MPAA Loses Again
The Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear an appeal from the MPAA, thus letting stand a lower court ruling that Cablevision’s new remote DVR technology does not constitute a “retransmission” of the programming and thus require additional fees.
The new DVR service would work by storing a viewer’s recordings in computers housed at the cable operator, rather than in a box attached to the viewer’s TV set, making it easier and cheaper for cable and phone companies to offer a recording service. The court said Monday it wouldn’t disturb a federal appeals court ruling that the technology doesn’t violate copyright laws.
Cablevision has said it would launch the service as soon as this summer. Spokesmen for other pay-TV companies, includingInc. and Inc., said they are looking into using such a technology but declined to comment on when they might do so.
The decision is likely to accelerate adoption of DVRs in the U.S., potentially eating into ad revenue at TV networks. As a group, people watching recorded shows on DVRs fast-forward past more than half the commercials, according to network and advertising executives. That makes DVR viewers less valuable to networks selling ad time than the viewers who watch shows live.
But DVR viewers also watch more TV, some network executives say, making an argument for a potential upside to broader DVR penetration. The technology was already in 30% of the U.S. households with televisions as of May, according to Nielsen Co.
That last part is certainly right. With the advent of DVR technology, combined with the ability to watch older shows via Netflix and/or Roku, I spend less time watching television and but see more programming. Indeed, I’m at the point where I find even fast-forwarding through commercials an annoyance.
I’m not at all enthusiastic about having the cable companies, who are in bed with the TV networks, in control of my programming and can’t imagine switching to that sort of service. Yes, having a massive on-demand inventory of current shows would be a boon. But my strong guess is that, in short order, they’ll make it difficult or impossible to skip commercials.