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Sharing Video: Whole House DVR Service from AT&T

Like many American households, I have more than one Television; one in the living room and one in the bedroom.  Also like many houses, I only have one DVR.  That creates an occasional nuisance.  I can’t crawl into bed and watch a show saved in the other room.  In the bedroom, where there’s only a standard set top box,  I’m stuck watching only scheduled broadcasts despite the library of stored programs I’ve accumulated.  As problems go, it’s a small one. Still, there’s a yearning for locally networked cable boxes, appliances that will let me pick and choose which "time shifted" programs I want to watch regardless of which room I’m in.   For AT&T customer’s – there’s now a real solution that makes that possible.

Bay area customers using AT&T’s U-verse have the privilege today.  Thanks to a service being called “Total Home DVR,” instead of owning multiple DVRs or jury rigging a home entertainment network system (not for the technologically challenged), they can watch their time-shifted programs around the house.

The U-verse subscribers will be able to watch recorded programs on up to eight TV sets.  What was recorded in the bedroom, can be watched in the living room and vice versa.  A program can even be started in one room, paused, and resumed elsewhere.  

There will be no additional charge for the service. It is included as part of the U-verse subscriptions which run from about $40 to $100 a month.  AT&T expects the functionality will be available for rest of U-verse subscribers by year end. The service will be delivered via software upgrades. No hardware changes are necessary.

A similar whole-house or networked DVR is also available from AT&T rival, Verizon.  That service, which is part of Verizon’s FiOS TV service allows for 7 TVs to share DVR functionality.

Unfortunately, for the broader masses without access to either of these services, which is most people, (FiOS has about 1.2m TV subscribers, U-Verse has about 550k) there aren’t any available alternatives yet.  So far, Comcast and most other cable co’s have yet to offer a similar product.  Satellite provider DirecTV is also behind the curve but they are expected to offer a variation of their own in a few months.

Broader services may be available within the next 18 months too.   It’s of note: most whole-house DVR services function, essentially, as “local area networks” within the home. Resources are shared among the TV’s and hardware within your four walls. A “wider” network DVR concept in also development. Referred to as Remote Storage DVRs (RS-DVR), these devices store recorded programming on outside servers run by the cable companies.  Cablevision won an important copyright suit regarding the legal feasibility of these “remote storage” DVR’s in early August.

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