Time Warner To Launch Various Crippled DVR-esque Services

Time Warner is launching a service that works sort of like a DVR, but doesn’t let you fast-forward—or skip the ads.

It’s a Video-On-Demand service called “Start Over” because all you can do is “start over.”

It’ll work with your DVR, with the following conditions from TWC: “You will not be able to use the Fast-Forward keys on a program you started over, and you will not be able to start a recording of a show that you have started over and conversely, you may not “Start Over” a program, you have previously set up as a DVR Recording.”
From DSL reports:

As the name indicates, the service only lets you start programs over — while content is still stored remotely. The service won’t let you fast-forward through ads and only works for “selected” shows and channels, according to Time Warner.

The company is also launching a new service in South Carolina this October called “Look Back,” which allows subscribers to watch previously broadcast episodes of popular TV series. This service, too, makes sure that you can’t fast-forward through ads in order to placate broadcasters, and only lets you view programs from that day.

It’s free. Will you give up your DVR for this? Do we hear laughing?

Time Warner Redefines the DVR [DSL Reports]


Edit Your Comment

  1. boandmichele says:

    bye bye dual tuner tivo, hello crap!

  2. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    F that I will keep my DVR..I hardly watch any “live” tv anymore I record everything I want to see so I can fast forward thru the ad’s.

  3. beyond says:

    My VCR records all shows and all the buttons work.

  4. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Wow sounds like a good deal. I have this crappy Tivo dual tuner with lifetime subscription that I have been dying to get rid of. I miss the DiTech guy you know?

  5. Buran says:

    Uh huh. They’re going to drive people straight to TiVo if they don’t offer real DVRs as an alternative.

  6. Buran says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: See your DT TiVo and raise you a series 3 with lifetime. ;)

  7. HeyThereKiller says:

    its amazing that even amongst monopolistic cable companies, there are completely different ideologies about DVR…

    I wish that Cablevision was able to go ahead with its plan to store every piece of media to ever be broadcasted on its servers and allow customers to view from that… ultimate on demand!

  8. Hawk07 says:

    They had that for a while in my area. I guess we were a test market.

    Anyways, at first I thought maybe I had a hidden hard drive in my cable box and somehow TW screwed up and activated DVR services that I didn’t pay for. Turns out it was this new service since I checked and there was definitely no hard drive in my cable box.

    It’s nice and works for non-DVR people like me. But, it’s kind of a PITA since you can’t fast forward.

  9. etinterrapax says:

    Yeah, no. But maybe if I hadn’t gotten TiVo last year, this would placate me for a little while longer. Now it’s just not enough.

  10. Anitra says:

    I already have a “free” DVR – it’s a PC (with a cable tuner) running Windows Media Center. No subscription fees necessary, just maintenance & upgrades. It can’t handle our HD channels, but the fidelity is low enough that we’d only watch HD for live broadcasts anyway.

    What’s the purpose of a service that only lets you “start over”? If you can’t even pause it and continue, why would anyone want this? It just becomes time-shifted live TV. I’m not interested.

  11. yg17 says:

    I see your DT TiVO and raise you a Dual Tuner custom-built PVR with no monthly subscription and the ability to quickly upgrade the hard drive without any necessary hacks.

  12. Anitra says:

    clarification: I meant to say that the DVR’s fidelity is low enough that we wouldn’t bother recording HD channels.

  13. boandmichele says:

    @yg17: i have a spare PC, and have been thinking about this. what do i need, and where should i start?

  14. FreemanB says:

    Where does it say that they are replacing normal DVR service with this? It looks like another form of On-Demand service from the description. It sounds to me like a different service that you can use regardless of whether or not you have a DVR, not a replacement for them.

    As for the purpose, have you ever found something you wanted to watch, but then realized that it was already half-over? This service gives you the chance to watch it from the beginning. The broadcasters put the stipulation that you couldn’t FF through the ads, not TWC. I don’t think it is a service I would pay for, but I wouldn’t turn it down if they offered it for free.

