Time Warner (TWC) Pseudo-DVR: Free! An Upselling Tool!


As the NYT reported yesterday, Time Warner is rolling out a fancy new extra with its digital cable service: 1/3rd of a DVR.  The new feature, will give you a glimpse of the joys of a DVR–along with a full view of annoyance.  Specifically, the service will allow you to watch shows later on the same day that they are broadcast.

Unfortunately, it won’t:

  • Keep shows until you want to watch them.
  • Fast forward (i.e., through ads).

The company rightly points out that the ability to fast-forward through ads is not the only feature that consumers love about DVRs.  They also love the time-shifting: The ability to watch your shows when you want to watch them.

Alas, the new “Look Back” service won’t allow consumers to watch shows when they want to watch them.  It will mostly allow consumers to watch shows after they would otherwise have gone to bed (most of the shows consumers want to watch, presumably, are prime-time shows).  And the no-fast-forward feature means that consumers will have to waste the full half-hour or hour watching each show, instead of the convenient 20-minutes and 40 minutes you can edit them down to by skipping ads, credits, and intro.

In other words, Time Warner’s new service is not about consumers, it’s about Time Warner.  The hope, presumably, is that 1) you won’t sign up for TiVo, thus cutting Time Warner out of the loop twice (on ads and DVR), 2) you will watch more TV, because now you can watch shows that you missed while you were watching other shows, 3) you won’t skip ads (because you can’t!), and 4) you will be so annoyed by the limitations of your 1/3 DVR that you’ll sign up for the full one at $10ish a month!  (And as SAI’s Dan Frommer points out, TWC will already have replaced the box to get you the 1/3rd DVR service, so they’ll be able to upgrade you by flicking switch).

But let us close by giving Time Warner some credit.  First, if the feature is really free, then whatever.  Second, as annoying as this DVR-response sounds, it’s light years less pathetic than NBC’s, which is to gather scientific proof that skipped ads are as effective as watched ads, your scoffs notwithstanding.

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