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AOL will launch TiVo-like Mystro service 172

Posted by Hemos
from the playing-catch-up dept.
Jason1729 writes "According to this article on Yahoo, AOL is launching its on version of a PVR service. The content will be stored at the cable provider and not in the local hardware. That seems to be a huge disadvantage because it will use a lot more cable bandwidth transfering the content for a single viewer. It sounds like they're doing it that way so they can restrict which shows you can use the service with (like lock out new episodes of network shows)."
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AOL will launch TiVo-like Mystro service

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  • Why this could work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brento (26177) <brento AT brentozar DOT com> on Monday March 31, 2003 @07:58AM (#5630706) Homepage
    If AOL truly does it right and makes it 100% server-side, what do they put as a "decoder box" in your living room? Why not offer PC software so that you can access your Mystro account from anywhere, and watch your shows? I'd be all over that - being able to set up my laptop on the road in a hotel with high-speed internet and not have to suffer with the hotel's lousy cable.
    • by Blackneto (516458) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:04AM (#5630732) Journal
      Your idea has merit, but I think the whole idea of it stinks. While it may not be different than ppv or movies on demand I can see people shying away because of account issues.
      It has that Divx (not the codec) feel to it. Just not quite right.
    • by telstar (236404)
      Last time a TimeWarner cable guy came out to service my cablebox he mentioned things like this. He said that the credit-card slot on the front of my cable box would one-day be used to allow you to "bring your service with you" when you went on the road. While this has advantages, it also has disadvantages. As of now, there's no standard format for the cable-box credit card data. Also, while you bring your service with you, Timmy is at home and can't watch his favorite Disney movie for the 30th time beca
  • by matthew.thompson (44814) <<matt> <at> <actuality.co.uk>> on Monday March 31, 2003 @07:58AM (#5630708) Journal
    It's interesting to note that this is where TiVo started out - the original project the TiVo pioneers worked on was the HSN cable network which offered exactly these features.

    Meanwhile over in the UK we were promised similar features years ago but because our cable providers are cash strapped at the moment they've not yet appeared.

  • by mikeophile (647318) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:02AM (#5630721)
    Seriously, other than the waste of bandwidth, how is this better than a Tivo?
    • by Nakago4 (576970) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:16AM (#5630760)
      Actually.. its worse than TiVo. The cable operator has to secure the rights to the show or they won't offer it to be viewed from this service. And they also said that the service may insert commercials into the replays. And the time you'll be able to rewatch a show is surely limited on the cable provider's side since they won't keep a show available to rewatch forever.

      Any way you look at it TiVo is a much better choice. You can record whaterver program you like, you can fast forward through any part of the show,(and commercials) and you can keep your favorite episodes as long as you want.

      This service is doomed to failure.
      • Whilst I wish it were doomed to failure, there's always the tried and trusted "embrace and extend" strategy.

        AOLTW can undercut TiVo massively with this device, so that customers who don't know about TiVo's benefits and only pay attention to the price tag will lap it up (TiVo is a niche market geek-centric machine after all). If they're clever with their marketing, they can quickly build up a huge user base, especially given they already have direct access to hundreds of AOL subscribers.

        Remember, the ignor
      • Also, there's the bandwidth issue. If the recorded programs are stored on the server, then the viewer is at the whims of the transmission speed - and it's doubtful that you could get the same quality video I can get with a DirecTV/Tivo that records Dolby Digital 5.1 audio straight off the satellite. If the set-top box has a hard drive, then you can copy video from the internet and avoid part of the bandwidth problem - but that sort of defeats the purpose of keeping video stored on the server.

    • "how is this better than a Tivo?"

      The main advantage this service has is that you don't have to worry about recording a show for it to be available. If 3 different shows that you wanted to watch all aired at the same time, you'd theoretically be able to watch them all. If you found out about a show the day after it aired (due to office water cooler chatting or whatnot), you'd be able to watch it.

      On the other hand, given the overly restrictive nature of the device, this advantage may only look good on p

    • by ePhil_One (634771)
      The one advantage I could see to doing this server side is to allow me to time shift shows "post-mortem"; after they have aired (or begun airing). With a Tivo/VCR, you generally have to tell the box in advance "record this show/event" (Tivo will sometimes successfully guess, but thats a crap shoot) Tivo's "Season Pass" helps a lot here, I don't have to know when 24 is going to air (I really have no idea!) but when it does its in my now playing list, wee! But some stuff, like the Emmy's, (I won't mind watchi
    • Seriously, other than the waste of bandwidth, how is this better than a Tivo?

      This wasn't designed with your rights in mind. Remember, AOL=Time Warner=Warner Brothers=MPAA and RIAA. Here we have a service provider who is also a content creator, so guess what their service will be like? Crippled, pretty much. They don't want you recording that? Then you can't. They don't want you deleting commercials? Then you can't. They want to promo a show? It's recorded without your consent (anybody smell a more

      • Well, as some others have pointed out, digital rights management is less of a problem here because of the limited amount of time they'd be able to store the streams.

