Are DVRs actually not smart enough to record delayed shows?

We have Verizon FiOS, an all-digital phone/TV/Internet service. We use the TV part of the service once every year or two. I tried the DVR for the first time this year to record the Olympics, starting with an 8-11 block on the local NBC channel. NBC decided that things were too exciting to quit precisely at 11, but the DVR quit exactly at 11 nonetheless. Thus we missed the part of the show that NBC deemed most interesting.

How is this possible? If the TV guide is all digital and the DVR is part of the cable box, how can it not know that a show is continuing? Does this happen in general? If a football game is scheduled for 3 hours, but goes into overtime and takes 3.5 hours, does the DVR miss the most important part of the game? If so, how is it possible that this kind of system engineering has persisted?

Back in the late 1980s some friends and I built a system to monitor the broadcast of TV commercials. A digital ID code was inserted into one of the unviewable lines of the analog signal and we designed a board populated by PALs to run a phase-locked loop that synced up to the NTSC signal and pulled out the information. By distributing these boards around the U.S. and equipping them with modems, we were able to have a server with a record of which commercials had been aired in which markets and when. If it was possible in the 1980s to identify a broadcast and do something reasonably intelligent, why isn’t it possible today for the Verizon set-top box?

18 thoughts on “Are DVRs actually not smart enough to record delayed shows?

  1. Yes, every time I record a football game for my dad it stops percisely at 4:00, in the middle of the 4th quarter.

  2. The current set of DVR boxes are actually worse than those that existed 3-5 years ago. They record only according to the “menu schedule” and only 2 shows at once and some will not let you watch TV while recording and all kinds of funny limits. They are slow in executing commands like move to another channel, etc.. So if you record the Olympics or a sports event you need to “extend stop time” by 30-60 minutes to make sure you get the end of the event. But even then you can still miss the key moments if a game goes to OT and is longer by 70-90 minutes.

    The boxes have been redesigned to make it easy to sell you new channels and on demand movies and to let you watch TV shows at a later time but force you to watch the commercials.

    But that is what is sold so we are sort of stuck with it. This is why many young people are going with Hulu boxes and other services instead of buying cable….

  3. Implementing the features you describe requires DVR makers to cooperate with broadcaster. But the broadcasters hate DVR’s because consumers use them to (gasp!) skip advertisements.

    So the obvious solutions, e.g. including meta-data in the broadcast indicating when the show is actually over, isn’t going to happen.

  4. Yeah, I don’t think the broadcasters want to be very helpful here. Since they don’t broadcast this information, it would require someone on staff doing it manually, like they already do for automatic ad-skipping (Tivo). And rolling out the “new time” update to however many of DVR’s in time to catch the show might be unfeasible given their current infrastructure. (I’m sure the DVR’s just download guides/timetables from time to time).

    My usual solution is to just tack on an hour to live events, as tivo helpfully suggests automatically.

    (Though my tivo records something like 6 shows at once, not two.)

  5. This is why I don’t watch any Sunday evening shows; today’s DVR isn’t capable of recording the delayed airings and I have no interest in skipping half of the episodes or half of each episode.

    Perhaps the economic force that can be brought to bear is from the Sunday creative talent, who lose viewers thanks to the NFL. Or the NFL itself, which has negative follow through for the shows that have the misfortune of running in the post-game DVR no-record zones.

  6. It is not really true that broadcasters hate DVRs. Their research has shown that a lot of the delayed viewers do watch the commercials, and would not have watched the program live.

  7. From our point of view, the DVR vendor and the “broadcaster” are both Verizon! I understand that the video content per se originates with NBC, in the case of the Olympics, but we pay Verizon both for the delivery of the show and for the DVR.

  8. The current Verizon DVRs can record 6 channels at a time and you can set them to record both before and after the scheduled time. The other way is to simply record the shows that follow as well.

  9. My Fios box, CHS435HDC, allows (prompts) me to select an extended recording time for events such as the Olympics, which are tagged “live” in the info portion of the guide. I think it allows 15, 30 or 45 minute extensions, it’s a work around, you can also manually record for any length of time you like.

    I think what you are asking for could easily be supplied if the networks wished. They seem very adverse to having their programming being recorded, as evidenced by scheduling shows to overlap their competition by a few minutes rather than sticking with ending shows on the hour or half hour. The overlap can be a problem for boxes like mine if more than two shows air a the same time. Apparently the networks don’t like viewers skipping over excessively long commercial breaks, which I do with glee. Verizon has dvrs that will record more than 2 shows at a time, but you pay a premium for that and FIOS is already much too expensive.

  10. For a system like that to work the content originator would need to provide a signal that the broadcast is about to exceed the original schedule. That signal would then either need to be a standard or intercepted and integrated by the content provider for the DVR to recognize and act upon. But there are other factors to acting on this. Was another recording set that would then be overridden? Not to mention, as others have, the ads. Yes some people still watch commercials on DVR and content originators use the data to sell the ads, but rates for the ads change based on the number of live viewers vs DVR viewers, you can guess which is worth more.

  11. Well, your problem is that you have Verizon. Switch to Directv and your DVR will do all those things you want.

    On the other hand, if you on;y use the TV service once every year or two…why are you for it at all?

  12. Sorry for the typo….On the other hand, if you only use the TV service once every year or two…why are you paying for it at all?

  13. Jim: Why do we pay for it? Verizon FiOS pricing is so complex that we can’t figure out what anything actually costs. What we can’t live without is high-speed Internet. The way that they set up initial pricing it seemed that phone service and cable TV are not that much extra. Now the money disappears from our checking account and we don’t monitor it.

  14. Phil: Yes, that’s how they hook you. I believe Verizon Fios in your neck of the woods has 100mb option for $40.00-$50.00 per month. Add an Ooma voip phone and an Amazom Firestick (with Kodi, of course)…and you’re set.

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