Too Cool for Internet Explorer

Friday, March 31, 2006

<sarc>Don’t Worry, We’ll Keep It Safe For You</sarc>

I’ve been following some news items about various cable companies potentially (or already) doing away with hard drive-based DVRs in the cable boxes and using pay-per-view-style remote storage instead. It appears that Time Warner may now be on the bandwagon which means Bright House Networks could very well not be far behind.

I’m not so sure this idea thrills me. While it’s true that the benefits may include possible increased capacity and a small chance that the cable company would make backups of the content—something you can’t do with a local, hard drive-based recorder—there are plenty of cons. For one, have you ever played back one of Bright House’s pay-per-view movies? Even the freebie/on-demand stuff (same concept). There’s a noticeable lag between the time you hit a play/pause/rew/ffwd function. This lag would also make frame-by-frame viewing impossible or, at least, unbearable.

I’m also extremely concerned about the provider pulling a similar stunt as—was it TiVo or someone else—expiring your content. If this happened, it could mean that some arbitrary time down the road, they could more easily say “you’ve had that copy of American Idol long enough” and zap it. Sure, they could probably do that with locally recorded versions, too. It just feels like it would be even more plausible if the content was on their end.

Then there’s one other down side that Jeff pointed out—you would not be able to watch previously recorded shows if the cable was out. Obviously, the companies would like you to believe that their reliability is good enough that this wouldn’t be a problem, but we all know better. On more than one occasion, I’ve gone a period of time when the cable was out, but was still able to watch programs I’d saved on the DVR. In fact, I’ve got this week’s shows that I haven’t had time to watch due to evening commitments all queued up—Boston Legal, Lost, Smallville, and Survivor. If, heaven forbid, the cable went out this weekend, I’d still have a couple of hours worth of television entertainment I could enjoy.

So what do you think?

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