Video services

Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

Without much fanfare, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) has launched its ambitious Remote Storage-DVR (RS-DVR) service in the New York borough of the Bronx, Light Reading Cable has learned.

As of Jan. 11, this Cablevision Web page noted that the network DVR service, branded as DVR Plus, was still undergoing a consumer trial. Since then, it's been updated to note that the offering is now available to customers in the Bronx who, at a minimum, subscribe to the MSO's Family Cable tier. (See Cablevision Trademarks Mobile, RS-DVR Brands.)

Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella confirmed by e-mail on Sunday that DVR Plus was indeed launched across the operator's Bronx service area on Tuesday, Jan. 18. The $10.95-a-month service comes with 160GB of storage -- the same as its set-top-based iO DVR service -- offering enough to store up to 100 hours of standard-definition programming or 25 hours of HD programming.

Here are a couple of screen shots from the DVR Plus reference guide (PDF):

DVR From Afar

Eye On Storage

Cablevision is billing this as a whole-home DVR, meaning any qualified digital box in the home can access programming recorded on the MSO's network, and set and manage DVR recordings. DVR Plus lets subscribers record up to four shows at the same time, while watching a fifth already-recorded show.

Unlike other whole-home DVRs that use high-speed networking tech like Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) , DVR Plus doesn't rely on a master DVR to share content with other boxes on the home network. Instead, all content is stored on, and played back from, the MSO's cloud-based storage banks. Customers access and manage DVR Plus on channel 1001.

But the other features of DVR Plus closely mimic those of regular DVRs, including the ability to record entire seasons of TV series, pause and resume live programming (via a temporary buffer that stores up to 15 minutes worth of live video), and parental controls.

Cablevision has not said when it expects to expand DVR Plus to other systems or if it intends to offer tiers that provide more networks storage.

Early box limitations
One catch: So far, the Bronx launch of DVR Plus allows subscribers to use only the following Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)/Scientific Atlanta box models to record programs from: the 1800 SD, 1850 SD, 4200SD/4200 HD and 4250 SD/4250 HD.

According to the Cablevision website, box models with baked-in DVRs, such as the Cisco/SA 8300 HD and 8300 SD, can only play back programs recorded using the DVR Plus service. They can also access any recordings made on their own hard drives, of course, but can't share those recordings with any others set-tops in the home. Apparently absent from DVR Plus so far are boxes made by Samsung Corp. , which Cablevision is using to help get its new downloadable security platform off the ground. (See Cablevision Makes its Security Deadline and Samsung Boxes Break In at Cablevision .)

The site also notes that CableCARD devices (such as TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) DVRs and digital TV models with integrated CableCARD slots) are not currently compatible with DVR Plus.

Long road to the RS-DVR
Cablevision's RS-DVR has been years in the making, from its 2006 introduction, via a legal go-ahead from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009, to last year's limited version (and a goal of a full-featured service by the end of 2010, which the MSO just missed). Here's some of our past coverage:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

spc_markl 12/5/2012 | 5:14:50 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx


As a former New Yorker, I can tell you that in the distant past, Cablevision’s service in the Bronx was nothing short of horrible.  It indiscriminately hung wires anywhere on the outside of apartment buildings regardless of how poor they looked.  The landlords would not be called and offered a piece of the action in order to conduct joint marketing efforts.  Cablevision dragged its feet in providing Internet to all of its customers.  At least now, the cable TV subscribers in the borough can feel somewhat important.




Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:14:49 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

And you're right to bring up the power of competition in this case, considering the battle going on between CVC and VZ.  Not sure how much of a differentiator the RS-DVR is since it mimics most of the features you can get with a regular DVR, but it does CVC a stab at a whole-home option that should trim down reliance on expensive HD-DVR boxes.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:14:49 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

Interesting, then, that the Bronx is the first to get this. Perhaps this'll help boost their image there given the past issues you witnessed. JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:14:48 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

Good question. I'd be curious to know if there's some sort of discount they'd get on those other boxes since they'll still need 'em to use the service. But same could be said for most other multi-room DVR set-ups... you still need boxes for each TV, plus the primary box they feed off of.  For Cablevision, the obvious capex benefit is that they won't have to buy DVRs with integrated hard drives and they can instead rely on these less expensive thin-client boxes.  We'll have to see how those costs benefits get passed along to subs.  JB

ycurrent 12/5/2012 | 5:14:48 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

hmmm. A network-based DVR (and multi-room DVR) that still requires customers to have a physical box next to each TV... and then Cablevision charges $10.95 on top of that?  Will the subscriber even notice the difference/benefit?  Is there a customer cost saving on monthly box fees?

