Networked DVRs could rapidly expand DVR use and solve some ad problems

This article comes from Broadcasting & Cable and focuses on a new ad insertion technology for networked DVRs:

Cable technology vendor Tandberg Television plans to demonstrate at the NCTA show in Washington, D.C. this week how cable operators can dynamically deliver targeted commercials within linear network programming that has been time-shifted on a server at a cable headend.

The Atlanta-based company, which makes video-on-demand servers and management software in addition to a range of compression and transcoding gear, will create a simulated headend in its NCTA booth and show a working system that marries its AdPoint campaign management software with its Xport time-shifted TV solution, which consists of servers that can capture live TV programming and then provide full digital video recorder (DVR) capability to cable viewers. Tandberg executives believe this is the first time such dynamic, targeted insertion capability has been demonstrated in combination with time-shifted TV.

The concept of time-shifting linear TV at a headend server instead of using a hard-disk drive in a customers’ living-room set-top, commonly referred to as “network-DVR” but labeled “network-PVR” by Tandberg, has been championed by cable operators such as Cablevision but has met with legal challenges from programmers, who have maintained that such technology might infringe their copyrights.

One of the biggest challenges for TV networks due to DVRs is that people skip over the advertising.  But these network DVRs could be set to block out the fast-forwarding.   From a technology perspective networked DVRs are just exapanded video on demand.

However, a network-DVR-type experience has been rolled out in a limited fashion by Time Warner Cable in the past few years with its “Start Over” and “Look Back” services. While it doesn’t yet have any commercial deployments planned for its combined AdPoint/Xport system, Tandberg aims to show operators at NCTA how they could easily deliver targeted ads within network-DVR programming in the near term.

Why would anyone want a DVR service where they couldn’t skip commercials?  I don’t think they would, if they had to pay for it.  But, if it is free, and especially if it offers the convenience of not having to really worry about specifiying that you want to record anything, I can see a lot of  people suffering through the commercials just for the sake of convenience at no extra cost.

I think we’ll probably see  networked DVR services offered with disabled fast-forward at no extra cost. You’d be able to watch programs that are available to you in your cable package for a limited amount of time.  Traditional DVRs with local hard drives and fast-forwarding (and outright commercial skipping, if you program your remote) would still be available for a fee.  But the next likely step would be the networks wanting a cut of that fee since they’d theorize, and probably mostly correctly, is that the only reason people are paying for that service is to skip advertisements.   At the same time, cable companies will want a cut of the advertising for the ads served from the network-DVRs.

It will be pretty interesting to watch this develop, though it will likely be something that develops over years, not months.

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