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Cable Technology Feature Article

May 21, 2009

Cablevision to Implement Remote DVR Service

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Cablevision may have a another copyright suit on its hands very soon. The company, which provides cable service in parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, plans to deploy a Remote Storage-DVR (RS-DVR) this summer. This service will allow cable TV subscribers to record shows on Cablevision servers rather than on home DVR systems.

Jeff Bertolucci reported in PC World that Cablevision has already faced legal challenges from major programmers who are claiming that network DVR service violates their copyrights. In fact, the implementation has been blocked once before.

A powerful group of media conglomerates sued Cablevision in 2006 and was successful in blocking the RS-DVR’s implementation. The company emerged victorious last summer however, when a U.S. appellate court ruling overturned the suit brought by such power players as ABC, NEBC, CBS and Fox.

This victory for Cablevision allowed the company to move forward with its implementation – at least for now. Some industry experts anticipate that the case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court; although the highest court has yet to decide whether or not it will even hear the case.

"The law of the land in our area is that network DVRs are legal. We have won a case versus the copyright holders. We'll be rolling out our first product based on that later this summer. We'll move to centralized storage," Cablevision chief operating officer Tom Rutledge told Bernstein Research, which broke the news.

This latest technology in the world of consumer entertainment is considered to be both good and bad for consumers. While it is convenient, it could limit capabilities. Consumers will like the fact that they don’t have to fuss with a physical DVR and upgrades to more capacity are much simpler.

The removal of that physical device however, could be the bad news for consumers. They may no longer have access to the features they love the most – especially the ability to zip past commercials. In reality, networks hate it when consumers do that because it cuts into their biggest revenue generator. Considering this feature, one would think the networks would love the idea.

"I think ultimately we'll end up in some commercial arrangement with programmers. We're having discussions with the copyright holders that can make the network DVR model work in their best interests,” Rutledge said in the PC World piece.

“If they allow physical DVRs to proliferate, it takes it out of their control. If they do it centrally, they could control ad-skipping, measurement, and the timeliness of advertisements, would clearly be in the interests of the programmers.”

So, without the ability to skip past commercials when watching your favorite shows, what is the advantage to the DVR in the first place? This may make it a hard sell for the consumer.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tim Gray