        I'd suspect that they will probably only store 2-3 days of programming, and even then, only store important feeds for longer lengths of time. CNN might get 24 hours of storage, FOX might get 3 days. Home shopping network? None ;P

        You're absolutely right about the problem with server-side storage, and given the low price of harddisk storage t
        • digital rights management is less of a problem here because of the limited amount of time they'd be able to store the streams.

          Right, but to me that sounds like the most efficient DRM of all time. Not only do consumers only get what AOL wants, but they don't even get to keep it long without resorting to VHS (and if I wanted to hassle with that in the first place...). So basically we don't have to worry about DRM here because we have no rights left for them *to* manage.

          Ah well, with PC technology continu

          • Not only do consumers only get what AOL wants, but they don't even get to keep it long without resorting to VHS

            You won't even get that if your cable box Macrovisions its outputs. Most of the Explorers that AOL/TWC use have a Macrovision generator in the DENC (digital encoder), though it's usually (always?) turned off presently.
    • AOL has this tendency to get something that already exists, (And has existed for a while) make it worse, and call it their own. They say on their ads "AOL 8.0 has more functions, like internet radio (If your lousy 56k bandwidth can stand it) and picture transfers (or whatever)" but in reality there are much simpler ways to do it without AOL. The problem with AOL is that, imoho, they try to simplify things way too much, and it ends up making things more confusing to anyone who has any amount of internet skil
  • by Yo Grark (465041) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:02AM (#5630722)
    Just like spam, they only have to hit 1% of they're target audience to call it a success.

    And with the # of ma and pa's far outnumbering kiddies and in the know professionals who will avoid this like the plague, they're destined to be a beacon to any large distributor who doesn't want they're movie Tivo'd....err PVR'd.

    Distributor: AOL, please don't PVR our show, it's under "special" programming

    AOL: That will be 50 Million.

    Distributor: That's hiway robbery! Forget it, I'm not paying.

    AOL: Fine, we just "automatically" PVR'd it for all our customers and provided live feed for all our Internet Subscribers

    Distributor: You Can't do that!

    AOL: We can't? Who ya gonna call? SLASHDOT! HAHAHAHAHA!

    Distributor: No, they don't have any real power except the occasional network bandwidth block. Here's your money.

    AOL: Yeah! We get to show better than expected Earnings!

    Bah.

    Yo Grark
    Canadian Bred (AOL FREE) with American Buttering.
    • What you forgot is that AOL is really AOL-Time Warner, and they own most of the content providers! What are they going to do, blackmail themselves? Well, I guess there is disney, but it's only a matter of time until AOL buys Disney...
      • They want to blackmail each other to increase revenue :P
      • And Viacom as well (Score:5, Informative)

        by yerricde (125198) on Monday March 31, 2003 @09:31AM (#5631018) Homepage Journal

        What you forgot is that AOL is really AOL-Time Warner, and they own most of the content providers!

        Time Warner owns The WB, CNN, CNN Headline News, TBS, TNT, TCM, Cartoon Network, but not much else that I surf past on basic cable. Time Warner does not own CBS, UPN, MTV, Nickelodeon (all Viacom), or ABC, ABC Family, ESPN, Disney, Toon Disney (all Disney). None of them owns NBC, MSNBC (Gen Elec Co), A&E, The History Channel, The Biography Channel (A&E TV Nets), Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet (Discovery Comms), BET (BET Nets), E!, style. (E! Ent Nets), Fox, Fox News (News Corp),

    • or even better:

      AOL: hello, distributor! thanks for holding, your call is important to us! what can we do for you today?
      Distributor: um, we dont want you to PVR our show as it is "special" programming
      AOL: ah, thats not good! tell you what, how about i give you 2 free months to evaluate and you can let us know after that if you still want to do this...
      Distributor: uh, no. ive already been on hold for 2 and a half hours. i just want to stop it now.
      AOL: what?!? why dont you want 2 free months? how could
    • Distributor: AOL, please don't PVR our show, it's under "special" programming AOL: That will be 50 Million.

      And then Distributor's lawyers haul AOL's lawyers into court, show the judge the broadcast contract, which certainly says how many times AOL can rebroadcast Show X, and t6he judge says: OK, you agreed in the contract to pay $1.5mil to broadcast the show once. Every VOD stream of it you sent is a re-broadcast. My judgement for the plaintiff is $1.5mil times 35,000 rebroadcasts for a total of $52.5bil

  • by ecalkin (468811)
    i realize that disk space is cheap, but this could be interesting! if a user (viewer?) is allowed 6 hours (i say six because you have 6hr miniseries) and this takes (a guess!) 10G and you have 10,000 viewers.... thats's 100TB! damn.

    it seems like the tivo model is a wonderful example of distributed computing here!

    eric
    • Yes, but these are AOL (l)users.
      they will only need to save buffy the vampire slayer once
      and serve it up 10,000 times.
    • by bLanark (123342) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:12AM (#5630748)
      i realize that disk space is cheap, but this could be interesting! if a user (viewer?) is allowed 6 hours (i say six because you have 6hr miniseries) and this takes (a guess!) 10G and you have 10,000 viewers.... thats's 100TB! damn.

