Video services

YouTube TV Unshackles Its Cloud DVR

Removing an annoyance that had saddled the features and capabilities of its cloud DVR, YouTube TV has lifted a barrier that prevented its subscribers from recording certain shows from major programmers such as AMC Networks, The Walt Disney Co., Fox, Turner and NBCUniversal with full DVR-style playback.

When YouTube TV launched last April, the cloud DVR provided unlimited storage, but was hampered by limitations that prohibited subs from recording certain shows from several popular networks when the VoD asset of those programs were available. The big difference, from the consumer's perspective, is that the VoD version of those shows disabled fast-forwarding.

The reason for that limitation was tied to tricky advertising provisions linked to YouTube TV's contracts with certain programmers. It appears that YouTube TV and a batch of those programmers carved out revised agreements that allow YouTube TV customers to record shows with full DVR functionality.

While the updated arrangements give YouTube TV subs a lot more flexibility on what they record and how they can navigate those recordings, they also put the service's cloud DVR on a more even footing with what consumers get from a more traditional DVR with local box storage.

However, CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), which happens to have its own direct-to-consumer subscription service (CBS All Access) is still notably absent from the group of networks that have given YouTube TV more DVR-related wiggle room.

Still, the removal of the cloud recording and ad-skipping for networks such as AMC and NBC will make YouTube TV more attractive as it continues to do battle with a growing array of virtual MVPDs that include Sling TV , Hulu LLC , Philo , DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, and fuboTV, with Vidgo inching toward its commercial launch date. (See Vidgo Nears Debut of National OTT-TV Service.)

While cloud DVRs usually provide helpful features such as the ability to watch recordings in our out of the home, there are still plenty of functionality gaps (primarily driven by terms of carriage agreements between OTT TV distributors and the networks, and not technology limitations) between cloud DVR and local DVRs that can vex consumers. Some examples:

  • Philo doesn't limit how much a customer can record, but recordings go away after 30 days.

  • Recordings to DirecTV Now's cloud DVR (currently in beta) expire after 30 days, and recording isn't allowed on "select channels," including certain local broadcast channels that are considered out-of-market.

  • PlayStation Vue also allows for unlimited recordings, with the catch that they must be watched in a 28 day window, and shows from certain CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox affiliates also can't be recorded to the cloud DVR. Additionally, programs saved to PlayStation Vue's "My DVR" from Fox, FX and FXX do not allow fast-forwarding.

  • Sling TV's cloud DVR currently does not support Disney and ESPN channels.

    And the limitations of cloud DVRs aren't solely the domain of the OTT-TV providers. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s X1 cloud DVR is flexible in that it allows recording across most shows and networks and fast-forwarding of recorded programs, but currently is limited to 60 hours of recordings, versus about 150 hours of storage on the customer's local, set-top box DVR. That means it's possible that not all recordings on the set-top will also be available on the X1 cloud DVR.

    Comcast has also disabled a feature that allows subs to set recordings remotely, but that's due to the fallout from the MSO's ongoing litigation with TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO). (See Stakes Run High for Tivo in Comcast Suit.)

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

  • Jeff Baumgartner 10/5/2018 | 12:58:51 PM
    Cloud DVR recording windows YouTube TV does provide unlimited DVR storage, but those recordings aren't kept forever. Just noticed in the FAQ that recordings made via YouTube TV can be kept for 9 months... which is pretty lenient compared to the recording time restrictions on some other services. JB 


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