  15. Youthier says:

    I have a series 2 and I pay a monthly fee and I still wouldn’t switch for this crap.

  16. yg17 says:

    @boandmichele: A TV tuner card and some PVR software. There are a million options out there for both. I have an NVidia dual tuner card and Windows XP Media Center. But really, there are a ton of options, I’d recommend doing a bit of googling to find what fits you best

  17. rmz says:

    Since it’s free, there’s not much to complain about, but if they think that people are going to switch from their TiVos for this, I think they’re dreaming.

  18. bambino says:

    @Buran: TWC does offer DVRs.

  19. boandmichele says:

    @yg17: i tried, but i didnt really know what to google. now i do, and thanks!

  20. nucleotide says:

    Ya, there’s a “prime” example of copyright promoting “innovation” and delivering the “best” solution for the consumer.

  21. hoo_foot says:

    I think I’ll stick to torrents.

  22. timmus says:

    The sad fact is with enough glitzy marketing, they’ll be able to unload it on millions of poor schmucks. Consumers have a knack for buying truly bad products if there’s enough advertising and PR.

  23. Jim says:

    Why don’t more companies come up with ideas like this? I mean, I can’t think of a better model than introducing half-ass “technological improvements”, years after many competitors have surpassed them, especially if it mainly focuses on protecting large corporate entities rather than individual customers.

    Maybe Vonage or someone can take a page from this and provide free rotary phones and party lines for all its customers and redeem themselves!

  24. joopiter says:

    If it’s truly for free and is not the direction that they’re taking their actual DVRs in, I can see where it may be useful to those people who aren’t interested in paying extra for a DVR. But I think it might be a bit more useful if you could choose to rewind to, say, the last commercial break instead of just completely starting over for those instances when you missed part of the show (phone call, knock at the door, etc.) and only want to watch the five minutes you missed and not all the way from the beginning.

    That said, I’m not giving up my DVR anytime soon.

  25. lestat730 says:

    that is just never going to work out in the long run….

  26. V-effekt says:

    I purchased a portable DVR from Archos and never looked back. I can program anything, then take it upstairs, over to a friends, or watch it on the go. It even works for both NTSC and PAl and since I travel internationally.. bonus! When it gets full (at 80 GB rarely, I can download the shows to my other hard drive)

  27. Broncobri5 says:

    I worked for Time Warner for a couple years, and if they are buying the hard drive space for pennies it will cost us an extra $3.00 / month. I am sure that this was released to appease advertisers not for any benefit to the customer.

  28. Buran says:

    @yg17: Last I checked MythTV didn’t support closed captioning. Or CableCard. Myth loses.

  29. Buran says:

    @hoo_foot: Not exactly legal, and not captioned.

  30. Echodork says:

    After owning a TiVo, I will never watch commercials again. Never, not ever.

    If I want to watch a program on live TV, I pause it for 15 minutes and come back later just so I can skip the commercials. It’s worth it.

  31. bohemian says:

    Why would I want this? We have on demand for free, tons of video available for download and we should have the PC based DVR finished soon.

    Shacking up with a computer geek has its perks. But I also have a full server rack in my basement. :-(

  32. axiomatic says:

    FACT: As long as there is a choice to use something else, this will not sell.

  33. stpauliegirl says:

    My parents aren’t really handy with “the gadgets,” so I could see them trying this out. But after having a DVR for years (currently ReplayTV with a huge-ass computer hard drive in it), I’d never settle for this crap.

  34. JustAGuy2 says:

    This is a free additional service. It’s not designed to replace the DVR in any way, shape, or form.

    The market for this is:

    1. people who don’t own DVRs, either because they don’t need them, don’t understand them, or don’t want to pay a monthly fee for one, pay to purchase one, or both.

    2. people with DVRs who realize “wow, I would have liked to watch XYZ, but I forgot to set my DVR to record it, and now it’s half over (or was broadcast earlier today).”