      Wait a minute, they don't need to store each episode for everyone, they just keep one copy of it until everyone has removed it from their favourites, then it gets deleted.

      • 10G forever. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mbourgon (186257) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:43AM (#5630849) Homepage
        1) As evidenced by Lotus Notes' "shared message", it'll never go away. SOMEONE will want to keep it, indefinitely. And be ultra-pissed when it vanishes. So you're going to wind up holding a lot of programming forever. What are they going to say? "content only available for 1 year" and you can't tape it on your VCR?

        2) I think this may be doomed. I've said in the past that Free as in Beer trumps a lot of things. But if you can't tape tonight's Friends, what's the point? Then Joe Consumer has to say "well, I can't watch that on the cable box, so I have to tape it? Why am I paying the money?". More confusion will trump Free Beer.
    • it seems like the tivo model is a wonderful example of distributed computing here!

      Tivo is an example of personal computing. You don't share any part of it with anyone (except people in your home).
      • Tivo is an example of personal computing. You don't share any part of it with anyone....

        TiVo calls the Mother Ship to get upcoming program schedules and to report on your viewing choices. <cough> Strictly for statistical interest, of course. <cough>

        I don't call that personal at all.

  • by cperciva (102828) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:03AM (#5630725) Homepage
    That seems to be a huge disadvantage because it will use a lot more cable bandwidth transfering the content for a single viewer.

    There certainly is a disadvantage in terms of bandwidth, but there is an advantage in terms of storage -- by storing everything centrally, they only need to keep one copy of each program instead of having millions of copies spread around the network. (Ok, they'd actually have more than one copy, but it would still be far less than the millions otherwise needed.)

    This also means that people wouldn't need to program in advance what they wanted to record, since AOL could proactively store everything.
    • You hit upon the key factor to this service being useful, in noting they could store all programming.

      If they really store everything, at least for a previous week, then I could see a lot of people going for it - basically you'd have a week to see your favorite show instead of having to see it at a certain time, and if you really liked it you could see it again.

      I think you'd still want some kind of storage device (like a Tivo or VCR) n front of that though, as you can never trust centralized storage for th
  • Why server-side? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zayin (91850) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:03AM (#5630726)

    It sounds like they're doing it that way so they can restrict which shows you can use the service with (like lock out new episodes of network shows).

    From the article:

    The New York Times, which was the first to report the details of AOL's Mystro project, said it would allow networks to determine which shows could be rescheduled and to insert commercials into replays.

    There's your answer. They don't want people skipping commercials, and they want full control over rescheduling.

    • Re:Why server-side? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Technician (215283)
      As an added note... This is not live TV. This is all re-runs from the archive vault. Make note of it. It is NOT the current show and the currently running advertising campaign. It's old shows with the ads replaced with the current ad campaign. The current ads pay for the delivery of the archive program royalties.
    • Re:Why server-side? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by _Sprocket_ (42527)


      There's your answer. They don't want people skipping commercials, and they want full control over rescheduling.

      Oddly enough, this falls right in line with Cringely's recent article - Life with TiVo [pbs.org]. Bob points out that scheduling is a very serious matter to the networks. DVR systems like Tivo not only threaten the direct viewing of commercials, but they also remove control over WHEN a commercial / show is seen. And that when affects market dominance - the capturing of the most desired demographics

  • Such a non-story (Score:4, Informative)

    by funkman (13736) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:04AM (#5630731)
    Comcast already has this too [comcast.com]. AOL is playing catchup.
  • As (Score:1, Funny)

    as reported earlier [slashdot.org]
  • This sounds like Apple back in the day... "Well were bleeding money as it is, why not start another service." But at least Apple had the sense to try and create new markets (ie. the first PDA and one of the first Digicams) AOL/TW coming out with a PVR box? God there are so many holes in that idea that I don't know where to start.
    In any case (heh 'Case' get it?) this is not the Holy Grail that will get AOL/TW out of the red, in fact this is more likely to put them in ReplayTV land (read: bankrupcy court).
  • the downside (Score:1, Informative)

    by bendsley (217788)
    The reason that all the equipment is going to be at the cable provider is because of the fact that with this new service, you will not be able to skip commercials like you are able to with tivo. Most of the same features are there, pausing live tv, skipping shows, etc. But, from what I have heard, you will not be able to skip commercials, and there will be commercial pop-ups when the tivo is in a freeze frame. Companies that advertise don't like tivo for the fact that nobody sees their ads anymore.
  • by MrJerryNormandinSir (197432) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:10AM (#5630743)
    You don't need to pay for service. I built a mythtv! And the programing info is generated by
    xmltv! For $0.00!

    Check out mythtv.org
    • by Darth Maul (19860) on Monday March 31, 2003 @09:27AM (#5631008) Homepage
      I have a little Shuttle PC as my MythTV box in the living room. It's wonderful! But it's a lot more than just TiVo functionality. On top of the TV recording/live pause/etc of TiVo you also get game emulators, image galleries, weather, and music library. It's the ultimate "media convergence box". I highly recommend it.
    • I figure my time is worth in the order of a year of Tivo's service per hour...

