do enjoy watching some commercials -- they can be quite entertaining . Also, I've seen a friend using the 30-sec-skip style, and it's annoying because they always have to hit the 8-sec-back button something like 5 times after overshooting the beginning of the proram.

          So, in summary, now that I have a PVR, I actually *see* a lot more commercials than I used to (as opposed to them merely displaying on my tv), and yet I'm not wasting my time on them!

          Analyze *that*, all you marketing dum*#@!&&s!
      • Re:bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tassii (615268)
        It's not quite on demand programming, but the benefits and features cost the cable industry nothing.

        Sure it does. Many cable companies are either offering or in the process of offereing Video on Demand services (for a fee, of course). By using TiVo, you don't need their services, hence they can't sell it to you. And since the Video on Demand is tied into other services that are bundled (for example, IO from Cablevision [www.io.tv]) they can't sell you those things either. So the cable companies loose out.

        Lastly, if you use TiVo to record shows, they don't get the additional revenue from offering the show again. For example, TNT runs the same movie many times in a given week. This is so that people that were watching something else the first time it ran gets another chance to see it. If you record it with TiVo, then you don't need that second chance. Nor do you ever see the commercials that they insert to earn the cash to keep operating. So they loose that money as well. See the Slashdot article about "TiVo users are stealing"

        Can anyone see how the cable industry might not be totall thrilled about TiVo?
    • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

      by tmhsiao (47750) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:30PM (#4844208) Homepage Journal
      Because AT&T Broadband, despite all of their insipid customer service issues, doesn't have the paradigm block that Comcast apparently has. Either that or they recognize that despite objections, PVRs and PVR technology is the way consumers will want to view television in the future.

      The other issue is cable companies losing the ability to sell/rent their own crappy boxes to their customers. Their revenue stream from these boxes can be two-fold--ads and sales/rentals.

      I know that when I visit my parents in Miami, and use their shitty digital cable receiver box, I get big ads and huge banners which obscure the picture on the television. If my parents didn't live where the HOA frowned upon it, I'd tell them to get DirecTV.

      • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:43PM (#4844340)
        HOA have no legal right to prevent you from installing a small dish if you own the property. Now there are a few other limiting factors, like having a mounting location with a clear line of sight to the satellite, but an HOA by law is not allowed to prevent this.

        "Satellite Consumer Bill of Rights, a regulation released by the FCC on August 6, 1996. This regulation PREEMPTS area zoning ordinances and Homeowner Association covenants and restrictions on DBS dish antennas. This rule was required by Congress in the 1996 Telecommunications Act."

        Link to FCC fact sheet about this subject.
        FCC Fact Sheet [fcc.gov]
        • Another fine example of how corporations get to pick and choose which laws apply to Joe Consumer.

          I remember when this law was being discussed, as it was important to RCA/Thompson (a local company that builds DirecTV receivers) that consumers actually be able to install these things when so many housing covenants disallowed satellite dishes. This of course was back when satellite dishes were still 8' or larger and ugly.

          Although it did turn out to be to our benefit, I'm sure that RCA wasn't worried about us when they lobbied the FCC, just their own bottom line.
      • Re:bullshit (Score:4, Informative)

        by dfn5 (524972) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:43PM (#4844341) Journal
        The other issue is cable companies losing the ability to sell/rent their own crappy boxes to their customers.

        TiVo doesn't replace the set top box if you have cable. TiVo has a model with an Integrated Sat descrambler, but not a Cable descrambler. My TiVo has to change the channels on my cable box via an infrared wire.

        But I'm moving to an area without broadband so looks like I'm going to ditch Cable. Screw them anyways.

        • Re:bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tmhsiao (47750)
          Sorry...I was trying to imply that, personally, if faced with the choice of having crappy, analog, box-free, 100-channel cable with a TiVo to crappy, digital, ad-ridden, banner-screwy, 600 channel cable without TiVo, I'd choose the former. With TiVo, I'd need neither the channel guide nor the extra channels if I'm getting the basic channels that I want.

          Sure, having 6 HBOs sounds cool, but I've got enough network/public TV to load the TiVo as it is, and HBO (as well as most cable original programming) replays all of its original programming throughout the week anyways. Even some networks have taken to replaying their shows (Fox's 24 on FX, and the WB's easy-view Smallville).

          "But I'm moving to an area without broadband so looks like I'm going to ditch Cable. Screw them anyways."

          Make sure you give them the finger on your way out :)
          • Re:bullshit (Score:3, Informative)

            by Sc00ter (99550)
            "With TiVo, I'd need neither the channel guide nor the extra channels if I'm getting the basic channels that I want."

            TiVo gives you a guide that is FAR better then any cable company supplied guide.

      • Didn't. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sulli (195030)
        But now that Comcast has acquired AT&T Broadband, they may well kill this offer.
        • The offer in question (a 40-hour box for $199 after $50 mail-in rebate) appears to be identical to the one that TiVo is offering directly from their web site. TiVo is also throwing in free shipping, I didn't notice whether AT&T was doing the same.

          Unfortunately, there's no way to determine whether you're going to get a TCD1 model or a TCD2 model (with USB2.0 instead of 1.1). The only guaranteed way to get a TCD2 model right now appears to be buying an 80-hour unit. There don't appear to be any 60-hour TCD2 units.

      • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

        by Phillip Birmingham (2066) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:50PM (#4844402) Homepage
        "If my parents didn't live where the HOA frowned upon it, I'd tell them to get DirecTV."

        Tell them anyway. The FCC has ruled [fcc.gov] that homeowners' associations cannot stop people from installing satellite dishes of 1 m diameter or less (among other things, like wireless broadband antennae.)
      • Re:bullshit (Score:4, Informative)

        by ncc74656 (45571) <scott@alfter.us> on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:51PM (#4844406) Homepage Journal
        I know that when I visit my parents in Miami, and use their shitty digital cable receiver box, I get big ads and huge banners which obscure the picture on the television. If my parents didn't live where the HOA frowned upon it, I'd tell them to get DirecTV.

        If they're in a condo or townhome, they can put up a dish as long as it doesn't attach to common property. If they have a south-facing porch or balcony, you can attach the dish to the guard rail. Several people where I live have various mini-dishes installed. (If they don't have a view to the satellite, they're stuck.) If they're in a home, they can put up a dish on their property. If the HOA gives them grief, they can tell the HOA to go fsck themselves...several years ago, the FCC decreed that HOAs, CC&Rs, etc. can't be used to keep people from putting up antennas and dishes for TV-reception purposes.

    • Likewise, Charter. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Viewsonic (584922)
      Sounds like the small boys are the ones who are getting mad. Too bad the big boys are already enbracing it.
    • Disclaimer: I work for a large cable company. My comments are mine alone, and don't represent the views of my employer or the cable industry.