    Is this the Holy Grail of TV viewing? No. Is it kind of a neat feature? Yeah.

  35. martymefurst says:

    People are totally missing the point here. Whether you have a DVR or not, how many times have you flipped through the channels looking for something to watch and finally hit something good when it’s already ten minutes in progress? This “crippled” feature has been phenomenally popular wherever it’s available. It’s my feeling that people who own DVRs will probably use this the most.

  36. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @JustAGuy2: Did you take your Time Warner shirt off before or after you typed that?
    The market for this is:
    3. People who are too stupid to operate DVRs, so who cares?

    Turn around and bend over for some more “free additional service” :D

  37. pestie says:

    @Buran: MythTV “loses” because it doesn’t support CableCard? ‘Cause I was planning on just not having cable once I finish my MythTV setup. No need for CableCard when you don’t need cable, right? It may not be as good as never watching TV, but at least I won’t be paying for the privilige of being ass-raped by the cable/satellite companies.

    As for closed captioning, that, at least, could be added to MythTV in the future. CableCard probably never will be – at least not legally.

  38. GearheadGeek says:

    What a load of whining pricks!

    THIS DOES NOT REPLACE A DVR. TW would much rather you used your DVR (that’s why you can’t use StartOver on a program you’re recording, it’s less load on their system if you watch it from your local DVR, which you can do while it’s in progress, AND you can fast-forward through commercials that way.)

    THIS FEATURE DOESN’T COST EXTRA. No one has to use it. If you’d rather not see the beginning of your favorite show when you get home 15 minutes into it, fine, go pound sand.

    The reason you can’t fast-forward is that few of the content providers would agree to let TW offer StartOver if the customers could fast-forward through the commercials. The reason you can’t get StartOver on all channels is that some of the content providers won’t agree to it all (on some channels) and TW thinks the demand isn’t low enough for them to stage the content on their servers for streaming in other cases.

    TW loves to provide you with a DVR and charge you for it. StartOver is something they came up with to offer as an “extra” using equipment they already had in place for video on demand, and I’m sure some people will think it’s a great feature. I used it a few times when I was in a TW market (ours was one of the pilot markets for the product, and a good friend of mine works for TW which is why I know how it came into being.)

    Keep your Tivo. Keep your TW DVR. Keep using your homebuilt PVR or your commercial computer with MediaCenter. If you’re in a TW market that offers StartOver and you have a DCT (with or without DVR) you’ll occasionally see the option to “Start Over” displayed when you tune a channel, and if you don’t want to it won’t make you.

  39. dbeahn says:

    I’ll keep my DVR, but if I didn’t have a DVR and didn’t want to PAY for a DVR, I’d take this service for free. There have been a few times I clicked over to a new channel and wished I could have gone back to the beginning of whatever show was on.

  40. FLConsumer says:

    I’m running a PC-based, dual-tuner SageTV system here. One tuner is connected directly to the CATV line, the other is connected to the BrightHouse (fmrly Time Wanker) HDTV/digital cable box and controls that.

    Not sure if the other DVR options out there support this, but the neatest thing about SageTV is its ability to learn what you like to watch then record programs similar to it automatically. They also have a very slick remote-viewing feature which I use when I’m on the road. I don’t watch much TV, but the system currently has over 500 hours of TV programs recorded.

    I had originally bought Sage because I was looking for a DVR-type program to record the various newscasts I like to watch (Deutche Welle, BBC, CBC, local 6pm, CBS Sunday Morning) and they either hit at the same time or hit at a time I was stuck in traffic. Including the newscasts, I probably only watch 14 hrs a week, and most of that’s while doing other things…which makes the whole DVR even handier — being able to pause/rewind. THere’s also a rather nice plug-in for Sage which automatically deletes the commercials.

    And yes, no monthly fees. It’s a beautiful thing.