      Looking at the install docs for that, I figure I could pay Tivo service from now until the day I die and not have spent more than the value of the time I wasted installing that.

      Now, if there was an ISO with all that crap pre-compiled, pre-installed, and pre-configured for a specific set of hardware I could buy and assemble quickly, then maybe it'd be worth it to play around with...
  • What, AOL is going to start battling Spider-Man [dte.uma.es] as well now?
  • by Flounder (42112) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:14AM (#5630753)
    the first time a customer is told that they can't record a program. All across the country, you'll hear "Didn't somebody tell me there's this thing called Tivo that doesn't block programs?"

    Giving the public more control over content delivery is what makes a successful product. MP3, Tivo, internet, etc. Restricting content delivery is doomed to failure (Divx (not the codec, the DVD replacement)).

    • Um, TIVO can't play back last month's Junk Yard Wars if you forgot to record it. This service is a tap into the archives.
      Keep the TIVO to skip the new commercials stuck in your custom archive request.
      • This service is a tap into the archives.

        Only those programs that are allowed to be recorded and archived by AOL/TW. And if there is an archive, how far back do you think it'll go. And if you want to go farther back than 2 weeks, will it be an additional fee (i.e. Washington Post, New York Times).

        Besides, if you forgot to tape an episode of Junkyard Wars, big deal. Most of the time, it's re-runs anyway.

  • I just love it... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:15AM (#5630758)
    When a perfectly usable product is crippled and destroyed, and then remarketed as new and improved, don't you?
  • by CleverFox (85783) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:16AM (#5630759)
    The only stuff I would want to record is new episodes of network shows. And they expect to sell a service that doesn't do what the consumer wants? These guys haven't finished Economics 101. Send em back to college.

    Seriously, why would AOL care anyway? They don't own NBC, CBS or ABC do they? Whatever happened to laisse faire?

  • by occamboy (583175) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:18AM (#5630766)
    I'm told that somewhere between 95% and 93% of the fiber-optic 'net backbone is unused; sounds like AOL is trying to light most of it up!

    However, there is the obvious (at least to me) problem of bandwidth to the home. The vast bulk of homes that do have broadband are sharing reasonably limited bandwidth with other homes. Streaming high-quality video to many people at once who are sharing moderate bandwith seems like a no-go. In otherwords, it seems to me that if the service catches on, they're dead; they'll have to strive for mediocrity.

    Unless we put fiber into everyone's home. Yeah!

    I'll keep my Tivo for now. One of the best things I ever purchased.
    • Not really. With most systems pushing 900MHz, downstream bandwidth isn't really much of an issue. It's upstream that's the killer. I know with Comcast's Video on Demand, they've upgraded their systems to handle 10% of cable subscribers streaming at once. As the average loads start to creep towards that 10%, they'll just segment their nodes when the need arises.
    • > I'm told that somewhere between 95% and 93% of
      > the fiber-optic 'net backbone is unused

      According to a March 2002 article by Carol Wilson of The NetEconomy, usage is a lot higher than people think. During peak traffic periods, it's estimated that more than 60% of fiber optic channels are "lit" -- that is, in active capacity. She cited two examples. Qwest reported 80% utilization and Telechoice reported more than 60%.

      However, since networks are generally engineered for peak capacity, and the usage d
  • No! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Lu Xun (615093)
    Mystro?? It's a mysteron plot! Can't you see! Call Sprectrum and get Captain Scarlet [bbc.co.uk] on this one! He's indestructable!
  • by Fritz Benwalla (539483) <randomregs&gmail,com> on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:21AM (#5630775)

    They're not putting it at the head-end so they can restrict content, nor is it a bandwidth problem - just the opposite. They're putting it at the head-end so that cable networks can make it a revenue source.

    Cable companies are spending their biggest fortunes at the moment installing Video-on-Demand systems, many of which already have PVR functionality built in. Bandwidth is no more of an issue with stopping, starting, and feeding a PVR stream than with a VOD stream. The only difference is disk space and where it gets its content from.

    A much more core issue (and one that would be much for fun to stir up /. with, IMO) is that of content rights. Selling a box that allows consumers to record and play shows at home is one thing, but getting large cable companies into the business of caching broadcast content and then essentially 'reselling' that cached content without complex revenue-sharing agreements is a can of worms indeed.

    They seem to adress this here:

    "For example, if Mystro TV is successfully developed and the appropriate rights secured from owners of video programming, a subscriber could use the Mystro TV service to watch a program that aired the previous day, or to begin watching from the beginning a show already in progress," AOL said.

    So to me this sounds like a VOD product that gets its content from broadcast television. iN DEMAND has made a decent business aggregating Hollywood studio content for distribution over VOD and taking a cut. Looks like AOL wants to make a niche out of re-distributing older (or very slightly older) television content. Pretty much what the networks are doing now with things like the re-broadcast of "Late Night w/ Conan O'Brian" on Comedy Central, except they get $x per play over VOD.

