Would PVRs/DVRs survive? If so, in what shape or form?

July 10, 2008

Everyone is impressed by the growth of PVRs/DVRs. It is truly overwhelming, and of course the reason is that these devices completely changed the viewing experience for us.

The first big thing about the PVRs was that it liberated programming from the shackles of TV listings, and allowed you to watch what you wanted to watch, whenever you wanted to do it. The second advantage was that it allowed you to skip advertising- just like any other recording medium would have been able to do.

In essence, what PVRs/DVRs actually do is store hours of content on a hard-drive next to your TV so that you can access it anytime- making your viewing experience virtually that of “on-demand” TV. But do remember that it is a virtual on-demand experience. What would happen if the TV really became on-demand? What would you do with your PVRs? Why would you want to spend money buying storage capacity in your home, when your broadcast provider is already doing that for you at a remote location?

If there is ever a case of having some sort of storage or digital play-back device at home, it is that for a device like Apple TV, or a generic media player attached to your TV. What that allowd you to do is “rent and buy” movies and TV series for you to keep- just like your old DVD collection. A mixture of an Apple TV like device, with a PVR might just be a better answer. There are some devices in the market currently that aim at doing that, though without much of an organised interface, or thought behind them.

There are also quite a few services that offer video-on-demand. Virgin’s limited on-demand TV is one example. All the major broadcasters such as BBC, ITV and Channel four have their programming accessible through the internet- though ironically so far you can only play that programming on your computer.

From an advertising point of view, PVRs or on-demand TV presents a very simple challenge. How do you insert commercial breaks back into programming? Afterall, not all content can be branded, and there is a limit to a viewer’s capacity to watch “sponsored” programming, and ad-breaks still are a relatively more favourable choice then seeing a dish-washing liquid being talked about in an episode of Heroes.

There are technologies that are being worked on and experimented with to get the commercial breaks back into digital media files (that can be played back on TV- on-demand). Keep reading this blog for more on those.

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