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DVR Wars

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Mike Cohen
DVR Wars
on Sep 1, 2014 at 3:51:35 pm

With the exception of award shows and live sporting events, television schedules have historically been locked down to have shows start at the top or bottom of the hour. Although TV Guide is on life support, once upon a time people referred to weekly publications, or the daily local paper, to find the TV schedule. Anyone who remembers VCR Plus+ in the 1980's can attest to the fact that the schedule was set in stone, and it was darn near impossible to set your VCR to record anything.

With the DVR (satellite or cable) or TiVo, you no longer needed to know the exact schedule - you could simply tell the machine to record every episode of your favorite show, and the little men inside the box would do the rest.

This was working just fine for a decade. Occasionally you would get two of the same episode, or a repeat. Sometimes, if setting your box to record a live event, like a game, it will even offer to extend the recording time by 30 minutes or more, knowing that live events go long. Great, thanks for the suggestion.

Remember Must See TV? Thursday nights in the 90's when you had Friends, Seinfeld, two other filler sitcoms and then ER at 10pm? Or in the 80's it was Cosby Show, Night Court, Cheers and whatever the 10pm drama was - LA Law maybe? Anyway, one network usually owned the night, and the others put on crappy shows so as to not compete.

Well now the hot night seems to be Sunday. Depending upon the time of year you can have three or more hot popular shows on the same night on different networks. Now that the best shows are on AMC, HBO, Showtime, FX and rarely on NBC or whatever those other networks are called, unless you have a DVR that can record unlimited simultaneous shows, you need to get creative. Luckily most networks re-air popular shows at odd hours in the morning, or immediately preceding the next episode the next week, so you can usually get it sorted and record everything you want to watch.

However I have noticed that in the past year, networks are getting sneaky, and changing the published schedule so that shows start at say 9:03pm, or 10:17pm. I believe they do this to mess with DVR recordings. Let's say you want to record The Strain from 9-10pm, and The Leftovers every week form 10-11pm, all on Sunday and then True Blood at 11pm (as of this writing it is concluded as a series, but this is an example). As long as the shows don't go over time (and they don't) then one recording will end and the next one will start.

However with the new DVR wards strategy, there will be a conflict. Maybe you record the 9-10pm show just fine, but then the 10-11pm show starts at 10:03, and goes until 11:03, which means your 11-12 show on HBO will not record. This conflict happens when you are setting up your recordings - the DVR should tell you there is a conflict, then you need to go searching the schedule to find an alternate showing.

However what if the network changes the schedule after you setup the recording? The DVR probably knows about it, and records the 10:03 show, but is not smart enough to go looking for a new showing of the 11:00 show. If you don't discover this problem, you will miss your episode, or at least be slightly inconvenienced and need to look for it manually.

The other DVR-war strategy seems to be showing one thing in the schedule, but airing something else, without sending a schedule update to the DVR. I see this happen most with my local PBS station. The guide says This Old House, the DVR recording says This Old House, but the actual recording upon playback is either a membership drive or Great Performances.

Although we see HBO and other networks play the same tricks. Worst is when you think you are getting a particular show at say 11:00, but upon playback it is an encore performance of the 10:00 episode on the same channel. So somewhere in the network system, a person or people have the ability to change the schedule on the fly and somehow be permitted to not send a data update to the carriers.

I know, it's only TV.

Mike Cohen


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Mark Suszko
Re: DVR Wars
on Sep 1, 2014 at 10:48:57 pm

My DVR from ATT has settings you can program to set early pre-record and post-record times of various duration.


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Stephen Smith
Re: DVR Wars
on Sep 2, 2014 at 2:43:06 pm

Because of these crazy start times I missed the first 30 seconds of every episode of Agents of Shield but got to watch the first minute of the Goldbergs. I didn't really care for Agents of Shield but ended up watching every episode of the Goldbers so I guess it works.

Stephen Smith

Utah Video Productions

Check out my Vimeo page


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Scott Roberts
Re: DVR Wars
on Sep 4, 2014 at 4:36:25 pm

My Comcast DVR causes me a lot of inconveniences. For example, a lot of times, it will cut my show off early by about a minute. Doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but when most shows nowadays drag the content to the very last frame of the credits, I'm missing out on something. Especially for a competition show. PRIME EXAMPLE: This week's Face Off (Mike knows what I'm talkin' about). My DVR cut off the program before the winner was announced. I had to look it up online to see who won the judge's challenge. I don't normally set my shows to record 3 extra minutes, but occasionally I have to, and it's usually because something bad like that happened.

As for the shows going until 10:02 and preventing the recording of one of the two other 10 o'clock shows, Comcast merely just makes one of the two shows (the one lower in priority) "clipped", meaning the first two minutes of the show won't be recorded, which is equally annoying. I don't know how much more it costs to have the ability to record more than two things at once, but that would be nice, yet I don't want to give Comcast any more money.


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Mark Suszko
Re: DVR Wars
on Sep 4, 2014 at 5:46:17 pm

You need a better DVR: mine can simul-record 4 HD and 2 SD programs, so I never have the problem you're having.


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