    Not a bad niche - just might work.

    ------

    • mod parent up! Unlike most of the other /. readers, this guy knows what he is talking about!
    • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:46AM (#5630857) Journal
      Yeah, it just might work. But you don't want it to. Here's why.

      Today, if you want to watch a TV series, or a movie, over and over at your leisure then you can buy the DVD. When you buy the DVD, the publisher makes some money. If we're talking about a $20 movie, then the studio might make $5-$10 from the sale, once the retail markup, distribution, production, royalties, marketing and other costs are considered.

      But once you've bought the DVD, the publisher will make no more money out of you for that particular title. Yes, if you've got more money than sense (or if you really, really want it) then they might manage to sell you a director's cut, special edition or whatever but the bottom line is that the publisher will only make a fixed amount from you no matter how often you watch the product.

      However, if they could keep the movie, but sell you access to it, at $3 per viewing, then pretty soon they'll have recouped the same amount of money if not more from you. Let's face it, any movie that you like enough to go out and buy on DVD is one that you'll happily sit down and watch at least two or three times, and at $3 a time that's $6-9 already. Then you get your Star Wars devotees and Titanic nuts who'll watch their favourite movie at least once a week. Now your talking about at least $150 per year from just one movie.

      Now let's consider how else those customers could be milked/revenue streams maximised. Well, for one thing you could charge different customers different prices. Charge Titanic nuts who'll pay $4 per view that amount while charging those that'll only pay the basic $3 "only" $3. Charge a premium for watching Disney movies on Sunday afternoons, or whatever else you want.

      Charging different customers different amounts for the same product is nothing new and it's certainly not something that companies are embarrassed about - Amazon does it, and so do mobile (cell) phone providers. So you can bet that AOL (or whoever) would do it too given the chance.

      This isn't going to happen tomorrow, or next year, or in five years but it is coming. It's just to attractive for the publishers and broadcasters to ignore forever.

      So, while a broadcast/cable provider-end storage solution Tivo might not sound like a big deal on its own, it does sound like a pretty big when you take it to its obvious conclusion.
  • by kinnell (607819) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:22AM (#5630779)
    Storing each TV show on a Tivo for each user who wants to watch it is very inefficient in terms of total storage space used over all the Tivos in the region. By storing each show once, and piping it to users from a central server on demand, the total storage requirement is vastly reduced, and the bandwidth requirement grows possibly linearly with the number of users. Unfortunately this is exactly the opposite of what the world needs right now.
    • by wirefarm (18470) <jim@@@mmdc...net> on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:47AM (#5630862) Homepage
      Books in libraries vs. bookstores.
      Same deal for hundreds of years now, yet both survive.
      Cheers,
      Jim
    • I disagree. A personal video cache can be tailored to the interests of the particular owner. In order to be similarly useful, a global cache has to be large enough and expansive enough to accomodate anything that might be on a local cache. Plus, you can never be sure how long to archive things in a global cache.

      What you're saying is only true if the global cache is large enough to cache every channel available for at least a year.

      That's going to take up more storage than a bunch of tivos.
  • So let me get this straight...

    AOL is planning on sweeping into a market with an obviously inferior product that gives consumers less control than products that are already on the market, they'll probably charge more for it (wild guess there), and they seriously expect this to be a profit-making venture.

    AOL is dumber than Enron.
    • AOL is planning on sweeping into a market with an obviously inferior product that gives consumers less control than products that are already on the market, they'll probably charge more for it (wild guess there), and they seriously expect this to be a profit-making venture.

      Well, it worked for them once before. They excel at taking technical things and making them easy enough for every moron to use. They will sell this service to Joe Sixpack who wouldn't know how to hook up a Tivo. And they have at lea

  • Bah, bandwidth... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:28AM (#5630797) Homepage Journal
    There's TONS of bandwidth left on cable. Thanks to digital boxes (which take 1/100th of the spectrum that a broadcast channel does), most cable companies are at a small fraction of their max bandwidth.

    Cable's such a great solution...it's big, thick, has high potential and is well insulated. It's got less noise than power lines and better range then telephone while being less expensive than copper.

    Of course, there's also the matter of the supply boxes at the head end. VOD suppliers are like massive DVRs that operate in parellel -- and they're not perfect yet. There's still a lot of lag when they get loaded and many companies have yet to scale the number of their VOD boxes to match the number of digital subscribers.

    I kind of worry that this is intended to replace the really cool DVR devices TW has been testing. The menu system is great and they go a beyond Tivo and the like by allowing your to record almost all pay channels and PPV material (first run stuff is black of course), and by having simple native support for watching one channel while recording another. Sure, Tivo can do this, but it's complicated as hell...my mom, who never even figured out her VCR, uses the DVR without trouble.
    • "High Potential" should be "low resistance." It's fairly easy to amplify, too.
    • Re:Bah, bandwidth... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Roofus (15591) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:40AM (#5630843) Homepage
      Thanks to digital boxes (which take 1/100th of the spectrum that a broadcast channel does)

      Holy crap! I wish that were true. 1/100th isn't the case. A regular broadcast channel takes up a 6MHz slot. At most, you can fit in 10-12 digital channels in that same slot using a statistical multiplexer. Of course, the images look like shit (especially if the mpeg has a moving background). You may be able to fit in 10 channels of CSPAN though. You're more likely to fit in 6-8 digital channels in place of one analog channel.
      • Of course, the images look like shit (especially if the mpeg has a moving background).

