[LINK] Is the PVR dead?

David Boxall david.boxall at hunterlink.net.au
Mon Oct 10 10:32:28 AEDT 2011

Will on-demand kill the PVR? Will online kill broadcast?
"Aussies only watch 22 hours of TV per week...". Only?

October 10, 2011 - 9:40AM
Do we care about broadcast television anymore?

A few weeks ago, I asked whether the search for the dream PVR was a 
fool’s quest. There were plenty of opinions, with a fair bit of support 
for MythTV. But a few people made it clear that their viewing habits 
have evolved beyond merely time-shifting free-to-air content with a PVR 
to true on-demand viewing (legit or otherwise). It got me wondering if 
the PVR was really on the way out.

At first glance, asking if the Personal Video Recorder is dead seems 
like a stupid question, especially considering mainstream Australia is 
only just discovering the magic of PVRs thanks to the digital 
switchover. But the fact is that Australia’s viewing habits are changing.

Aussies only watch 22 hours of TV per week, according to OzTAM 
television ratings, compared to 28 hours in the UK and 34 in the US. 
Meanwhile Australians are some of the highest users of BitTorrent in the 
world, downloading pirate copies of movies and television shows. There's 
certainly a correlation between the way Australian networks treat 
viewers and our use of BitTorrent.

The rise of legitimate Catch Up TV options will continue to eat away at 
free-to-air audience numbers and could even win a few people away from 
BitTorrent. The ABC’s iView is slowly coming to more devices, while the 
BBC’s iPlayer has hit Australian iPads and may expand to other devices.

These days it’s rarely necessary to put up with the pain of commercial 
free-to-air television in order to watch your favourite shows, even new 
shows such as Terra Nova (pictured). Thanks to high-speed internet, 
people now watch what the want when they want, rather than whatever the 
networks feel like dishing up. The NBN rollout will see this trend grow.

My key reason for favouring a PVR over Catch Up TV is picture quality 
as, on a big widescreen television, most Catch Up TV services can’t 
match the picture quality of even standard-def digital broadcasts. It’s 
not just a question of resolution, it’s also a question of compression. 
This will improve over time if Sony's excellent Bravia Internet Service 
is anything to go by.

Often the only way to access broadcast quality video online is via 
BitTorrent. Actually it’s often better than what Australia calls 
broadcast quality, especially considering Australian networks have 
turned their backs on HD broadcasting. I know a few people who download 
Doctor Who in HD, for example, because they refuse to watch the ABC’s 
standard-def broadcasts while the ABC’s high-def channel is wasted on 24 
hour news. It’s not hard to create yourself a BitTorrent seasons pass 
using RSS, so new episodes automagically download each week.

What do you think? Will Video on Demand eventually kill off the humble 
PVR? What's holding us back?

David Boxall                    |  My figures are just as good
                                |  as any other figures.
http://david.boxall.id.au       |  I make them up myself, and they
                                |  always give me innocent pleasure.
                                |                     --HL Mencken

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