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All You TiVo Fiends, Read Up

Get an eyeful of this:

AOL Time Warner is introducing a personal video recording service where the only true word in that sentence may be "video." May be.

To me, the most interesting aspects of this article are twofold: first, AOL Time Warner recognizes that although personal video recorders don't have a huge market share among television watchers, it's not like it's possible to brainwash the 700,000 of us who do have them and turn back the clock to the Beginning Time when everyone apparently waited around the television set for the broadcast gods to favor us with Must See TV. I suspect Jack Valenti is currently entertaining memos on that possibility, but it's refreshing to see that Jamie Kellner's stomping grounds have moved on.

But then AOL Time Warner completely misses the point as to why PVRs are popular -- because they let people watch what they want on demand and store recordings for later. This new service, Mystro (which, by the way, sounds like a B-string evil mutant in X-Men:2), will apparently offer some of the technology and none of the convenience: it's a subscription service that offers a limited selection of shows for recording, it prevents its subscribers from making, storing, or sharing copies of the recordings, and if the pictures and promotional CD-ROM are to be believed, it also adds advertisements on the screen.

Wow, a subscription service that offers no competitive advantage over TiVo and doesn't let me make recordings? Where do I sign up?

In a way, this reminds me of the furor that's surrounded -- and continues to surround -- the whole MP3/streaming music/subscription service thing on the Web. Instead of asking themselves, "How can we use this technology to cultivate new properties that could open revenue streams?" -- see also the recent CNN article on how many box-office bombs do well in the video store because two different audiences, the curious and the embarrassed, rent like crazy there -- they're all, "How can we ignore the technology that seems custom-made to accommodating acquisitive, independent customers?"

And people wonder why radio listening, runaway CD purchasing, and broadcast television ratings have plunged?


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