I’m scanning my media news this morning and I see an item titled “Cablevision to Offer Tivo-Like Service.” Sigh. It’s so sad to watch a great idea, and a pretty good execution, fade right in front of your eyes, as pale imitators create “Tivo-like” services.
The problem with this, as I’ve ranted before (in a previous 2.0 column that I swear I am about two days from posting here), is that while TiVo puts its intelligence at the edge of the cable network, ostensibly under your control, the cable company boxes have opaque, client-server architectures, owned and controlled by the cable system. In other words, they decide what you can fast forward, record, cut and paste (well, you can’t do that anyway), etc. It’s a terrible, closed system, and because cable companies are monopolies, for the most part, there’s not much to be done about it. It’s Larry Lessig’s worst nightmare (and mine too).
And how might the cable companies handle their newly found control over your PVR? Well, here’s a hint from Tom Rutledge, president of cable operations for Cablevision: “We didn’t think it was a good idea (to add PVRs to the system) and didn’t want to do it,” Rutledge said. In other words, we are with the MPAA and the content industry on this one, and are only doing this because the market is asking for it. Endgame: If you get a cable PVR, expect the keys to be in someone else’s hands. My suggestion: go satellite and buy a TiVo. This year might be your last chance.