        As all viewers of Sky's digital service in the UK know. It's bad when the Quicktime videos you download of the net are better quality than Satellite TV!
    • Cable's such a great solution...it's big, thick, has high potential and is well insulated. It's got less noise than power lines and better range then telephone while being less expensive than copper.

      Eh? I don't know about you, but the coax which comes through my wall is copper.
  • by adjensen (58676) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:34AM (#5630815)
    Unfortunately, this is a well thought out strategy that will likely hijack the cool technology of Tivo and ReplayTV and wipe them out. It's typical of the corporate mentality today...if someone comes up with something that impinges on the media, first sue them and then when that fails, take away their toys.

    Of course, their implementation is never as good or as free (in the liberated sense) but they've got the muscle to make it happen. Want Tivo? Well, it'll cost you $250 for the iron and $10/month to keep it going. Oh, wait a second, here's this great online service from the cable company...no iron, $5 a month. Yeah, it's not the same thing, and we take control of your viewing habits (forced commercials, can't record certain shows, we keep a record of the crap you're watching and sell it, etc) but come on, it's cheap and easy.

    And, sadly, in the America of today, that's likely the product that will succeed.

    I'm a 2 1/2 year Tivo user and it's the best thing ever created for television, and I tell anyone who asks that. However, the startup costs were inconsequential for me and I recognize that's not always the case...despite my evangelizing the product, a grand total of zero of my friends have Tivos. But I bet more than a few of them will opt for something like this.
    • Yeah, it's not the same thing, and we take control of your viewing habits (forced commercials, can't record certain shows, we keep a record of the crap you're watching and sell it, etc) but come on, it's cheap and easy. This is most of it, but I think the slant on this perspective is just slightly skewed. "Taking control of your viewer habits" isn't the end, it's a means. Despite our concerns, the cable companies (and most other business') prime motivation is pretty clear: they want to make money. We want
    • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday March 31, 2003 @02:40PM (#5632599) Homepage
      This alone will not kill Tivo.

      Tivo is already an expensive luxury item that sells to a nich market interested in it's quirky features. A cheap wannabe will not alter this condition. Tivo will still be an expensive luxury item that sells to a nich market interested in the extra features.

      Tivo's are expensive toys for people willing to pay for that level of flexibility.

      This new AOL service will not really steal Tivo's thunder. Tivo will still have extra features that trump Mystio.

      If anything, this may raise general awareness of PVR features. Once "joe sixpack" has experienced a poor PVR, he will probably be MORE inclined to want an expensive one.
      • This alone will not kill Tivo.


        Tivo is already an expensive luxury item that sells to a nich market interested in it's quirky features. A cheap wannabe will not alter this condition. Tivo will still be an expensive luxury item that sells to a nich market interested in the extra features.

        I beg to differ. Tivo stays in business because it makes money (well, one assumes they do anyway.) It makes money in a very few ways -- subscription fees, some small advertising revenue, and (I think) a royalty paid by

        • Still, none of that really matters.

          Tivo is near or at it's break even point. It's already a going concern. It just needs to maintain itself without overt outside interference. The fact that Tivo's are niche products will not necessarily drive away interested manufacturers. Infact, this should keep them around. Tivo's probably have rather good margins relative to other consumer devices.

          Tivo is ALREADY a "lot less appealing" to the masses. That is a problem that Tivo already has to deal with. A cheap wannab
  • by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:35AM (#5630825) Homepage Journal
    Every article on AOL/TW's Mystro will note TiVo which doesn't have the limitations of Mystro.

    Also, for all of those sooo proud of your homebuilt's: You've reinvented the VCR, just more awkward, more expensive, and without cheap media.

    Does your whatever adjust for scheduling changes, support wishlists, do smart scheduling that'll ignore recently recorded programs, re-runs, etc? Does it do this all automagically or do you need to rely on screen-scrapers or poor quality listings?

    I don't mean to bust on folks, and all props to homebrew, but don't go calling something TiVo-like unless it really has the TiVo feature-set. If you've just managed to turn your couple-hundred-buck PC into an awkward thirty-buck VCR then call it what it is...

    • Check out MythTV. It's what's running on *my* homebrew and it sure isn't just an awkward VCR.

      http://www.mythtv.org/

      It's only at a 0.8 release and is quite impressive.
    • You say they've reinvented the VCR, but more awkward, more expensive, and without cheap media.

