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AOL’s Time Warner’s New “Mystro TV” To Compete With TiVo Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 March 2003
According to The New York Times, AOL Time-Warner is going to launch a TiVo competitor, called Mystro TV, for its vast cable service. The AOL Time-Warner service reportedly allows TV networks to insert ads while TiVo let viewers skip spots with the simple click of a fast-forward button. With Mystro, TV companies would have far more power to decide which programs are recordable and which ones are not. With TiVo and ReplayTV, the service has no say (nor do they really care) what you record.

An AudioRevolution.com study in the fall of 2002 showed that of over 16,500 participants, only two percent had TiVo or another variety of PVR (personal video recorder). However, those who did have TiVo loved it and couldn’t imagine living without it. Cable systems have recently been delivering cable boxes with PVRs built in that are a small part of a customer’s monthly bill, which allows the providers control over your equipment. The problem is that the service, in the form that AOL’s Mystro TV is reportedly planning to launch, is restrictive in terms skipping commercials and intrusive in terms of adding commercials. Nothing has been confirmed as to whether AOL Time-Warner will make acceptance of such outside control mandatory, but if they do, privacy-oriented viewers may start looking to satellite options. Currently, satellite TV makes up about 20 percent of the pay-TV market.

The topic of switching a consumer’s equipment is going to be a hot one in coming years. While DirecTV will force you to change out your access card periodically to protect the company from piracy, far more is on the horizon. As HDTV signals and recorders become more mainstream, digital cable and satellite providers are going to need consumers to upgrade their hardware in order to provide encrypted content. Advantages could include an all-digital video path from your cable or satellite directly to your digital video source (plasma, DLP or D-ILA projector) without any analog to digital conversion, which will result in a picture that is clearly superior, even when comparing one HDTV signal to another. Another advantage could be the ability to record HDTV, which is nearly impossible with the technology that is commercially available today. The downside is that if the paranoid entertainment industry gets too carried away trying to impose its will on a headstrong U.S. television audience who loves their TiVo, the studios and networks will see one heck of a backlash.

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