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RS-DVR Debut: 'Early Next Year'

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
9/11/2008
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On the heels of a helpful court decision, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) plans to go to market with its remote-storage digital video recorder (RS-DVR) "early next year," according to Tom Rutledge, the MSO's chief operating officer. (See Court Resurrects Cablevision's Network DVR .)

"We won a monumental case and all the things that we thought we could do, the court agreed with, so we're ready to go to market with that product," Rutledge said yesterday during a Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. conference in Marina Del Ray, Calif.

Although there's speculation that the case could eventually land in the U.S. Supreme Court, New York-based Cablevision won the latest round in August when an appeals court ruled that the MSO's network-based DVR does not directly infringe copyright rules and should be given the same protection already given to local DVRs.

Rutledge said Cablevision plans to roll out the RS-DVR "on our campus next week... We have advised all the copyright holders that we are going to do it. We'll be doing a real consumer trial in the relatively near future."

Cablevision, however, has not yet identified how it will package and price the RS-DVR when it debuts commercially sometime in early 2009.

Rutledge said Cablevision is considering a "variety of iterations. We're thinking through those issues right now."

Business decisions aside, the tech behind the RS-DVR has been ready to go for some time. Before Cablevision was hit with the original lawsuit in, it had already started a trial with about 1,000 "friendlies," offering each with 80 gigabytes of dedicated storage on the network for show recordings. (See Inside Cablevision's 'RS-DVR' .)

Rutledge also played up the economic benefits of the RS-DVR, pointing out that it's designed to run on all digital set-tops and removes the incremental cost of the home-side hard drive. Buying centralized storage in bulk will also be cheaper that deploying isolated, home-side hard drives for every DVR sub. Also, because it runs on the network, upgrading existing customers to the RS-DVR won't require an expensive truck roll.

Not counting transaction costs, Rutledge said the RS-DVR will cost Cablevision about $100 less per customer than it would if the operator had to supply the sub with a set-top with the DVR on board.

And what about the whole-home DVR, something that's already being offered by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)? The RS-DVR answers that question, too. (See AT&T Launches Whole-Home DVR.)

The RS-DVR "makes every converter [set-top] a DVR. It's the perfect whole-house strategy," Rutledge said.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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