FCC Chairman, Michael Powell, recently referred to TiVo as "Gods Machine." I am sure that the movie industry felt the same way about the VCR when it burst upon the movie lovers' and couch potato scene more than twenty years ago. Broadcasters and their program suppliers have had almost total control over how consumers view their products since the dawn of television. Now this level of consumer control is like a Goliath with significant others, because it has made it more difficult for the manufacturers to effectively market PVRs (personal video recorders). There is also the matter of the Digital Video Recorder War, a battle of borders that beg to be defined.
The war is divided into two camps: the TiVo and its competitor, Sonicblue, which is the maker of ReplayTV. The question is which will come to dominate the future of digital video recorders and, perhaps, the future of television itself. Some analysts predict that in the next five years there will be tens of millions of DVRs which will allow users to watch television in a way that will give network programmers permanent apoplexy. Complicating this digital utopia of freedom (and vengeance is mine sayeth the consumer) is the loss of ad revenue by the media companies and it is here where the product war enters, but not laughing.
The two rivals have poured salt into the proverbial wound by taking divergent approaches in their attitudes towards content companies. TiVo has been accommodating the firms, teaming up with broadcasters and advertisers to offer special TiVo-only "advertainment." Meanwhile back at the ranch, Sonicblue has added features to its DVR that are so offensive to media companies that several have banded together to do what Americans do best: sue ReplayTV into shame-on-you oblivion. (If there is such a place, its nowhere near the digital utopia mentioned earlier!) Sonic blue claims that its features are only there because consumers want them and that the networks lawsuit is actually increasing Sonicblues popularity. (Isn't that annoying?)
Regardless of what the future may bring, one thing is for sure: The TiVo is, and others of its ilk are, here to stay. Just as 45rpm, 78rpm and long playing records have passed into musical history since CDs and DVDs have found their way into the recording industry, so, soon I am afraid, the dusty shelf will have to make room for the VCR of days gone by. I still don't understand what will replace the tangibility of a tape, but then I guess I dont have to. Cheer up, though. Until all this shifting happens, we can all find some other use for those tapes. I only have about a thousand in my personal library. How about a bonfire?
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