      No, cable companies don't hate PVRs. To my knowledge every major MSO (Multiple System Operator) is in some stage of developing a PVR service. Why haven't they launched such a service yet?
      1. Lack of consumer demand. In the US, more people still use out-houses than PVRs. That's not to say it's not a cool technology -- 'cause it is -- but it's not yet mainstream. Won't be for a while. Note that TiVo and SONICblue aren't yet raking in the dough.
      2. High cost. While Series 1 TiVos can be purchased for $150, most decent PVRs are still ~$300, with a ~$10/month subscription fee. Sure, you can build your own PC-based PVR and get TitanTV.com for free, but this solution doesn't appeal to the majority of consumers.
      3. Unattractive business model. Consumers are conditioned to lease their digital set-top box (STB) from their cable company, which means the MSO must purchase the STB from the manufacturer and keep the capital cost of equipment on its books. Most MSOs are limiting captial expenditures as they move toward free cash flow, so new services that require heavy capital spending are scrutinized. Especially new services with limited (albeit growing) appeal (see #1 above).

      Product development is simple:
      1. What do customers want?
      2. How much will they pay?
      3. Can we make money charging that?
      For a more detailed look at Product Development 101, see this post [slashdot.org].

      Changing gears for a moment, let's talk about rising cable rates. <soapbox> Why do MSOs raise their rates? Mostly because of increased programming costs. You see, MSOs have to pay the content providers for some of the most popular channels. It's been published (so I'm not giving away any secrets here) that ESPN raises the price it charges MSOs by ~20% per year, and won't let MSOs move the channel(s) onto a premium tier. Gotta stay in basic, as that's accessible to all viewers.

      Ah, so we blame ESPN! Not so fast. *Their* costs are rising, too. The money to pay for Alex Rodriguez's $252 million contract isn't coming from ticket and beer sales. It's TV money. The Yankees can afford the highest payroll in baseball in part because of their TV contract. Follow the money: players' salaries skyrocket, which dramatically increase broadcast rights fees, so video networks (such as ESPN) charge more for their content, and cable companies are forced to increase their rates. Salaries, broadcast rights, and carriage fees increase much more than the typical 5% cable rate boost. </soapbox>

      Thanks for reading. Bring on the flames!

      -Ray

  • by slipgun (316092) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:22PM (#4844124)
    If you love your PVR, the cable industry is not your friend.

    And if you hate the cable industry, then the PVR is your friend.
  • VCR v. PVR (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheLogster (617383) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:24PM (#4844138) Homepage Journal
    What the hell do you call a VCR - A PVR with upgradable storage...
    • by Oliver Wendell Jones (158103) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:26PM (#4844162)
      If you're VCR has an almost instantaneous 30-second skip button, then it's hated as well.
  • AT&T Selling TiVo (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dreamt (14798) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:24PM (#4844140)
    So what about the fact that AT&T Broadband is selling their own branded TiVos? This kind of makes it difficult to say that they hate them.
    • by mgs1000 (583340) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:29PM (#4844194) Journal
      This is especially interesting now that ATT Broadband is owned by Comcast, and the president of Comcast is the one bitching about PVRs.
      • AT&T, Comcast (Score:5, Informative)

        by wytcld (179112) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:52PM (#4844418) Homepage
        AT&T Broadband was acquired by Comcast in what was essentially a hostile takeover. AT&T had been considering spinning of the Broadband division, but decided not to. Comcast put together an offer that the AT&T board, under pressure from shareholders, felt they could not afford to refuse. Comcast as a result become by far the largest cable co, with a near monopoly on the East Coast (aside from NYC). Much of AT&T Broadband's staff is about to be fired, btw. Comcast wanted the customers, not the employees. They have no reason to embrace AT&T's attitude towards PVR; they'll be happy to scuttle it.
    • Re:AT&T Selling TiVo (Score:3, Interesting)

      by clickety6 (141178)
      Not really. They might still hate the fact they exist, but they at least have the sense to realise that they aren't going away anytime soon so they might as well make money with them rather than lose money to them.

      It's a bit like all these music companies finally starting to cotton on that the P2P networks aren't going to die, and at last trying to bring out their own services.

    • Portions of large companies do nto always work in concert. It is very possible for a large conglomerate to own companies or have divisons that are on opposite sides of a technology or social issue.
  • Always two-faced (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jbarr (2233) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:25PM (#4844146) Homepage
    I love the two-faced approach of the cable industry. A while back AT&T partnered with ReplayTV to provide OEM'd ReplayTV boxes to some their cable customers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:25PM (#4844147)
    PVRs are in no way like Napster, in the past, present or future. PVRs are like tape decks, VCRs, etc.

    PVRs make the TV viewer happier, so that they WATCH MORE TV.

    What do the cable companies and advertisers want you to do? WATCH MORE TV!

    They need to get their heads out of their asses and realize just like how they were wrong about VCRs destroying the movie industry, they're wrong about this now.

    It's amazing how these companies stay in business... One might think their monopolies had something to do with it.
    • The problem is they think that they are loosing money from the commercials we skip. They don't realize that most of us (pvr users..) view commercials as just another crappy imposed spam that we are forced to deal with. They're going to bitch and moan, suprise suprise.., because they think their loosing profits and what not when the simple fact of the matter is they won't. It seems like every biz nowadays is trying to blame some new innovation for loss in profits this quarter intead of realizing that ITS A DEPRESSION (slight though..) enhanced by their own ignorance of the new coming tech toys. I also don't understand how they can say watching more tv is a bad thing, but I can see it from their pov..kinda..They just need to realize they should embrace the new stuff! Not fight it..I can't figure out how these companies think they can bully everyone and win in the long haul. Their ignorance is simply amazing. The sheer fact that (with my blessed tivo heh) an hour program is only ~45 mins is silly. Some half-hour shows are only like 15mins or less! They need to quit focusing so much on profits and rethink their primary business models..
      • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross@[ ]oo.ca ['yah' in gap]> on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:57PM (#4844460)
        It not has gotten to the point where I actually tune out commercials. I might watch the commercial, but the rentention of the commercial is ZERO.... Now I am even in the habit of doing something else during the commercial, since they take so long. It is really interesting to see.

        If I see the commercial again I will remember it, but if not in the context of the commercial I do not even remember it. Does it influence me to buy the product? Absolutely not. In the grocery store or shopping mall I do compartive shopping and ask the store help. At that point I will make a decision. And if I like the product then I will buy it again.

        I think the problem with the big cable companies is that advertising in the current model DOES NOT WORK anymore. People get so much advertising that they have taught themselves to tune out...
        • But what many people, who complain about commercials, forget is that these commercials are funding *a lot* of what they watch on TV. If asked to pay the increased fee for channels with NO commercials, most people wouldn't. And many channels would die. And whilst many are filled with crap, some aren't, and there's always gonna be some people who are interested in the shows that would die as a result.

