Editorial: Personal video the way it was meant to be

Jun 11, 2001  •  Post A Comment

We have seen the future, the next big thing, the “killer app,” and it is a next-generation personal-video-recording system that blows current PVR and video on demand out of the proverbial water (“New technology is like personal video on steroids,” EM, June 4).
Using a network of massive servers, the system will be able to store more than 4,000 hours of programming-equal to a week’s worth of prime-time and weekend offerings on hundreds of channels-and make it all available to viewers over cable lines.
One of the keys to the new PVR service is that expensive, high-end set-top boxes are not required. Just as in the old days of powerful networked UNIX computers linked to inexpensive “dumb” terminals, it’s the power of the server that matters, with the video programming accessed via a cheap, diskless set-top box.
In the new system, the set-top and its remote control allow viewers to navigate across that week’s worth of shows, letting them watch what they want, when they want, delivered from server to headend to set-top.
The beauty of the system is that all the heavy lifting is done at the server-upgrades can be performed there to expand the capacity of the system, or to make it work better and faster, without worrying about increasing processing power or disk storage capacity at the set-top box.
It is the television of the future: easy and instantaneous time-shifting of programming to fit the viewer’s needs.
And the new technology could be a boon to advertisers, too, with ads inserted and custom-delivered to individual TV viewers in the same way targeted ads are sent to Internet surfers.
What’s the flaw in this diamond? The existing programming contracts the networks have with cable operators don’t allow the repurposing of shows for such a PVR service. If only the program producers, networks, cable providers and advertisers realize they will all benefit from this new service, an industry-changing technology can get off the ground.