      The interesting thing is that 100 hours of video tape would take up an entire shelf, you would have to fast forward and rewind to find the show you want, and you can't randomly insert and delete shows from a single tape. So quite frankly, in many ways, storing digital video is actually less awkward than a VCR. The really interesting thing, however, is that storing digital video is currently competitive with vide
  • by mr. methane (593577) on Monday March 31, 2003 @08:38AM (#5630831) Journal
    ... that tivo and others are getting popular. In my area they are pushing their PPV-on-demand services -- as well as HBO/Showtime on demand -- very heavily. I did order a movie using the service and found that I could, indeed, pause it, fast-forward, rewind, etc.. but seeing as I already have those features on Tivo, it's not as much of a draw for me as it might be for a brand-new subscriber.
  • If AOL can promote this so that everyone knows what a PVR can really do, people will soon realise that a much better alternative exists and Tivo sales could rise a bit. This could be good.
  • Is this going to be offered in a package deal with AOL Broadband?
  • ...before AOL's ISP pulls the plug b/c of DMCA accusations?
  • Allright, from a company standpoint, I can see how what they're doing can be a good idea. HOWEVER, here's the problem as I see it. I have EchoStar at home, and I'm quite happy with it. I've switched out the HD in it and now can have several weeks worth of programs saved for me to view at my leisure. I can't remember the last time I bothered to watch a commercial, and as a consumer, I *like* this idea. I also like the idea of being able to watch my saved shows even on those very rare occasions that weather
  • by Ath (643782) on Monday March 31, 2003 @10:23AM (#5631288)
    Myth 1: Viewers always skip the commercials when watching a record program. This isn't true and anyone with a DVR/PVR can verify this fact. You watch commercials that interest you or perhaps even just plain forget to forward through.

    Myth 2: Advertisers automatically hate DVRs/PVRs because of Myth 1. As recently reported on Slashdot, there is at least one study to show that retention levels are just as high for viewers who fast forward through commercials than those who watch them at normal speed. Of course, everyone's gut reaction is that DVRs/PVRs are bad for advertisers because they have the capability to fast forward.

    Myth 3: Hot women are great in bed. I'm not suggesting you start sleeping with ugly women, but don't assume anything.

    Myth 4: Media companies are smart. Ok, that's not a myth but it is a point I want to make. ReplayTV was sued because it allowed users to email shows and had a "instant" commercial skip function. Besides the fact that emailing the show is no different than recording it on a VCR and giving the tape to a friend (which is completely legal under the fair use doctrine), the media companies just want to treat anything in digital form different because it lets them fight a battle that they already lost 20 years ago. Their argument is essentially that any device which COULD be used for illegal purpose is inherently illegal. Their goal is to continue their business model of reselling content. Take a movie. Pay to see it in a theater. Buy the video or DVD. Purchase it on PPV. This is because they truly feel that the content is licensed and not owned (in a limited fashion) by the consumer. As long as they can resell it, the economics make sense because they get multiple returns for the production. DVRs/PVRs and the change in behavior are one step in the process for destroying that model. Record a digital version of a movie on PPV and then burn it to a consumer DVD burning device. Then loan the copy to a friend. Each step is removing a revenue stream from the media company. And they don't know how to stop this.
    • The problem isn't that they are trying to sell the service of entertainment. The problem is that they are trying to sell their customer's time to manipulative corporations and their commercials.

      If I have to pay to watch TV I should get quality content. Either that or TV should be free. If I have to pay to get a DVD, then I should be able to watch that DVD anytime I see fit. I should not be forced to watch commercials or pay anything extra. TV should be like a Tivo-like service where I agree to watch w
  • Dupe (Score:3, Funny)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Monday March 31, 2003 @10:42AM (#5631412)
    CmdrTaco [cmdrtaco.net] on Tuesday March 11, @01:53AM
    from the now-here's-where-it-get-interesting dept.
    admiral2001 writes "Here is is a NYTimes story about AOL-Time-Warner's plans for a TiVo-killing 'Mystro TV [nytimes.com]' (nytimes annoying free registration required). They plan to begin rolling this out sometime in the next two years. Their major features are the simple pause, rewind, and fast forward that all PVRs have. However, they've taken the obvious stance to "let[s] networks set the parameters, dictating which shows users can reschedule, and it also creates ways for networks to insert commercials." The article even mentions how they could get an advantage in pushing their product because "viewers could try out Mystro TV by pushing a button on their remote"."
  • by mjh (57755) <mark@@@hornclan...com> on Monday March 31, 2003 @10:46AM (#5631436) Homepage Journal
    I have a TiVo. I just sold it on ebay. I'm switching to DirecTV because I want to get the integrated DTV receiver w/TiVo builtin. It has a huge number of advantages over a standalone TiVo. But that's not the point.

    The point is that it's fully supported by DirecTV. And it's highly unlikely that DirecTV will ever go to some centralized server like the AOL/Mystro solution because Sat TV is (for the most part) one way. So for DirecTV the best solution is a distributed solution like TiVo, rather than a centralized solution like Mystro.

    And I know at least one person who, when their DirecTV receiver broke, decided to replace it with a TiVo enabled receiver.

