One of the most stressful aspects of my mother’s life is obviously her digital video recorder (DVR). She still struggles with the four remotes in our house, but she does not have trouble operating the DVR. The stress comes from managing the time-shifted video in her life: a full DVR is an ever-present issue, and sometimes being able to record two programs at once is not enough.
If she had a network digital video recorder, however, these problems would melt away.
Network digital video recorders, also known as cloud digital video recorders (cloud DVR, or even cDVR), are a tempting future both for the cable industry and every one of its subscribers. Instead of having a DVR in each home, with its hardware limitations, move storage and video on demand to the cloud. This can eliminate the user frustration of not being able to record enough, and having to manage a full hard drive of recordings.
At the same time, there are many benefits for providers as well. As a recent white paper by Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert), Think DVR Out of the Box, noted, operators can reap reduced capital expense by getting rid of the need to have hard drives in the homes of each subscriber. It also reduces operating expense by not having to service these hard drives, which inevitably fail from time to time (roughly 8.6 percent fail by year three).
A bigger advantage is bringing back the advertiser.
One of the big issues with time-shifted video has always been that consumers can skip the commercials. And with over-the-top video and third party solutions such those offered by Apple (News - Alert) and Roku, this is a legitimate concern for all but the most interesting commercials.
If cable providers take time-shifted TV and move it to a cloud DVR model, however, they can reassert commercials in much the way that Hulu (News - Alert) now does. Consumers have already shown that they are willing to sacrifice commercial skipping for an easier video-on-demand experience. Cable operators can take advantage of this and regain part of their lost revenue.
Of course, there still are some challenges—most notably legal restrictions. In several areas, it is illegal for cable providers to cache shows in the cloud as would be most efficient for network-based video storage. Having shared-copy DVR functionality is still hampered.
But that will almost inevitably change as the benefits of cloud DVR become obvious to all parties. And in the interim, a recent Cablevision case has shown that operators are currently able to offer private-copy DVR to subscribers using a cloud DVR model.
The future is definitely the cloud and IP video. Cable operators should take note; there are lots of mothers out there who would love to stop managing their DVR hard drive.
Edited by Peter Bernstein