Video services

Skip, Skip, Skip to My Lou

If you're into skipping ads in 30 second increments and use a Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) or Pace Micro Technology cable set-top with an on-board digital video recorder (DVR), you might want to hang on to that silver remote... or pick one up on eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY)

Many intrepid (or dastardly) consumers -- depending on which side of the fence you're on -- have already discovered this, but it's pretty darn easy to program a 30-second skip function on these cable boxes and their remotes. All you need is the code, a free finger, and shadow of conscience.

Of course, you could just use the fast-forward button if you don't want to sit through the ads in programs recorded to the DVR, but what's the challenge in that? Why be common? You, dear friend, can be special. You can dazzle all your buddies and colleagues at the next social gathering that involves alcohol. It might even score you a free drink or two. Tell your bartenders. They will give you top-shelf booze for well prices.

Above all, they will thank you. And who can pin a price on well-scored kudos?

As for the networks and programmers that rely on you to watch those ads so they can pay the freight for shows like Lost and expand their HDTV fare? Not so much.

Which is why I'm torn about sharing this with you. Not so much because people might think I'm a miscreant for contributing to the demise of traditional television models, but because deep inside I wonder whether cable operators are capable of taking this capability away... and I'll awaken one evening to the sound of a crowd gathering around my home, each individual wielding a torch or a pitchfork with my name on it.

Oh, and about that silver remote…

Turns out the "upgraded" DRC 800 remote is not user-programmable. Sorry, Charlie. You'll have to sit through (or fast-forward through) those tuna fish commercials after all. Or you can go out and purchase a generic programmable remote, start pressing buttons, and see what happens.

Oh, if you have a TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) DVR, you're in luck. There's a 30-second skip code for those, too.

As for Scientific Atlanta DVRs, I haven't uncovered any evidence suggesting a latent skip function exists in those models. I am not a bit surprised if it doesn't. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), a big SA shop, has gone out of its way to protect programmers by eliminating the fast-forward feature from Start Over, a network-based DVR service that allows customers to restart select programs already in progress. It seems plausible the operator would also ensure that an ad-skipping feature -- programmable or not -- would be precluded from regular DVRs as well.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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