          Ads are effectively big business *paying for the TV you watch*! Maybe you should think about that before you moan about them. Even if you do 'tune out', don't tell everyone!!! These ads are vastly reducing your TV viewing costs!!!
      • You might be sad to note that an hour of Birds of Prey is currently only 39:47. [vidiot.com]
        The site has some interesting comments and facts on commercials growth. I'm only missing a graph showing how it increases by time, but everyone must have noticed that this is manipulated in many ways for example by having less commercials than normal in the opening episodes of 24^2 which of course will backlash by more than that amount in the conclusive episodes...

        Even though premieres would sync up to us here in Europe I suspect that I would still find my shows on the net with the ads pre-cut.
    • by Thud457 (234763) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:35PM (#4844250) Homepage Journal
      A good consumer will WATCH MORE ADS !

      Sorry guys, but that just has no value to me. Watching TV shows does have some value to me, such that I will pay for cable, and (maybe) watch ads. But the whole point of the broadcast system is to get people to buy stuff.

      [important]
      (Of course, the FCC grants licenses to broadcasters with the understanding that they will serve the public good. Hey, kind of like how copyright law gives someone a grant on a public domain with the view that it will serve the public good. And just like copyright, these companies have forgotten (or ignored) that they're being a special dispensation with the understanding that they will give something back in return.)
      [/important]
    • by sterno (16320) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:44PM (#4844349) Homepage
      The fact of the matter is that watching more TV doesn't actually help the cable companies. If you never turn your TV on but send a $60 check to the cable company every month, they are pretty ecstatic. The advertisers might be happier except that, along with the PVR, comes commercial skipping, which means that their marketing may be adversely impacted even though more people are watching.

      It might benefit cable companies if the usefulness of the PVR increases the desire of viewers to upgrade their subscriptions. If by getting Tivo, HBO suddenly becomes very valuable for me, then that's a big bonus for my local cable company. I'd be curious to see if the statistics support that conclusion. My thinking would be that a Tivo would allow somebody to make more effecitve use of less channels. Why get the premium channels when you can keep your TV schedule filled with all of the obscure programs from non-premium channels that you didn't know were on before.
    • by Alan Shutko (5101) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:48PM (#4844384) Homepage
      The problem for cable companies isn't that they're afraid you'll swap programs, or even that you won't watch commercials. They don't really care about that.

      The problem with a standalone PVR is that you've gotten features from someone else, and the cable company won't be able to get ahold of that money.

      For example Cablevision's digital product includes video on demand. They've got a bunch of series available for that... and to get a certain channel's programming on demand, you pay an additional fee. If you have a PVR, you probably won't be buying their VOD entrees, since you'll just tell your PVR to grab them for you.

      The bit about satellites is also telling. Cable companies can do VOD, because they've got a nice fast low-latency pipe between your house and their systems. CV does VOD by shipping the video over their cable-modem network. When you pause it, it stops coming at the other end. Naturally, that's not very feasible with a dish. They'd like to hype that as something that makes them better than a dish, but DirecTiVo is their worst nightmare, because it gives you the benefits of their VOD service, while giving you two tuners so you can record anything you like, instead of the selection of shows the cable company has available.
  • Hold it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JohnnyBolla (102737) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:25PM (#4844150) Homepage
    Charter Communications is distributing these to thier customers, and they're linux based to boot, so get your facts right before you slam an entire industry.
    • Re:Hold it (Score:3, Informative)

      by JohnnyBolla (102737)
      In fact, here is the link from right here at slashdot.
      http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/1 1/18/139245 &mode=thread&tid=129
      FUD. It's not just for Microsoft anymore.
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jtkooch (553641) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:25PM (#4844154)
    The words of one CEO shouldn't always reflect the opinion of the industry. AT&T has sent me a few offers to buy a TiVo directly through them.
  • by Thud457 (234763) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:26PM (#4844161) Homepage Journal
    What I don't understand is if I pay for cable programming, why the hell am I double-taxed by having to watch ads?!!!

    They've been ripping me off for years, even before PVRs existed!

    BASTARDS!

    Hey, I'm only applying the same specious reasiong the media companies use to call me a pirate, a criminal and an ingrate!
    • by timothy (36799) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:29PM (#4844195) Homepage Journal
      I remember when the great thing about cable was the absence of commericals, movies running their entire length etc. (At least, that was the rumor -- my household didn't get cable until far later).

      But it's like buying the Sunday paper -- the ads subsidize the (fairly low) cover price. Cable TV would cost more (or very well could) if they didn't also get funding from ads. (And Premium channels that *do* run uninterrupted movies are one example ...)

      timothy
  • Ra Ra Retards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FatRatBastard (7583) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:29PM (#4844192) Homepage
    Man, cable companies really have their heads planted firmly up their ass. From the day that I got my TiVo I saw the potential of the PVR tailored for their market that would allow all kinds of value adding services. For instance, build a cable box where some of the storage capacity is used to store PPV moives. Instead of tying up cable channels with a limited set of monthly PPV moives you instead pipe down any movie they have in a catalogue down the TCP/IP data pipe and store it on the PVR. Thus, folks can stop, FF, RW pause a movie (just like a VCR/DVD), watch it multiple times over the course of a few days (or however long you allow them to view the movie) and allow subscribers to download any number of movies, not just the new releases. And it frees up cable channels to boot. If I ran a cable company I'd LOVE PVRs, and would be working with SonicBlue, TiVo, or Moto. design me a box and a back end post haste.
  • by phreak404 (241139) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:30PM (#4844196)
    I can understand why cable companies are openly against PVRs with commercial skip and commercial removal capabilities, but why wasn't there this much of an outcry over VHS devices with the same commercial avoidance features?

    The bottom line here is FairUse and the unfortunate news for them is once that signal enters your home (provided you haven't used any illegal methods for decoding it) its yours to do whatever you personally want to do with it (i.e. not rebroadcasting).
  • by Christianfreak (100697) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:30PM (#4844202) Homepage Journal
    If you love your PVR, the cable industry is not your friend.

    I don't have a PVR, but I can't recall a time when the cable industry has ever been my friend. $45 for exteneded basic cable services, and what do you get? 70 channels of ads. I can't stand watching TV! Slowly but surely commercial length is increasing while show time is decreasing. 1/3 of a 30 minute segment is commercials. Sure the PVR would fix that but even before this article everyone knew that someone was going to cry foul. The cable industry is just like the rest of the content industries, as soon as the content control is in our hands they bring in the lawsuits because they don't want to change.

