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Is Look Back Service Network DVR?

Time Warner Cable announced this week that it’s taking the Look Back service out of field trials and into general availability. Close kin to Time Warner’s Start Over service, Look Back lets subscribers catch shows they may have missed up to three days after an original airing. The MSO is launching Look Back with 48 initial channels, 24 in SD, and 24 in HD. Included in the line-up are ABC and NBC, but not CBS or Fox. Notable cable channels include USA, CNBC, MSNBC, Showtime, and the Discovery Network.

Interestingly, the Time Warner Start Over service requires pretty heavy-duty ingest capabilities because the operator has take in the live program broadcast and spit it back out again immediately in unicast streams every time a “start over” request comes in. It’s not clear (to me) if the Look Back service carries the same burden, or if it’s essentially a VOD agreement with several networks to make their programs available for a period of time after airing. There’s no specific mention of starting a Look Back show while it’s still in live broadcast (say 15 minutes into the program), so this may very well be a VOD extension. But how should we really define these types of services now? We’re treading ever closer into network DVR territory where DVR and VOD merge. Is Look Back a form of VOD? DVR? nDVR? The lines are certainly blurring.

2 Responses

  1. The lines are definitely getting blurry, but no its not network DVR. Since they only offer it for channels with whom they have carrier agreements, they can record only a single copy of the show, which is a lot less burden than they’d have if they had to record a separate copy for every user who requested it. Which they’d have to do if they wanted to record a show on a channel they don’t have an agreement with, assuming they follow the current legal rulings.

    I assume the 3 day retention period (for now) is due to both the Nielsen ratings definitions and the way ads are paid for if they’re run within 3 days. Or something like that. Anyway, its a start.

    Interesting to see who lines up where… NBC and FOX allows TV rentals on Apple TV. ABC and NBC allow lookback. Netflix says they can’t deploy on Android because of the lack of DRM technology. Verizon ships their VOD app for Android but not one for iPhone. All very checkerboard and weird.

  2. […] from eight to 16 channels for VOD. That’s due in part to growing VOD catalogs, and in part to new experiments with network-based DVR delivery. In short, there’s growth happening in every direction, and it’s all fueled by insatiable […]

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