Monday, April 14, 2003

Cable recorder will change viewers' habits

Stop it. Right now. That's what you can do to live TV with Time Warner Cable's new digital video recorder (DVR) available today.

Like the TiVo and ReplayTV personal recorders, the DVR allows viewers to pause a live telecast, and resume watching later at the same place. And you can rewind and replay live TV for your own instant replays.

It also can be programmed to record your favorite shows on a computer hard drive - including "all episodes" of a series - to watch later.

The new DVR box - the same size and cost of Time Warner's digital cable box ($6.95 a month) - also gives you the ability to watch two channels at once, giving any TV set picture-in-picture capability.

"It's the thing that customers said they always wanted - choice, convenience and control," says Virgil Reed, president and general manager of Cincinnati's Time Warner Cable.

"You can record what you want to watch, and watch it when you want. It's just a phenomenal way to watch television," Reed says.

More than 1,200 Time Warner customers agree. That many subscribers have put their names on a waiting list after seeing promotional spots on Time Warner, the Tristate's largest cable system.

Those people will begin receiving the devices this week, says Rob Howard, Time Warner director of public affairs, media and branding.

Although the TiVo and ReplayTV personal video recorders have been on the market for about five years, only 9 percent of U.S. households have them, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Those units cost $300-$400 for 40-80 hours of recording, plus a monthly programming charge ranging from $9.95 to $12.95.

Time Warner's marketing plan should greatly increase the penetration of digital video recorders here.

If you're already a digital cable subscriber - and about 39 percent (140,000) of Time Warner's 360,000 customers are - you can upgrade to the DVR box without paying any additional equipment fee. But digital customers must pay a one-time $19.95 installation and tutorial fee, plus a $9.95 monthly programming fee. (An interactive online demonstration is at

If you not familiar with TiVo or ReplayTV technology, the new cable DVR offers many advantages over the VCR:

• Dual tuners, which provide the picture-in-picture capability on any TV, allows you to record from two channels at once.

• Both tuners have a "cache" feature that stores live feeds, and allows you to pause and replay a live telecast. You can fast-forward to catch up to the live telecast, if desired. The DVR has three speeds each in reverse and fast-forward, but no 30-second "commercial skip" button.

• You can watch either show as you record them, or you can watch a previously saved show while recording two more. So you can tape both The Bachelor and The West Wing, while watching last week's Bachelor you haven't seen.

• You can record "all episodes" of a show, or just the first run original telecast. So Friends fans have the choice of capturing all of the 7-8 p.m. weekday reruns on WXIX-TV (Channel 19), and/or the new Thursday NBC shows.

Howard points out that the new cable DVR box provides most features of TiVo and ReplayTV, without having to spend several hundred dollars.

But Time Warner doesn't match every feature offered by competitors. The DVR hard drive has only 35 hours of memory, compared to 40-80 for the others. The cable box doesn't let viewers search for shows by their favorite actor or director. And if you buy a TiVo or ReplayTV, you'll have it if you move out of the Cincinnati Time Warner service area.

Either way you do it, you'll find a personal TV lineup of favorites to watch every time you turn on the set, not just what the networks offer that day. One this is for sure: The digital video recorder will change the way you watch TV.


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