Digital Video Recorder (DVR)

Digital Video Recorders (DVR’s) record digitally, to disk or flash memory, rather than analog recording to tape. This allows end-users to quickly fast-forward, rewind, and jump to a section of a recording rather than slowly searching.

Tivo and ReplayTV both launched DVR’s at the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show. As they did with videotapes, broadcasters and content owners reviled the new technology.

At first, ReplayTV contained more features, an ability to skip commercials with the click of one button and “share” content with other players. Subsequently, litigation shut those down.

However, commercial-skipping has since become a common use of DVR’s and content makers reworked their monetization strategy to focus less on mandatory commercial breaks. Presently, many content producers sell shows to commercial-free networks, including HBO, Netflix, and Amazon. Others place commercials on-screen or for use as props in shows.

Tivo was initially more successful despite high prices and a reputation for abysmal customer service. Eventually, neither DVR maker did especially well. ReplayTV shut down in 2011 and TV guide company Rovi purchased Tivo in 2016. “Tivo, which still exists, just got bought for $1.1 billion,” read a headline at the time.

Cable companies introduced DVR functionality in their own cable set-top boxes that they own, install, and rent. However, the rise in video streaming is quickly eliminating the need for a cable box.

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