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:14:47 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

Arroyo Video Solutions (now part of Cisco) was involved in the early RS-DVR trials back in the day, and, as we reported a while back, SeaChange tried to get its servers in the running, but has since started to limit investment in hardware so it can focus on its new software-centric strategy.  So, who's in there?  According to Multichannel News, Israel-based server firm Fabrix.tv is one of the primary vendors involved in the Cablevision project.  Also, we had heard a rumor that Motorola had some partnership in place with Fabrix.tv, perhaps involving reselling their gear, but haven't confirmed that yet. JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:14:45 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

Mari Silbey's making an interesting distinction between the RS-DVR and a full fledged "network DVR" over at the ZatzNotFunny blog. The difference, she points out, is that RS-DVR creates individual copies of every program that's recorded while an nDVR might allow multiple subscribers to stream off of the same stored asset.

Although that sort of nDVR architecture would be more efficient from an ingest and storage perspective, Cablevision of course is taking it's approach so it's protected by the Sony Betamax decision, essentially replicating the way local DVRs work , but keeping all of those copies out on the network... and then the user still needs to stream it, of course.

But Mari's remarks reminded me of a rumor I heard many months ago holding that Cablevision was interested in working with studios and other content rights holders to see if the MSO  might be able to do a deal that would allow them to store fewer copies of the more popular TV shows and movies that tend to get recorded to DVRs... potentially saving on ingest and storage requirements for the RS-DVR.  But that might involve some concessions (no fast-forwarding , for instance, to preserve the advertising biz model).  Still, just a rumor that bubbled up a while ago... I have heard nothing new about it since then. But i think  it's a good time to bring it back into the discussion, and offers something we'll have to keep an eye out for as Cablevision gets its deployment scaled up and possibly open the door to other MSOs that might also want to give the rs-dvr concept a go. JB


paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:14:44 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

Off topic suggestion:

Your link structure reminds me of the phisher that posted in the CES thread over the weekend.  Is there a way for LR posters to make their links more specific so that folks are not can differentiate those from random poster links.




jaymemaurice 12/5/2012 | 5:14:43 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

I still don't get the difference between RS-DVR and nDVR then. In my mind it is eventually the same thing.

In cloud storage environment with large amounts of read only streaming storage I would be surprised if the service provider doesn't invest in a storage platform that optimizes the storage of multiple copies of the same byte stream. Then, what is the difference? The layer at which things are common (storage vs application)?? Would this be an issue to the provider then?? Then what about RAID and replication of the data???

So now in my mind I think:
Why is nDVR an issue? Why is policy set and enforced on the technical implementation instead of the conflicting business objectives of the copyright holder and provider?

If the policy ends up being "Thow shalt not perform the act storing content or redistributing content back to your subscriber" then anything short of the set top box sending back re-encrypted data to be stored and retrieved ends up being the same.

It seems we now have a case of "Thow shalt not record using a VCR" not being the same as "Thow shalt not record with a DVD".

Now, finally, if the subscriber is allowed to ask their DVR to record content so that they can view content later in their home, what is the difference of asking the cable provider to do the recording content on your behalf? How that different to the end outcome of the subscriber viewing the recorded data?

The only difference in the outcome I see is the provider can make more money for delivering a better quality more efficient service - are the content providers unhappy technology is changing and things are getting easier

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:14:42 PM
re: Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx

The technical difference, the key one anyway as I understand it, is that Cablevision's RS-DVR creates and stores individual copies of the recordings made manually by the subscribers-- Cablevision is just trying to replicate the experience and functions of local DVRs and VHS players, which are protected by fair use and the Sony Betamax decision.   So if 10,000 subscribers wanted to record The Office, the system would make 10K individual copies... with one copy linked to an individual subscriber. Under an example of a "pure" nDVR, the operator would, on its own, make a smaller number of copies that could be shared among subscribers who want to watch it. 

And apparently the courts don't see much difference if the cable operator is doing the recording on behalf of the customer so long as it's the customer that's initiating it. But agree that the outcome is the same.  JB


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