    Screw it! I'm about to move and I've already decided that I'm not going to pay the money every month to have junk piped to my home. /rant

  • PVR Backlash (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cafebabe (151509) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:32PM (#4844217)
    Is it just me or have other people also been noticing a lot of anti-TiVo news stories lately like this [foxnews.com]? I feel like there has been a big uptick in the number of "TiVo is Big Brother" articles lately. Since many publishing and news agencies are in bed with cable companies, I wonder if they are trying to use the media to promote a negative image for PVRs.
  • by AWhistler (597388) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:32PM (#4844219)
    If cable companies would just learn to work WITH PVR's, they would actually make MORE money with their pay-per-view/VOD offerings. It's simple. The advertisement for it would go like this: "Order SuperBowl ZZZZ now on pay-per-view, and we will program your TiVo/ReplayTV to record it for you automatically!" They could then extend that to say "you can now order your cable TV BY THE SHOW instead of by the channel. The cost is $XX.XX per season, or $X.XX per show." Then they wouldn't have to worry about commercials as much since they have people only paying for what they want to watch. But then again, cable companies are too lazy to be creative, being too interested in maintaining current business models and not finding new ones.
    • by orichter (60340) on Monday December 09, 2002 @01:50PM (#4844863)
      I have a huge collection of DVD's exactly because I don't like to watch movies on someone else's timetable. Unfortunately, however, I'm starting to get so many that it's hard to keep track of them all. I'd sign up for netflix, but the thought of mailing all of those DVD's back and forth sounds like a pain. PVR's provide the perfect solution. Let me have 3 or 5 or 10 movies at any one time, and as soon I delete one from my PVR, the next one on my list gets downloaded automatically. Maybe it takes 8 or 12 hours to download, but that's still better than netflix can do. Hell, I'd even watch a commercial or two at the beginning of the feature, as long as I had to option to skip through an excessive list. Once again, we have to drag the media companies kicking and screaming into the future where they will make more money than ever. You could even set it up so each family member could have thier own listing of shows so that ad's could be targeted perfectly. I don't care how many commercials they force me to watch, I'm just not going to buy any tampons, get over it. Let me skip the commercial. If you want to throw them into my wife's shows, however, be my guest. I'd bet that's true for 80% of the commercials people watch. This technology could give advertisers direct feedback on how to get people to actually watch commercials. What could be a more powerful sales tool than that. Give me a 30 second commercial at the beginning of the show, and another 30 seconds at the end. I'll probably watch them rather than getting up to get a sandwich or take a bathroom break every 15 minutes.
  • Gary Lauder (Score:5, Funny)

    by FreeLinux (555387) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:33PM (#4844229)
    Lauder slammed his Replay box, 'it's too hot,' 'my wife doesn't know how to use it,' and he even tried to fry an egg on his PVR.

    So, he doesn't like them. He thinks they are for copyright violation. He thinks cable companies should sue the PVR manufacturers. So, why does he own one and why is he pissed that his wife can't operate it.

    Hey Gary, can she set the clock on your old VCR?
    • Exactly! Why DOES he own one? I come across the same paradigm in my work where we build transmitters for HDTV for broadcast television. People get all wrapped up about certain issues and then I ask them how THEY watch tv at home. The answer is invariable cable. Aside from satellites, how many people actually just suck this stuff out of the sky with a rotor antenna on their roof anymore? Not very many. And the consumer will go where the the best cost/convenience/time ratio is. VOD is cool, but it better be cheaper than Blockbuster and take less time to order than it takes to make it to the fridge and back with your soda or people won't use it.

      As far as the copyright part goes, in that respect I don't see PVR's as being all that different than VCR's in terms of being a time machine. They are just more flexible time machines. I think the real problem is that 20 years ago, when VCR's were really starting to hit big, cable companies were not in the local advertising business, so they didn't mind when the broadcast channels screamed about VCR's and people fast forwarding through commercials. Now they are in that business in a huge way, and PVR's are an even more adept way for people to avoid viewing commercials.
    • Re:Gary Lauder (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rick the Red (307103) <Rick.The.Red@ g m a il.com> on Monday December 09, 2002 @02:57PM (#4845402) Journal
      Re: the update, with Gary Lauder's rebuttal: While I understand what he's saying, I'll not go for this for exactly the same reasons I have an answering machine and don't pay the phone company for voicemail:
      1) I won't give those scoundrels another penny more than I must.
      2) I want to control my life, and not be dependent on them.
      3) I know they spy on me, but I'll be damned if I'll give them permission to spy on me.
      4) If I want to keep the recording, I'm at their mercy.
      5) This doesn't apply to the cable company, but with voicemail I have to pick up the phone to see if I have any messages; the answering machine blinks when I have a message.

      These are pretty much the same reasons I refuse to get digital cable, too. There is no reason why the set-top box needs it's own phone line, damnit! Why can't it communicate via the cable? Because it's cheaper for them to require me to have a 2nd phone line just for them than it is for them to develop/deploy the technology to address individual set-top boxes over the cable system.

      Finally, his statement that this will eventually be a free service is an absolute lie, unless perhaps they force you to pay for it as part of basic cable. This "service" is brought to you by the same people who, in the 1960s, continued to collect a premium for color (as opposed to black) telephones years after new customers could get any color for the same price, and in the 1990s continuted to collect rent for phones that had been paid off dozens of times over, years after customers were allowed to own their phones.

      Corporations will continue to lose money as long as they treat their customers like thieves and morons.

  • by proxima (165692) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:33PM (#4844233)
    I don't think every cable company hates PVRs. In fact, Time Warner Cable is rolling out their own PVR, called iControl [timewarnercable.com]. It has basic PVR functionality, but it's main purpose for the cable company is pushing on-demand movings that you can pause, etc. as if you rented it.

    Ironic that Time Warner Cable would do this, as it's part of the much larger AOL Time Warner which seems torn between the content provider and the content producer mode - the company owns lots of record companies and movie studios. Yet AOL and Time Warner Cable seem to be doing things the content part of the company doesn't like. It's like watching Sony make mp3 players and yet be distributing copy-restricted CDs.

  • by BadlandZ (1725) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:33PM (#4844235) Journal
    I'm about to switch from my cable+TiVo combo to a DirecTiVo combo now that the new Series II DirecTiVo's are out, but I'm keeping my cable. At least with DirecTiVo, I can record 2 channels at once, and get real 5.1 sound.

    In my area, Cable Modem speeds blow away DSL (epically when you look at the price/performance factors). So, to get a $10/month discount on my cable internet, I'm going to keep the $9.95 basic local channel option on my cable TV bill.

    It strikes me very odd that Cable has the best potential tap into mass market broadband, and they are wasting any time worried about Satellite TV or PVR's. Satellite is not threat in the broadband department. And, if we ever do get to mass sharing of TV broadcast ala Napster like stuff, we will need broadband more than ever (even if the shows come from satellite). Even thought I am one of the people switching, I'm still keeping my broadband with the cable company.

  • At least it's not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Waab (620192) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:37PM (#4844278) Homepage

    At least it's not a perfectly clear-cut issue of right and wrong.

    Back in the early days of broadcasting, there was quite a bit of debate as to how broadcasters should pay their expenses. Right or wrong, the system that emerged had broadcasters selling air time to advertisers. Thus, consumers get the content "free" on the assumption that they will hear/see the ads and go spend money.

    The television delivery system has now evolved to the point where most people pay a third party (cable company, satellite company) to deliver a high-quality signal straight into their home, negating the need for an actual broadcast signal. So now consumers pay the third party, the third party has a financial arrangement with the "broadcasters", and the "broadcasters" still sell ad time.