    So I don't think TiVo is going away. It may not replace the VCR as a consequence of being effectively locked out of the cable market. But it isn't going away. It'll just be a different upgrade feature for DirecTV. They'll advertise it as Mystro on steroids, and they'll let AOL do 90% of the marketing.

    $.02
  • Firstly by having the storage at the cable company's end this reduces the initial cost to the consumer - so more people are likely to try it. Secondly the article mentions that a person could watch content already shown.

    "For example, if Mystro TV is successfully developed and the appropriate rights secured from owners of video programming, a subscriber could use the Mystro TV service to watch a program that aired the previous day, or to begin watching from the beginning a show already in progress," AOL sa

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday March 31, 2003 @11:10AM (#5631533) Homepage Journal
    DOCSIS cable modems allow downstream speeds of ~45 Mbps, with speeds of 10Mbps regularly seen in the real world. This is more than enough bandwidth to handle your MPEG2 video on demand (or MPEG4 or whatever, depends on the STB now don't it) and still handle the usual 1.5 Mbps capped bandwidth for your cable modem. On top of that, the STB will likely have its own DOCSIS modem, and each device has its own downstream channel which means it won't affect you anyway.

    In other words, claiming bandwidth will hold you back is pure fud. You can put 10,000 people on a single line card and get speeds of over 5Mbps per subscriber if you feed that head end with a wide enough pipe. (Multiple GigE interfaces?)

    I've been saying that they should throttle at their internet border for a long time (they being cable companies) and give you some more bandwidth to internal content, like NNTP. That would doubtless distract people from using the internet at large quite so much. It would also allow more traffic between subscribers.

  • by m1a1 (622864)
    So someone made a crappy version of Tivo? Why is that exciting? I have a crappy "Tivo" on my desk right now. It's called a vcr, and my vcr is still superior to Mystro because I choose what I can put on tape and what to do with the tape once I have it.

    Well, I guess I could mail my cassettes to the cable company after recording them. Then I'll have my own Mystro.
  • So much negativity in some of the posts.

    This is just another case where new technologies conflict with established business models. I can see that this type of content caching is the wave of the future. There are so many possibilities here.

    Mass broadcasting is definitely the old way of doing things but that is the methodology that all of the old business practices are based on.

    By far the easiest part of this type of project is to develop the technology. To make it doable from a technical standpoint.
  • Old News (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Martin S. (98249) <Martin.Spamer@ g m ail.com> on Monday March 31, 2003 @11:47AM (#5631712) Homepage Journal
    Kingston Interactive Television [kit.co.uk] have been doing this for over 3 years in the UK and each development has been submitted to slashdot only to rejected. (I wonder why ?)

    Kingston are the world leaders in real Interactive DTV and nobody has come even close to duplicating the same range of services. As well as PVR, it is the only system in the world to offer user directed content, true VOD, DTV, Internet to the TV, Broadband Internet to the PC and webmail, all for ~£30 (50 USD/EURO)pcm.

    As for the fact AOL have been developing this system in secret. Well I'll settle to call it an open secret in the DTV Industry. They tried to sell ourselves their system/technology and stated it would be ready for launch within months, however they had no STB, no content and few details; this was two years ago.

    We then demonstrated our live system, already superior to what they offered and they went white, literally.
  • The real issue... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by badasscat (563442) <[basscadet75] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Monday March 31, 2003 @01:20PM (#5632226)
    One thing I don't think anybody's brought up yet, and the thing that worries me the most, is that the real potential to kill Tivo (and the entire concept behind it) would be when Mystro eventually and inevitably becomes standard cable. Look at DTV - it's practically a requirement here in NYC now, and if you go to Time Warner's web site [twcnyc.com], I challenge you to find any information at all on their analog cable offerings. Mystro will eventually become the standard cable service which will render Tivo not just unnecessary, but useless. In order to use the two together you'd have to select a TV show to watch on cable, then manually record it on Tivo - which basically puts Tivo in "boat anchor" mode; the Tivo service itself does nothing.

    And of course, along the way you lose any real choice about the TV shows you want to watch or when you want to watch them, since there may only be a certain window of time a show is available, for example (this is true of Tivo by default as well, though you can always tell Tivo to keep a program "until I delete it").

    My problem is not with this service being available, as I see no reason to switch from my Tivo. But it's silly to dismiss this as an idea that won't work. All AOL has to do is make it part of the standard cable service and boom - no more Tivo for anyone. It's not as if there's any actual competition among cable providers. (There's satellite, yeah, but as I know first-hand as an unfortunately former DirecTV subsriber, satellite is not always available to apartment dwellers. And this is a city of apartments.)
  • "inefficient use of bandwidth" keeps coming up in the comments I've read, but honestly, which is worse... producing several (hundred/thousand/million) copies of (insert favorite movie here) on Beta... VHS... LaserDisc... DVD... Blu Ray...

    or storing it digitally at a central location... "wasting bandwidth? If you can watch a movie through VOD in DVD quality, then why buy the DVD unless you're definitely going to be watching the content more than a few times?

    I have a very small DVD collection, with just ove

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