TiVo Granted Season Pass Patent

The US patent office must have unpaused their hard drives because, hot on the heels of winning a patent related to closed captions on a DVR, TiVo has been awarded another patent at the heart of the DVR experience. With the application having been originally filed in October of 1999, it took the USPTO over ten years to review and finally approve their ultimate request… And on February 16th, TiVo was given the legal exclusive on what looks like “season pass” prioritization, conflict resolution, and recording.

For those unfamiliar with how a DVR works, part of their magic is the ability to you record shows in the future without having to worry about when they’er on. Back in the ole VCR days, we’d manually instruct our gadget the time and channel we wanted to record. But TiVo and other DVRs automagically keep track of this information and records our programs whenever they’re scheduled to run. Because the TV studios tend to schedule all of their good programming at the same time (I’m looking at you Thursday night), there are often conflicts between what you’d like to record and the number of TV tuners available to do it.

To resolve, or at least reduce, these issues, TiVo created their Season Pass manager to prioritize which shows get recorded and which ones don’t. This helps to make sure that I always get to watch Survivor and CSI, even if it means that I sometimes have to skip Community.

From patent 7,665,111,

The invention correlates an input schedule that tracks the free and occupied time slots for each input source with a space schedule that tracks all currently recorded programs and the programs that have been scheduled to be recorded in the future, to schedule new programs to record and resolve recording conflicts. A program is recorded if at all times between when the recording would be initiated and when it expires, sufficient space is available to hold it. Programs scheduled for recording based on inferred preferences automatically lose all conflict decisions. All scheduling conflicts are resolved as early as possible. Schedule conflicts resulting from the recording of aggregate objects are resolved using the preference weighting of the programs involved. A background scheduler attempts to schedule each preferred program in turn until the list of preferred programs is exhausted or no further opportunity to record is available. A preferred program is scheduled if and only if there are no conflicts with other scheduled programs.

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12 thoughts on “TiVo Granted Season Pass Patent”

  1. No if they would only get a SMART Schedule Manager, where instead of the order of the list (I have almost 100 Season Passes which when I have to tweak to make sure a show gets recorded, makes me want to kill myself) the introduce a little logic like even though a show may be higher on the list, if they reshow that episode 20 times (like almost any show on basic cable) versus a Network, why not record the network one first so you can actually watch both shows? Especially something like NipTuck where they literally run the same show right after the other one… I can wait an hour. Then you could have an option to turn off this “Replicate Preference” so you can go back to managing long ordered lists and have to check in on your recordings each week to make sure everything gets recorded (like I do now…) Sorry needed to rant… but if anything, likely TiVo will use this patent to sue people versus spend the time to make this feature more useful… sigh…

  2. This is crazy. My BeyondTV software has done the exact same thing for years now. Who is running the patent office these days?

  3. That’s a great suggestion Brad. I always thought that TiVo should have an extra option to record Duplicates, but only once for this DVR. This way you could also set up a season pass for Seinfeld (or similar older show) and TiVo would know to record the program, but if a repeat aired multiple times during that syndication, it would look at the episode number and skip it because it had already recorded it. With enough hard drive space and a couple of months, you could probably collect an entire season or two of a show and get caught up. You could also use this to tell your TiVo to record the reruns of lower priority shows that you miss, instead of having to mark duplicates and record an entire season over the summer when you’re really just looking for one or two episodes.

  4. Why not just put the network shows ahead of the cable shows so they get higher priority? That’s what I do in my Season Passes. All network shows first (in order) and then cable shows with repeats at the end of the list.

  5. Davis, Brad, I’d also like to see some whole-home DVR smarts. If the bedroom TiVo is recording something, the living room TiVo can skip it. One Season Pass Manager for the home, utilizing whichever tuners are available. And stream, versus copy, content around the home as needed for viewing.

    Regarding the patent itself, I wonder if this is a revised and/or resubmitted patent as some of the referred stuff was dated after 1999. Hm.