    The question is now, what do the consumers owe the broadcasters? Are all the monthly cable bills enough to cover the expenses of the cable companies and content providers? If so, there's no need for ads. If not, would you pay a higher cable bill to have ad-free content?

    In the beginning, broadcasters sold ads to pay for content. Now, broadcasters work on content to sell ads. Personally, I figure once the signal I've paid for is in my home, it's mine to do with as I please, so long as the use is strictly personal.

    • The System (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nuggz (69912) on Monday December 09, 2002 @01:03PM (#4844524) Homepage
      Initially they weren't sure how to pay for it, and this solution evolved.
      Now after many decades, and lots of profit things are changing, they will find a way.

      Paid placements (Truman Show type adds), Sponsored programs (No Boundaries (Ford)), ads in the corner, a little box (like the 24 hour news channel).

      And well if they can't make big profits, they'll leave and someone else will pick it up.
      If all the big broadcasters give up a local community group may do educational or informational programming, or promote local talent.
      The resource will remain available, and someone will find a use for it, probaly a better use.
  • by spazimodo (97579) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:38PM (#4844290)

    The cable monopolies are just like any other service provider monopolies - terrified of change, and totally freaked out when people don't buy %100 into their latest revenue generation scheme.

    I find particularly funny the latest "don't get a satellite dish!" ads (even though IMO dishes offer much better service) There's one in particular playing here in Boston (On broadcast TV mind you) where these two parents say how "they have 5 kids and going 5 minutes without TV would be worse than cancer"
    • I find particularly funny the latest "don't get a satellite dish!" ads (even though IMO dishes offer much better service) There's one in particular playing here in Boston (On broadcast TV mind you) where these two parents say how "they have 5 kids and going 5 minutes without TV would be worse than cancer"

      I saw that ad the other day too. I thought it was funny considering one of the (many) reasons I switched to DirecTV from AT&T Broadband was that the cable went out so much. In six months I've only seen problems with the dish ONE time, and the show was still watchable, the video was just degraded a little.

      Of course with five kids and a dependance on television I think they have bigger problems than sattelite outages. They haven't figured out how to raise children or use condoms yet.
  • VOD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cafebabe (151509) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:40PM (#4844317)
    One of my coworkers got VOD around the same time I got TiVo. I LOVE my TiVo but my coworker ended up dumping his VOD service because of the lousy selection of shows. Yes, the service was "on demand", but the movies never changed from month to month. He probably would have kept it if the selection was actually good.

    Once again, maybe cable companies should consider taking a look at improving their own products instead of trying to shut down technology they don't like. Other industries actually have to produce a better product to ensure they get customers' money. I hate that the entertainment industry is taking the approach that it is better to just shut down any technology that threatens their desired business model than to react to the market and improve their product. How anti-capitalist.
  • by sam_handelman (519767) <skh2003.columbia@edu> on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:41PM (#4844325) Homepage Journal
    Than oligopolies are not your friend. Any time you have a cartel that makes their money by controlling a means of distribution, they will fight tooth and nail against anything that threatens to make the distribution DIFFERENT in any way (except in exact ways of their choosing, of course). Just different - they hate open-ness, too, but it's change that they hate. Why?

    Because they derive their profits by gaming the system. Any change in the rules by which the system works is a threat to them - the fact that their sector, whatever it may be, might expand overall is irrelevant. They're on top now because they're perfectly situated to control things as they stand. Now that an oligopoly is in place, and everything is arranged to their liking, they don't want to rock the boat.

    In IT you notice it particularly, but it is also true in energy, in agriculture, in real eastate and even in manufacturing.

    My personal belief is that if this goes unchecked it will be the death of western civilization (assuming our contempt for our own environment doesn't get us first, except that is really part and parcel of the same phenomenon.)
    • I feel compelled to respond. How the HELL can you possibly feel like the future of western civilization hinges on our ability to receive TV, or any distribution system for that matter.

      Capitilism has a very simple solution for this, and mark my words you'll see it in action over the next decade. While the Slashdot crowd beleives the average Joe consumer is a simple sheep that can be herded by the content providers, this is simply not true. The average consumer knows what they like. They have a threshold of pain that is probably higher than your typical Slashdot poster, but eventually the average consumer gets tired of things not being delivered on their terms.

      Any economist will tell you that people are selfish. They always act in their own best interest. The PVR is basically a win-lose situation. The consumer wins, the ad-subsidized programmer loses. Its that simple... Yet I don't see people giving up the PVR any time soon. I do think you'll see a change in how content is delivered.

      Think of it like the Internet. I pay someone XXX amount of dollars to get on the network every month. By itself that connection is worthless. In order to get actual value out of it, I have to turn to independent content providers. I may pay some of them (if their content is especially good) for their content. I may put up with Ad's on other sites if their content is worth my time. The Internet is a Win-Win for everyone. The person providing the connection hooks me up with content providers that can make money in a number of creative ways. This is how entertainment distribution WILL be in the future. We'll pay our satellite/cable company to get on the network, but our content will be provided seperately.

      Its no accident that Echostar is so very interested in putting together satellite Internet access.
      • First of all, I couldn't agree more with your post. However, when the original poster said...

        My personal belief is that if this goes unchecked it will be the death of western civilization (assuming our contempt for our own environment doesn't get us first, except that is really part and parcel of the same phenomenon.)

        I'm assumed he means: If we let these grubby oligopolies use the government and FCC to regulate PVR's and other liberating technologies (P2P, wireless networking), THEN it will be the death of western civilization.

        You have to remember that today's (Demo)/(Republi)crats don't give a shit about the free market or smaller government.

  • now that both of the major Dish based companies use PVRs, and market them, they have another avenue to attack them.

    Just like their other attack ads about 'get the whole story' they can add that the set top box that gives you freedom to record multiple shows at once fries an egg on top of it! Oh now, why ever shall I keep this device.

    As a dual tuner DirecTV user, I can finally say FORK the broadcast companies that move good TV shows 'against' each other in competition to force me to pick one over the other.

    not with my TiVo they don't.

    I have a dual tuner DirecTV and a regular TiVo, I can record 3 shows at once if needed.
  • by inteller (599544) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:42PM (#4844334)
    All of these new, consumer-enabling devices pissing off old economy thinking. I love it! Napster may be dead but I love how old economy thinkers use it in their FUD speeches. Everything that threatens them is named "The Napster of..."
  • by dsfox (2694) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:45PM (#4844356) Homepage
    So enjoy it while you can. I do. I watch (some) commercial TV and I don't watch the ads. Many execs would have you believe that this is some sort of theft. But as Robert Heinlein said:

    "There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statue or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."
  • by asv108 (141455) <alex@NoSpAm.phataudio.org> on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:45PM (#4844358) Homepage Journal
    I was never a big TV viewer in fact, last year I didn't watch TV for close to 6 months, mostly because of netflix. This year I decided to get a decent cable package since I was living alone. When the PVR first came out, I did not see the value as a casual TV viewer who never recorded television programs.

