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Apple plans to include cloud DVR service on set-top-box

The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple would like to give users of its cable set-top-box (not yet on the market) the choice and ability to start any program at any time.  This plan looks good on paper but existing cloud DVR services indicate it is easier said than done.  Other demands made by the company are supposed to include extended windows for the Video-on-Demand content.

WSJ didn’t release too many details about what features are planned for inclusion in the cloud DVR offering by Apple – making it hard to figure out what the company has in mind.  Inclusion of such a feature would force Apple to negotiate all kinds of rights with broadcasters in addition to negotiations currently being conducted with cable companies – according to the paper.

Here is some information on two competing models offering cloud based content that Apple could get ideas from:

  • Subscribers to Cablevision’s network DVR get TiVo-like capabilities with their cloud service.  This allows them to time-shift, or go back to the beginning of a show.  This facility has limitations – Cablevision’s DVR Plus has 4 tuners which doesn’t let subscribers start any show at any time – according to the Journal.  The good news is that this DVR offering has been deemed legal by the Supreme Court and no more special or additional licenses.
  • On the other hand, Time Warner Cable offers viewers the ability to go back to the beginning of any program that they tune into – with the Start Over Feature, in theory.  This offer is limited to channels that the operator has agreements for and these vary from market to market.  Customers in LA can do the “Start Over” with programming from ABC, CBS and NBC, but not Fox News.  The need to negotiate with every affiliate means that Time Warner will have to spend years to get this service active in all of its markets.

With Apple planning to launch its cloud DVR services, it has to pick its battles.  It will have either go with a true cloud based DVR service with limited access to programs – or begin on a long and painful road to negotiations with all the different affiliates in local markets.  One way or the other, it is likely to end up with something that sounds great on paper, and in reality looking something like the available pay and watch TV services.

Via: Gigaom