Back in 2003, Time Warner began work on what it hoped would be a TiVo-killer
. It would be a centralized system that would allow people to time shift TV shows like they would with a local DVR, but all the processing and storage would be at Time Warner itself. Of course, even when this plan was first announced, many were skeptical. Other divisions within Time Warner wouldn't be happy about aiding and abetting consumers potentially skipping commercials. In fact, pressure from others eventually forced Time Warner to drastically scale back the plans
and release a much simpler service that would let some users "start over" if they happened to pick up a show after it had started. There was no fast forwarding and no commercial skipping. You could just "start over." Of course, perhaps they were just doing that to avoid the inevitable lawsuit. A few years later, Cablevision decided that it would offer a centralized DVR
and was quickly sued for doing so
. Amazingly, Cablevision lost that case
(though, there's still an appeals process).
Time Warner, then, is obviously being careful as it expands it's "start over" service. It only took the company three years to morph the start over service into the "look back" service
, that will basically let you watch any show that was broadcast earlier in the day. Of course, it only goes back one day, and you can't fast forward through the commercials. Apparently, there are still TV execs out there who think that commercial skipping isn't a key feature
of DVRs. Rather than trying to prevent popular features, wouldn't these companies be better off coming up with creative ideas
that don't involve pissing off customers?