    After reading and hearing so much about PVR's, I decided the time was right to try one out. The main problem was that I only had a cell phone so it looked like the replaytv was my only option. After doing some digging, I found that the Tivo series 2 works with a few USB network adapters. I decided to go with Tivo since I preferred the interface, plus it is the stronger of the two companies.

    I received my Tivo a week ago today, and I can not stop watching television. The amount of TV I watch has doubled because with the Tivo. I can find interesting programs to watch, where before I would only have a small chance of stumbling on the program accidentally. I FF through probably 1/2 the commercials , but there are plenty of times when I don't.

    My potential exposure to advertisers has doubled since purchasing my Tivo. I'm watching programs I normally wouldn't see because of the time-slot. With the scheduling features, I'm catching many live programs that I would not watch if the Tivo guide wasn't available plus I can't FF the commercials. The short sidedness of established industries to recognize the value of disruptive technologies has been well documented, and the cable industry's aversion towards the PVR is a classic example. The companies that are first to embrace the PVR will succeed.

  • by agentkhaki (92172) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:46PM (#4844366) Homepage
    I'm not sure if anyone else feels this way, but I would say in the next 3-5 years, maybe a bit sooner, maybe a bit later, there is going to be a showdown of sorts between the media industry (music and video) and the public masses.

    Unless the record companies, the cable companies, and all the rest of these multi-billion dollar industries can figure out a way to keep their revenue streams at current levels or at least something they're happy with without trying to hold back technology or control how it is used, something will happen. Technology - better said 'invention' - is just like nature: you can't hold it back. Once something is available, the public, and not a select group of high-riding jerks, control it. The only way to keep technology from taking on a life of it's own is to keep a lid on it in the first place, and that option never existed/is already past.

    What the showdown will be, or what will happen is beyond me. How the unthinking masses (those who listen to N'Sync; those who could care less how much control Microsoft has over what they do with their own computer and the things they create with it; those who don't mind watching hours upon hours of crappy commercials - and they're not all bad commercials, just most - during their days/weeks/months/years) will affect this, I don't know either. But even they will eventually see the light.

    And just like technology and nature and all the rest, there's no stopping public opinion/demand.

  • go ahead. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by supernova87a (532540) <kepler1@hotm a i l . c om> on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:51PM (#4844410)
    Let him keep his stubborn, pig-headed attitude... and let him fail with it.

    Who ever said that in business, you are guaranteed to make money forever doing the same old shit? It takes innovation to keep alive, and those people who give the customer new, interesting things, without trying to extort them for every last cent, will be the ones to succeed.

    So I say let him go on despising Tivo and all these technologies we like. It will only make better companies stand out more.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:53PM (#4844435) Homepage
    Aren't they going to create a bandwidth crunch with 90% of the video being "demanded" in prime time?

    Why wouldn't it be very much more to their advantage to have "offpeak pricing" for customers with PVR's that were willing to record content at times convenient for the cable company? And have the PVR owner pay for the storage facility?

    Seems to me that if video-on-demand takes off cable companies will be faced with either expensive infrastructure costs... OR ticked-off customers trying to explain to their kids why they can't watch "Lilo and Stitch" tonight.

    Or are the cable companies planning to build special you-don't-control-it-we-do PVR's? In which case you'd think they wouldn't want to make the PVR companies angry, unless the cable companies want to do all their own R&D...

    Or are the cable companies just planless and clueless?
  • by Tide (8490) <chad@cha d s domain.com> on Monday December 09, 2002 @12:54PM (#4844441) Homepage
    I've been recently composing some thoughts for an upcoming article. This is merely a rough drafts, but pertinent to the subject at hand. A few snippets:

    Many people say these lawsuits fall somewhere between the Sony Betamax case and the more recent Napster cases. In the Betamax case, media companies sued Sony over the recording features in the newly released betamax. The court found that while copyright violations were possible with the Betamax (just as they are possible with typewriters and copy machines) that the "fair use" of the machine greatly outweighed it. There are many legitimate uses for recording shows from PBS, religious stations, and whether copying was not objectionable to the copyright holder.


    With the success of the VCR in this case, a tradition has clearly been establish of time-shifting a show for later viewing. This tradition extends to lending of time-shifted shows to other individuals. The technology behind SonicBlue's show sharing ReplayTV is very similar. You record a show, then when its over, you can send it to up to 15 friends (whom cannot resend that same show). The media is left in tact, commercials and all, just as it is with a VCR tape. Furthermore, since this tradition is well over 25 years old, no evidence has surfaced that these methods of time-shifting cause little to no negative impact on the plaintiff's business. It is my opinion that time-shifting only expands viewership of shows.

    The main complaint over show sharing is this: The ReplayTV allows users to share shows they've recorded to other ReplayTV owners, possilby allowing people who have not paid for premium channels to watch premium content for free. But are they? Does anyone know if this is what people are using the device for? If I missed premium content I already pay for due to a power outage, am I not allowed to receive that content from another ReplayTV owner? Certainly that seems like fair use. The TV studios tried to find out exactly how much of their content was being traded and had their court order overturned. But someone certainly must know if people are sharing, and if so how much. Well, I do.

    Enter Planet Replay. Planet Replay is an internet hub for ReplayTV enthusiasts created around the launch of the ReplayTV 4000. It is a place for Replay owners to discuss various topics involving the ReplayTV and find shows to borrow from other members. In show sharing Planet Replay is simply a directory of recorded material along with a directory of Replay owners. It tries to simply some of the work of sharing shows by matching users. All shows are shared between users and not through Planet Replay. It is up to both end users if they want to send the show to the other person, and do so via email contact. So just what do I track?

    Sometime over the summer (not really sure when), Planet Replay introduced ratings system. The idea was simple, allow users to rate each other over the helpfulness of the person sharing the show. It would in theory help spur sharing on... but it didn't. Planet Replay even sends the requesting users ranks along with the request email, hoping to help further sharing. User rankings were so poor during the first 2 months, we were for to lower expectations of the system and the stars accordingly. Even as the owner of Planet Replay, I have sent maybe 20-30 shows. So just what are the real numbers?

    After I received the subpeona, I ran statistics on the ranking system. A rank of 5 typically means the show was successfully transferred. In the first two months I started the system, there were an average of 10-20 a week claiming successful transfer. Out of 400-500 users thats really small. Last week (Nov 26th) there were 78 transfers for 670 requests and 1234 users. One week later 58 transfers for 1293 users and 770 requests. The request system tracks only that a request was made and the following rank, which lives for a week in our database. Why so many requests and so little transfers?