  6. Hi TxGowan

    So basically that is what I wind up doing, I see an new Network show that I want, I get a season pass, where I have the option to put it at the bottom of the list or the very top. I usually pick the bottom. I then have to go to the Season Pass Manager and move it up the list to have it in the perfectly right spot (I also get to wait minutes while Tivo does rearrange all my recordings because I want to record something new at 10:30am which conflicts with nothing but some reason takes the Tivo minutes to arrange that in the list). I just seems like given access to a TV schedule it should take a couple of smart people a couple of weeks and you could come up with something that would be way smarter, than me having to constantly check my “To Record list” and make sure everything is getting recorded…

    DZ – Totally agree, TiVo needs to go to a Master/Slave method where a master list of season passes are passed tot he TiVo slaves to record. I really don’t care what TiVo is recording the show, just that it gets recorded and that I can watch it where I want. How is that hard? Even Verizon FIOS seems to have figured this out better than TiVo… but of course they don’t have a 10 year old patent on season passes…

    I will be sad when I have to take my TiVos out back to shoot, but it is not like I haven’t been patiently/paying/hoping waiting for them to not suck for a llllooooonnnnnggggg time…. Here is hoping (last time?) that their March reveal is something better than an over-priced external hard drive (the only thing that will work), another remote, a new way to display ads, links to some web video site that I don’t use, a new TiVo front person and some HD version of some menu on my TiVo that I never use… (seriously does anyone use their HD Search, I did once, it looked nice, it was slow and it did not help me record the shows that I want and watch them when I want, so uh…. who cares?).

    TiVo, I am begging you, it is in your name (TV), help me consume this the way I want, how I want, all that other stuff you should concentrate on after you get this core thing done. Don’t make us shake our heads (like we will likely be doing with Tiger after is press conference), if you use this phrase “Inventing the DVR was just a warmup”, please say you are going to get into the business of DVR versus sue the crap out of everyone who took your idea forward while you apparently spent 10 years making sure you patented Season Passes and how you can resell your paying customers to advertisers. MmmKKk?

    I swear now I am done :)

    Rant Out :)

  7. Oh yeah, and stop sending me marketing surveys that don’t have anything to do with “How do I make Tivo better”? Seriously I pay you monthly, for that money can’t you use a little of it to move the product forward? I mean don’t get me wrong the movie that comes up when I reboot my TiVo is spiff cool and all, and likely more fun to work on than an improved TV scheduling algorithm….

    For reals now… done…

  8. maybe tivo was waiting for this patent to go through before any new season pass features roll out into production…and maybe it coincides with the release of new hardware in March… ohhh i love theorizing.

  9. The way the patent is written they can’t sue anybody for just doing season passes by priority. Claim 1, on which all the other claims are build, includes Suggestions and how stuff the user asked to be recorded wins over suggestions. For whatever reason, they didn’t break that out into its own claim. Either the lawyer wasn’t very good or the patent office rejected the prioritized list as too obvious or found prior art. The latter might help explain why it took so long to get it issued–i.e. they had to go back and forth a bunch of times to get it through.

    Anyway, agree on various of the suggestions on how they still need to improve what they’ve got. Why do I have to do a manual recording to only get one episode of The Daily Show per day? And why can’t I take a look at the potential conflicts in order to find out what shows I might think are going to be recorded aren’t?

    As far as multiple-Tivo box households, I agree that it would be nice if they handled conflict resolution across boxes, but until they come up with a solution for streaming Copy Once content to another Tivo (and deleting it remotely once watched), they can’t really do this in a lot of cases. An easier solution would probably be to just add more tuners… Its not like they’re doing the actual encoding anymore… Its just a stream capture… strip certain PIDs out of the MPTS, modify the PAT and PMT which only get rewritten like 10 times per second, c’mon how hard is that? The 6MHz tuners are probably the only interesting part and there are PC cards that have more than two of those already…

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