Sociologists and consumer behavior analysts who study television viewing trends have all remarked on radical changes in the last decade in how viewers access content and what content they are particularly interested in. This trend has been commonly referred to as “prosumerism.” Consumers are increasingly driving the products that are introduced onto the marketplace — even by large industry players, such as Amazon and Netflix. And, the highly touted new product — the Cloud DVR — clearly dovetails with this “prosumerism” trend.
The Sheer Volume of Great Programming
Little more than a generation ago, people’s television choices were severely limited — people had to choose between the programs that were on ABC, NBC, or CBS. And, although some people are loathe to admit this, the choices were not always good. The launch of a large number of cable stations dramatically increased viewers’ choices. However, it is only in the last few years that a large number of these stations have launched high quality, original programming, such as: House of Cards on Netflix, Game of Thrones on HBO, and The Walking Dead on AMC.
Most television consumers have applauded this increase in options. But, it has forced people to make hard decisions — many programs are on at the same time. And this leaves viewers who want to stay up-to-date with their favorite programs in a quandary.
DVRs Were the First Step in Resolving This Quandary
The introduction of DVRs — digital video recorders — helped resolved part of this problem. DVRs allowed individuals to record a program — or even two — and to watch these programs at a later, more convenient time. Not only did DVRs help television addicts who could not choose between programs, they also helped people with packed schedules who were not always able to commit to a specific time on a specific day of the week.
Even though DVRs were a good first step, it was an incomplete solution at best.
The Flaws of the Old School DVRs
There were numerous weaknesses or flaws with DVRs. Principally, most DVRs will only allow an individual to record two programs at a time (and, if you are watching one program live, then you can only record one program). This means that true television addicts will still need to make choices. And, at the same time, DVRs also have limited storage. This means that people will often have to clear out their storage — if there are lots of programs that you watch, then you will not be able to save programs indefinitely. This again raises questions about decisions and preferences.
So How Can These Limitations Be Addressed
The Cloud DVR is the latest attempt to resolve these limitations. Unlike traditional DVRs that store content at a viewer’s own DVR box, the Cloud DVR stores data (in terms of movies and television programs) at the provider’s own datacenter. This resolves storage concerns and opens up a whole new range of choices for the dedicated television viewer.
Although almost all content services, such as SlingTV and Hulu TV, offer cloud DVR options. However, each of these cloud options varies — and these variations may make it challenging for consumers to make a choice.
For example, Hulu offers all of its users 50 hours of free DVR recordings per month. For $15 per month, a user can purchase an additional 200 hours of storage. The downside, however, of Hulu’s cloud DVR is that the service’s basic users (those who do not pay for add-on service) cannot fast forward through frustrating commercials. This is a feature that many DVR users are definitely looking for — and the inability to skip ads may make some users reluctant to sign up for these cloud DVRs.
On the other hand, Sling TV does not offer free options. Instead, Sling charges its users $5 per month for 50 hours of storage — and, at the moment, it does not offer more expanded storage options. Although many users comment favorably on the Playstation Vue cloud DVR offering, it too has certain drawbacks. The principal negative for this offering is that it only allows users to store content for 28 days. After that point, content is erased—and this time constraint can be frustrating for some users.
The Privacy Concern
As concerns grow about hackers — both foreign and domestic — some cloud DVR skeptics have expressed concern about all programs being stored in a single location (versus the remote storage that now happens). However, even a hack of the centralized storage would likely not yield significant amounts of consumer data (other than viewing preferences). Therefore, even though it is a concern, it should not be enough to dissuade people from trying out cloud DVRs.
DVRs were the first step in offering viewing options to television consumers who felt overwhelmed with their programming choices and were simply not able to watch everything that they wanted to. However, DVRs — although representing a significant technological step forward — are not perfect. They have certain limitations. Users can only record a certain number of programs at a time and they also have limited storage. Cloud DVRs, on the other hand, address many of these concerns. However, it is important to note that cloud DVRs are not a universal product — each company that offers cloud DVRs as part of its service package has slightly different benefits or drawbacks, ranging from cost to storage size. Therefore, users need to think about their preferences when making decisions.
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