    I missed the season opener of a show called "Firefly". I really wanted to see it. The S.F. Giants though were still being televised and shifted the show beyond what my Replay was set to record. And I really wanted to see it. I then went to Planet Replay and sent out 5 requests for it from various people. None came in after 2 days. I finally found someone to send it to me. Myself, like most users, have unforeseen circumstances where we'll miss a show... a baseball game runs late... the power goes out... scheduling conflict... ect. In an attempt to receive that show, we'll place multiple requests. Still even that number seems low. Why aren't people sharing?

    Why should we share? We already own a Digital PVR. Perfectly programmed to record every single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that even shows on any channel. Why would I need to borrow it from someone else? Well the circumstances above show us why. Given the numbers, ~60 shares for 1200 users a week, that would point us at the average Planet Replay user shares 1 show every 5 months. Wow. Compared to the number of ReplayTVs on the market with the ability to share, that number would be even smaller. Why else is that number so low?

    Television shows are not music. This isn't Napster. I'm not going to download all the Buffy's I can and watch them in the car, on the plane, at the gym, in my iPod. TV shows are one-time viewings. Maybe two times for Buffy. This is why Blockbuster is so popular. People simply want to view video once, where as music is repeatable. Not only that, but the files are way bigger. The average one hour show can take around 2 days (yes 2 days) to transfer. That's a long time to wait for Buffy. I might as well just drive over to a friends house and borrow a VHS tape, it would be simpler and faster.
  • by symbolic (11752) on Monday December 09, 2002 @01:10PM (#4844593)
    After testing PVRs in 2000, Comcast found that downloading programming to a hard drive in a consumer's home via a PVR such as TiVo, which satellite leader DirecTV uses, threatens the lifeblood of TV entertainment, Roberts said.

    After reading this, one might walk away thinking that that Comcast invented TV entertainment. While nothing could be further from the truth, it's precisely this kind of arrogance that will lead to the demise of companies who, rather than seeking to understand what consumers value, work to shackle them with tight controls over how, when, and for how much various shows can be viewed.

    Is it any mystery that consumers will attempt to minimize the level of harrassment by commercial entities attempting to sell them the latest and greatest of everything from the latest super-steam-powered convection oven to tampons? The reason that cable owners are concerned is that they assumed that they would be able burn the candle at both ends, charging for both content and ads, ad infinitum. PVRs enter the market, and now PVR owners, who maximize their enjoyment by skipping the cruft, are being branded criminals.

    What can be learned here? For starters, there is no comparison between Napster users and PVR owners. Perhaps most important, though, is that there's a real honest-to-goodness clue here with respect to consumer interests. The issue is not that people are using PVRs, but whether or not the cable industry will have the foresight to adapt their business model, rather than force feed its 'content' - replete with all of the ad-gak - to its customers.
  • by Billbo1970 (632617) on Monday December 09, 2002 @01:14PM (#4844631)
    First of all, I think just about EVERYONE who owns a PVR can say that the device has INCREASED their TV viewing. Speaking for my wife and I, we watch about 3x more TV than we used to (not necessarily a good thing ;) ). Not only that, we we are able to follow a weekly series better because we can "catch up" because of the TiVo. When in the past I would TAPE a show, I would zip ahead about 2 minutes & watch the show.. only seeing about 20 seconds worth of commercials per break because when you record at the slow speed you can't really "view" anything when you FF. W/TiVo I FF but can see the gist of the commercial. Sometimes I will go back & watch the commercial if it or the product interests me. I'm sure I'm not alone in this, several of my friends agree. SO ACTUALLY... TiVo causes me to WATCH MORE COMMERCIALS THAN I USED TO. When I used to watch LIVE TV, those were 2 minute bathroom or kitchen breaks, so I didn't watch commercials then either. If the companies got smart they would take advantage of the 2-way communication available with this technology & target their ads better! But they won't because they are idiots & would rather I went back to my old ways of not watching any commercials at all. AS for VOD from cable... yeah right!! They get enough of my money every month, no way I'm gonna pay per view a movie that I already rented from BlockBuster 3 months ago! The PPV is always WAY WAY behind the video release.. That's why they dont get MY money. Anyone else agree?
  • by iceT (68610) on Monday December 09, 2002 @01:53PM (#4844896)
    PVRs help satellite companies (Dish and DirecTV) provide services like Video On Demand (VOD) and a PVR in a cable home cuts into VOD revenue.

    Ok. Someone's going to have to explain to me how the TRANSMISSION MEDIUM of a television signal affects who buys a VOD program and who doesn't.

    If I want to want to pay $4 to watch a VOD program, why am I more likely to do it if the signal comes over the air vs. comes over a wire?

    What a bunch a freakin' morons.

    What the REALLY don't like about PVR's is that they can't control what you watch. The idea of a 'lineup' (putting an average show behind a great show in hopes that you're to fuckin' lazy to change the damn channel) disappears, and they don't like that...

    Combine that with the ability to fast-forward through commercials (just like a VCR), and they lose all marketing pull.

    What those of us w/ a PVR know is that suddently, TV is on MY terms. When I want to watch TV, it's almost guarenteed that there is something good to watch.

    As usual, these monolithic, monopolistic companies/organizations (MPAA, CABLE, RIAA) complain about a paradigm shift in their business, rather than try to capitalize on it.

  • by po8 (187055) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:13PM (#4845521)

    If you love your PVR, the cable industry is not your friend.

    If you have cable, the cable industry is not your friend. Duh.

  • by vanyel (28049) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:14PM (#4845528) Journal
    Head-end based PVR/VOD will work if *everything* is reliably available, and by reliably, I mean past the introduction period when they're accepting losses to suck people in. I don't ever see that being cost effective, but you never know...

    I'd be more than happy to pay 1 penny for skipped ads...if they never appeared in the first place so I got to watch the show uninterrupted. Except I can see it now: this popular show would have had 1000 ads but this other show would only have had 100. Still, if the price wasn't prohibitive, I'd pay to subscribe to say Farscape.
  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:19PM (#4845574)
    It may not be such a crazy idea, but in fairness, one of the selling points for cable originally was...no commercials! I'd say there would be a credible service if cable was $foo and cable without commercials was offered for $foo+small fee equivalent to 1 cent/commercial but for that fact. Paying to skip commercials also presupposes some obligation to watch them. I don't pay a fee now when I hit the remote control, fridge, or the restroom.


    This is just another of the continuing business model problems in the commercial world today. If your business model relies on forcing consumers to do something they don't want to do and aren't compelled to do, you're going to have problems. You may succeed in ramming it down their throats (credit card arbitration agreements, for example), but to be blunt, persuading your customers that you're a collection of greedy, controlling asses is not a good business plan in the long term. It leaves a big opening for someone to come along, fill the need, NOT be a greedy, controlling ass, and eat your lunch.


    Now if you're being honest and you genuinely believe you offer a superior service, fine. Speeches about it are not necessary. Let the best product win in the marketplace.

  • by brycenut (456384) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:32PM (#4845680)
    ala monty python's spam...


