Image: Why the Rest of World Has Better DVRs

Why the Rest of World Has Better DVRs

Monday, 24 Jun 2013 10:17 AM

By Greg Richter

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Digital video recorders, better known as DVRs, have revolutionized television viewing, allowing viewers to pause live TV and start watching a recorded program even while the recording is still in progress.

It seems like a quantum leap past the old videocassette recorder that was limited by the amount of tape on the cassette, couldn't be viewed until the recording was complete and didn't have the digital quality of DVRs.

But they do lack one thing that often can be a stick in the eye especially to sports fans: They don't keep recording when a game goes longer than expected.

But DVR users in parts of Europe and Australia don't have that problem, Slate reports.  In fact, they don't even have to worry when their favorite programs get rescheduled at the last minute. They still get recorded.

That's because DVRs across the pond have a feature called "accurate recording." Broadcasters send a signal for the program being recorded that starts when each program does and doesn't end until the program ends. It's essentially the same as the old VCR-Plus codes that once helped simplify life for the programming-challenged.

In the United States, program schedules are obtained by private companies and sent to cable and satellite providers. A TV Guide-like grid approximates when the recording starts and stops, but it isn't exact science. That's why DVRs allow you to start and stop the recording five or 10 minutes on either side of the program. And some even ask if you want to extend sporting events an extra two hours in case of overtime or weather or injury delays.

European and Australian DVRs get those signals straight from the broadcasters, so last-minute reschedules or long sporting events always get recorded.

So why can't American DVRs include such technology? They can. In fact, some already do.

But unless broadcasters decide to provide "accurate recording" codes it won't happen. And so far, they haven't been beating a path toward doing so.

TV stations make their money selling ads, and when people record shows for later viewing, they tend to skip commercials. So there isn't much incentive for them to make it easier for people not to watch live.

Jim Denney of TiVo, the most well-known DVR maker, said that until customers start demanding "accurate recording," it isn't likely to be offered in the United States.

"We don't have a whole lot of people saying, 'My God, I wish we could do this,'" Denney told Slate.

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