  41. LTS! says:

    Where’s the damn comment police on this thread? There are more posts that are clueless about the Start Over service and the Look Back service that they are testing out than should be allowed.

    Of course the piling on would occur since Meg was so completely unbiased and full of great facts about the service. Look at the headline… it makes a comparison to DVR service, which this is not. It is a live television service, not a recording service.

    If you were watching live TV, and tuned to a station, I don’t care WHAT other technology you have you can’t go back in time and play it from the beginning. Tivo, DVR, VCR, etc. You can’t do it. This provides the ability for the LIVE television viewer to start the show over and watch it. If you were watching LIVE television then you would not be able to skip the ads anyway, so why is this a problem?

    If you don’t like ads, then you probably don’t watch live television in which case this is not a service you need to concern yourself with, but here’s the best part.. it’s FREE anyway.

    The Look Back service is more like a DVR but allows the customer to find a show that aired that day and start it. Still something your Tivo and other DVR cannot do.

    Why are we reaming TWC here? What would you rather have them do? They aren’t allowed to create ad skipping DVRs, TWC is not making money from the advertisers (other than local ads) they are making money from subscribers. Content producers make money from advertisements.

    There really is nothing worse than uninformed consumers and posts like this do very little to help educate the masses. Rather than jumping on the slam cable bandwagon perhaps you should be a little more unbiased in what you report because it appears the lemmings are ready to jump of the cliff with you.

    But as long as it generates the hits.. who cares right?

  42. Nick986 says:

    We already have a service like that on my HD DVR from Time Warner here in the SC…it’s not that exciting since it doesn’t work 1/2 the time.

  43. badgeman46 says:

    There is this wonderful device that I have that allows you to fast forward through commercials, with no subscription fees and it costs $50. ITS CALLED A VCR! For the amount you pay for one of those DVR over a year, you could have like five VCRs!!! And you actually own the VCR!!!

    I’ve said it before, If you buy into anything with DRM or that you do not have a physical, tangiable copy of, you are a sucker!

  44. JustAGuy2 says:


    You have a VCR. That’s great, glad you like it. For me, the ability to have season passes, record in High Def, and record a lot more content, available instantly, without checking “which tape was that on” makes it worth paying the fee. I ditched my VCR about 5 years ago and never looked back.

    As to not having a physical, tangible, copy, I really don’t care about that for TV shows, since 99% of the time I’m happy to delete it after watching it, and the other 1% of the time, I can buy it on DVD.

  45. Brad2723 says:

    Wow! Talk about your value-added services. Why am I supposed to want one of these?

  46. skechada says:

    @GearheadGeek: Way to call it out dude. You’re exactly right.

    Seeing so many people shit all over what is essentially a free upgrade to their (admittedly otherwise mediocre) cable service really makes me question the validity of other posts and threads here.

    Is this a consumer advocate site and forum, or just another semi-anonymous internet whinefest about (Big Company + change = OH NOES!)?

    If you want to complain about Time Warner, complain about their lackluster DVR hardware, the anti-intuitive software/menu system on those boxes (in most markets, anyway), the inconsistency in your internet service, or lack of customer service.

    But don’t complain about a free add-on service that increases its value proposition as a consumer.

  47. dragon:ONE says:

    Yay! More crap Time Warner shoves down its “advanced fiber network!”

    [warning, rant]
    But seriously, I have TWC Digital Cable (but no DVR.) They stuck us with a piece of CRAP Explorer 2000.

    It’s sloooooooow to do anything on the box. Just turning it on takes 5 to 10 seconds. The guide lags, and the new “Access Menu” (where you access these kind of functions, plus the Caller ID for Digital Phone, etc.) makes it even slower!

    Even the on-demand is slow when they load up one channel with about 50 different menus for diffrent shows with about 15 shows in each menu.

    Yup, so more innovations with their “advanced fiber network”.

    Advanced fiber network my ass.

  48. synergy says:

    @beyond: Ditto!