    Waitress: Well, there's spam egg sausage and spam, that's not got much spam in it.
    Wife: I don't want ANY spam!

    Wife: Could you do the egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam then?
    Waitress: Shut up! (Vikings stop) Bloody Vikings! You can't have egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam.


    I don't wan't ANY ads! I didn't sign any contract obligating me to watch ads. I don't care if they're targeted, this doesn't make me more likely to want to watch them.

    An advertiser pays on the basis of the statistical number of eyeballs likely to view a given commercial, thus, Super Bowl commercials are insanely expensive, late night TV spots are much cheaper. However, if any given consumer, or even a small minority of consumers (which is the current base of PVR users) skips the commercials, the statistics are not affected, due to the large sample size. How is this use of PVR's so much worse than what the average consumer does, i.e., hit the channel up/down button as soon as an ad comes on during your program? This behavior is much more likely to reduce the number of individuals seeing a given ad.


    In any event, it boils down to Heinlein's idea of not going to the courts to defend an outdated business model. Why should the cable company, who is admittedly scared of the satellite/PVR model, get to dictate who may and and may not time shift, record on whatever device they choose, and skip commercials, any more than the satellite company may dictate the same thing. The advertisers pay on a statistical, not individual basis. If those statistics change, due to technology, then the pricing models should follow it in a supply & demand economy.

  • by Sturm (914) on Monday December 09, 2002 @03:32PM (#4845684) Journal
    I think most people are going to have a hard time swallowing the fact that they somehow are "stealing content" if they don't watch or pay for commecials. I pay almost $50 a month for basic cable and HBO and my basic cable package really isn't very good. Someone mentioned that advertising helps subsidize the cost of newpapers but unlike TV, I don't HAVE to look at the ads in a newspaper to get to the next page. I can see where this may be an issue is large cities or areas where you can pick up several channels via antenna, but if you are going to start telling me that I'M "stealing content", you'd better give me a darn good explanation of what my $50 is paying for.
  • by travail_jgd (80602) on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:05PM (#4845967)
    Sarcasm on. Moderate accordingly.
    Gary Lauder writes: PVR functionality should be provisioned from the headend for the following reasons (which ultimately will benefit consumers):
    * Disk noise wakes my wife


    That is your wife's problem, not the industry's. I've been in the same room as a Tivo, and never noticed any significant noise. If I were to say that cable TV prices keep me awake, is that grounds to have my bill reduced?

    * Replay box hot enough to fry an egg -- Is that a feature?

    I've never seen a Replay box... but I have seen a little thing called a TV. It gets pretty warm too!

    * Disk size limitations mean obsolescence, esp. with HDTV

    HDTV is making existing VCRs and TVs obsolete. Should we get rid of the whole "TV" concept?

    My basic thesis is that PVRs + Satellite will eat cable's lunch, and since it's unambiguous that cable needs to get the copyright clearances to offer programming from the head-end, they should start now.

    Translation: I'm a venture capitalist who didn't get into the PVR business when I could. Since PVRs are better than cable, let's ban them so I can make money! [All IMHO, of course.]

    I suggested that consumers pay 1 cent per commercial skipped (which is about the same as what advertisers pay). That would be equivalent to $10/thousand commercials skipped.

    That's a reasonable solution -- assuming that the TV, cable or satellite feeds, and other equipment are free. If I'm paying for cable, I should be able to handle the incoming data in any way I see fit, as long as I stay within Fair Use of copyright.

    Sarcasm off.
  • by CityZen (464761) on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:15PM (#4846044) Homepage
    Gary Lauder's arguments are remarkably full of false assumptions.

    Many of his points are a comparison of VOD vs. PVR. The main problem here is that these are two different things. A PVR will let you control everything you watch, while I'm sure VOD will only be used for movies and events. Arguing that you should do one instead of the other is silly, since the consumer would do best to have both.

    Lauder comments on PVR noise. My friend recently got a new Dish 508 PVR. When he turned it on, I heard absolutely nothing. Zero. The hard drive was running, and it was dead silent. Credit new hard drive technology.

    The 508 also has a fan, but I never heard it running (after it was on for a good while). Just because one box (the Replay he mentions) isn't well-designed for heat output, doesn't mean they all are like that. Again, this is an issue fixed by technology.

    Lauder also says "Disk size limitations mean obsolescence, esp. with HDTV". Is there ANY device that's going to handle the transition to HDTV gracefully? The size issue is not really an issue if the disk is "big enough" to begin with. I think that at 40-80GB, we're at "big enough" for most people. In any case, the obsolescence argument applies to VOD servers just as well.

    Lauder's only arguments that have any bite are:
    - Moving parts break more often
    - Box complexity means more crashes & customer support costs

    The crashing issue is more a reflection on poor software engineering (and probably that due to poor scheduling) than anything else, however. PVR software could be made bulletproof, in time.

    Customer support is always going to be an issue wherever you add new features. So this argument will apply to ANY new features added, not just PVR.

    Lauder's "basic thesis ... that PVRs + Satellite will eat cable's lunch" should be an argument for cable to add PVRs. At least, that's the obvious conclusion that I see.

    His comment that "if a Supreme Court case was brought on the legality of each feature of PVRs were brought, some would lose" is just a swipe. There's very little that a PVR does that a VCR doesn't let you do already. The only difference is the spontaneity and the time you have to wait before you can watch. The only questionable features are those added by the newest Replay box (trading programs over the net), which are not core PVR features. If lobbyists make politicians make VCRs illegal, then perhaps there may be a case.

    Lauder's final comment regarded commercials. It should be pointed out that even with a PVR, you cannot skip commercials while watching live TV. Doing so requires planning head to watch delayed TV. If you're going to sit down and flip channels, you're still limited to watching live TV.

    Lauder thinks consumers should pay for commercials skipped. If that makes sense, then what about paying consumers for commercials watched repeatedly? That makes sense too, right?
  • by yack0 (2832) <keimel@@@gmail...com> on Monday December 09, 2002 @04:28PM (#4846154) Homepage
    > My position that I expressed in my speech and
    > that was inaccurately portrayed: PVR functionality
    > should be provisioned from the headend for the
    > following reasons (which ultimately will benefit
    > consumers):

    Yeah, ok... and when you're not in the major metropolitan area that has actual competition (more than one cable company in a market - aka Boston areas) like, oh, say Maine or West Nowheresville, KS or Hotashell, NV you have to wait for the cable company to get around to supplying you with this ability. Just like cable modems, people won't wait.

    Sure, if you want to provision VOD or PVR from the headend, get off your lazy-cable-monopoly-butt and DO IT! PROVE US WRONG! Make it work and prove us nay-sayers wrong. Don't just say 'this is bad - you should do it our way instead' - then not have your way available outside a lab or a tiny test market area.

    Face it cable companies, you're behind the times on this one and you've lost the edge you could have had.

    Wow,, that's a rant, but what do you expect from someone who owns a domain like Adelphia Sucks.com [adelphiasucks.com]

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