The DVR is dead, long live the DVR!

That title of course is a take off of the famous European Monarchy saying where the King is dead, yet the next King is already chosen so really the King is never dead.

The DVR was King and now it is dead. Of course a statement like that reminds one of Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

Dead Collector: Bring out yer dead!
[A large man appears with a (seemingly) dead man over his shoulder]
Large Man: Here’s one.
Dead Collector: Nine pence.
“Dead” Man: I’m not dead.
Dead Collector: What?
Large Man: Nothing. [hands the collector his money] There’s your nine pence.
“Dead” Man: I’m not dead!
Dead Collector: ‘Ere, he says he’s not dead.
Large Man: Yes he is.
“Dead” Man: I’m not.
Dead Collector: He isn’t.
Large Man: Well, he will be soon, he’s very ill.
“Dead” Man: I’m getting better.
Large Man: No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment.
Dead Collector: Well, I can’t take him like that. It’s against regulations.
“Dead” Man: I don’t want to go on the cart.
Large Man:’ Oh, don’t be such a baby.
Dead Collector: I can’t take him.
“Dead” Man: I feel fine.
Large Man with Dead Body: Oh, do me a favor.
Dead Collector: I can’t.
Large Man: Well, can you hang around for a couple of minutes? He won’t be long.
Dead Collector: I promised I’d be at the Robinsons’. They’ve lost nine today.
Large Man: Well, when’s your next round?
Dead Collector: Thursday.
“Dead” Man: I think I’ll go for a walk.
Large Man: You’re not fooling anyone, you know. Isn’t there anything you could do?
“Dead” Man: I feel happy. I feel happy.
[The collecter paces for an idea, then whacks the body with his club, solving the problem]
Large Man: Ah, thank you very much.
Dead Collector: Not at all. See you on Thursday.
Large Man: Right.

Really today the DVR is not quite dead. However since TiVo was purchased by Rovi there has been talk that they would stop making hardware. That would leave pretty much just the cable and satellite companies left making DVRs.

The DVR was never liked much by content creators. They really wanted sheep as viewers which can be easily counted so the advertisement based business model works smoothly. The DVR gives the sheep too much control with things like skipping commercials. So the death of the DVR is a welcome event to content creators.

Obviously the new King is the streaming box. I’m a fan and my choice is the Apple TV 4. There are several nice aspects to the streaming box:

  • Brings competition to Cable and Satellite TV with services like Sling TV and Playstation Vue.
  • New opportunity for new content not on traditional TV like LevinTV.
  • One device to supply local programming with TV available on the Internet. jflicks for cord cutters 🙂

One of the shows I stream is Cordkillers. Their motto is The show that helps you figure out how to watch what you want, when you want, on any device you please. The show focuses on how to navigate the current services (cable, satellite, and Internet) and how to watch what one wants to watch in this rapidly changing world of TV. It’s a great show and recommend it to all my friends.

I’ve been using the new Apple TV Sling TV app the last few weeks and over all it has been good. But it’s made me think about this changing world of TV. Putting the “old world” of the DVR vs the “new world” of the streaming box, I think people may not be realizing what they are giving up. Here are a few that I see:

The DVR is the ultimate on demand device.

The DVR allows you to record what shows you want and keep them as long as you want. The user gets to choose how many they keep. I’ve recorded full seasons of shows and then watched them in the Summer. Or record a show and not watch it if it gets cancelled saving time investing into watching a show that is quickly killed.

On Sling TV the on demand choices are very limited. To be honest there wasn’t a single on demand show available that I was interested in watching. The choice of shows and how many episodes are now the choice of content creators.

The DVR allows the user to pause live TV.

You are watching the game but have to go get the next batch of wings, pause and go!

On Sling TV there is only a small number of channels that allow for this. I don’t have an exact count but guess 95% of the channels do not allow for this. Of course because some can then one can conclude there is no technical reason that every channel could. Again content creators making this decision for us. Another downside to this is because the video buffering is limited, your Internet connection latency may cause the quality of the video to suffer. I’ve seen this watching baseball on YES Network and it has much more pixelization and buffering problems than say HGTV which allows for pausing. A larger buffer can mitigate Internet latency because any given slice of video fetched with a larger latency can cause video problems. If you are watching 3 minutes behind than any one time slice of video can be compensated for as long as your latency isn’t chronic.

The DVR allows for commercial skipping.

Or at least most do. Certainly for all the folks who build a Home Theater PC.

Again I’ve seen on Sling TV where skipping can be just be turned off by content creators. I’ve heard some cable and satellite DVRs may already do this but being a HTPC person for over a decade I haven’t run into this at all.

Those are just a few things. I think the DVR will eventually be gone. And I think there will be some aspects of the DVR we will really miss.