How'd we ever live without DVR?

DVR is a marvelous invention, but recording shows has become secondary. It's the play, FF and pause that I find indispensable.
Written by John Dodge, Contributor

Digital video recording better known as DVR is a splendid technology that's well worth the $16 a month we  happen to pay for it.

My wife and I were chuckling about it this morning. When our hearing and attention span slip, DVR will allow us to play back what we missed. We're playing back all the time and it came in handy last night during an incredibly funny episode of The Office. Me: "What'd Michael say?" Wife: "Play it back."

When you play back,  you can also fast forward (FF) through the ads until you catch with the airing broadcast. Watching a recorded half hour show takes no more than 20 minutes FFing through the ads. It's efficient, convenient and satisfying. Everyone's happy but the advertisers and the network or channel that has to keep them happy.

Then there's the handy pause feature when you get up to let the dog out or take something off the stove. You never have to miss a thing. For us, therein lies the value of DVR.

Sure, we record shows and watch them later which is what people without it think DVR is primarily, but to us, that's secondary to pause, FF and playback. We've had DVR for about a year and it's taken that long to figure what we really like about it. Take away my guns, but not my DVR (actually, I don't have any guns. )

Given its appeal, DVR is growing fast. Neilsen reported earlier this year that 30.6 per cent of U.S. households have DVR, up from just over 12 per cent in early 2007. I'm not quite sure why, but the top ten U.S. cities with the greatest DVR penetration are in the south and the west. San Diego tops the list at 37.7 per cent.

All but five per cent of DVR is provided through cable or satellite settop boxes even though we have TiVo to thank for coming up with the concept. TiVo provides a standalone box that records shows on a hard disk. Cable and dish providers basically put TiVo-like capability into their settop boxes.

What would I like to see in DVR for the future? For starters, I'd like one box (or no box) in the home that provides Internet, TV,  phone and energy/appliance monitoring. Presently, I have two through Comcast and no energy/appliance monitoring. I don't really care if I get the Internet on TV because I'm just as happy curling up with a netbook in front of the TV, but I suppose that would good if the Internet and TV become indistinguishable.

Actually, I should say surfing and TV which still strike me as largely distinct and separate activities. TV's basic premise of entertainment is passive while surfing is proactive. One messes the other up. The Internet is simply a delivery mechanism like cable if you consider that watching TV shows and movies on PCs has become mainstream.

The downside of a single box is increasing the control companies like Verizon and Comcast already have. Cable and FIOS are expensive with the bills nicking you to death with little charges that in aggregate add up. The dish seems like the cheapest way to go.

Still, sixteen bucks for DVR is worth it although I wouldn't argue if cable providers bundled it into the basic service.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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