A Cablevision Win for Network DVR, AKA Cloud TV

Cablevision has emerged victorious from its latest day in court. If it chooses, Cablevision now has the green light to start introducing Network DVR services. A court of appeals ruled yesterday that Network DVR does not violate copyright law, overturning a decision from March 2007 that pronounced the technology illegal.

The ruling should not be surprising. Despite serious opposition from the content moguls, new services have been eroding the barrier that was originally built up against Network DVR technology. Time Warner Cable started the momentum with the introduction of Start Over and Look Back, Cox and ABC introduced a similar VOD service to make primetime programming available any time, and outside the US operators have launched full-service Network DVR. The increasing adoption of traditional digital video recording and video-on-demand have also made Network DVR virtually inevitable. After all, what’s the practical difference if content is stored at home or on a service provider’s network?

The continuing evolution of living-room TV is fascinating from a number of technology angles. For example, we’re seeing more and more of a load placed on operator networks. The operators love the revenue opportunities of advanced services, but they’re less thrilled about the network upgrades required to make those services sustainable. With Network DVR and VOD we’re also looking at a living-room analog to cloud computing. What if the cloud goes offline? What service expectations should consumers have? Should there be TV SLAs?

We’re going to see a lot play out in the living room in the next few years. DVR and VOD services will continue to blend. Network DVR is a start.

10 thoughts on “A Cablevision Win for Network DVR, AKA Cloud TV”

  1. Maybe some place shifting company could make a network service available for me, with a 1.5mbs upstream speed and enable near HD streaming of “my” content whereever I may be. DL speeds are never the issue with distributing ONES content, UL speeds are.

    then, all my media distributions dreams would come true. That and a slingcatcher would make me a very happy tivoboy!

  2. I’m curious about the ‘cloud’ aspect for this service. Part of the ruling that legalized the service seems to be based on the fact the each and every recording is requested and performed upon the end users instruction.

    Will the cable company be making just one recording of any requested programming, but serving multiple viewers off it? Or will each subscriber have an individual ‘share’ where their own recordings are separated from all other users?

    What if subscribers request recording to be start earlier and/or end later than published schedules? Will the cable company record the longest duration requested but only feed a subscriber the time period they specifally asked to receive? What if they forgot to extend the time for some sporting event? Would they have access to extra programming if the cable company had captured it?

  3. @Ryan Roat Awesome questions. It’s hard to imagine that operators would store a program copy for every user looking to “record” a particular show. Terribly inefficient. Network DVR will end up looking a lot more like VOD, except consumers will have more control via the interface. (I want to save this show, versus I want to watch this show you the operator have made available on-demand) And yes, I’m sure there will be buffers at the beginning and end of shows. Whether operators make the added time available depends on how the service is implemented. I could see a menu offering you the option – “I see you’d like to watch the NBA game you recorded last night. We noticed it lasted longer than expected. Would you like to view an extended recording?”

  4. For legal reasons and assuming this doesn’t get scuttled at a higher court or with a different argument, each customer will most likely make their own recording on head-end servers. Cablevision stands to save money by not rolling out DVR hardware though – imagine every basic cable box able to access your own VOD hard drive partition/channel in the cloud for a DVR fee instead of DVR hardware, truck roll, etc. And you can bet they’ll charge for higher tiers of storage. I agree with Mari’s hunch that we’d eventually see upselling and perhaps post/pre-roll advertising as well.

  5. Cheaper storage and delivery primarily benefit the service providers, not the content owners who initiated the suit… A scenario like this is potentially lost revenue for the content owners who have less leverage in working OnDemand deals – which comes with royalties/licensing.

  6. Who wants to bet that accessing content like that will be “free” to access in the era of bandwidth caps while watching the same content via Hulu or other web service will “cost” via counting against your B.S. cap?

  7. What amazes me is that the content providers can’t work with the cable companies on what is, really, the ultimate DRM. Rather than put hard drives in consumers’ hands, network DVR potentially allows for the cable company to control how long a show can be kept, how many times it’s replayed, what resolution can be recorded (HD or SD only), even whether it can be recorded at all. The whole dustup about selectable output control becomes moot, because it can be controlled centrally.

    I would think the content owners would make it very attractive to the cable companies to exert that kind of control. But the relationship between the content owners and the cable companies is so adversarial that they can’t make those sorts of deals? Maybe it’s for the best that they don’t . . .

  8. Mari,

    The current Cablevision implementation gives every user their own separate 80GB of space, and yes, if multiple users record the same show, it makes multiple copies of that show. And if different users specified different start times they would get different copies. Just like a regular DVR. Of course this is inefficient given that an NPVR could keep only a single copy of the show and stream it to each of them, but Cablevision wanted an implementation that was as likely to succeed a legal challenge as possible.

    BTW there’s a nice summary at:


    including a link to a PDF of the actual decision.

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