Skip to main content

New generation of 'super DVRs' emerges

A new generation of “super” DVRs, with increased recording capabilities of more channels and streaming and downloading capabilities for mobile viewing devices, is expected to change the television viewing experience.

Satellite TV operators DirecTV and Dish Network lead the way with digital video recorders that allow viewers to record five or more programs at a time. These “super DVRs” have evolved to let users watch programs on smartphones and tablets at home and away.

“Now cable companies such as Comcast, Cox and Time Warner are at work on their own. And TiVo has a trio of new super DVRs for those who don’t want to wait for their pay-tv service to roll out more powerful products to their market,” USA TODAY reported.

Adding new features and functions to DVRs has become crucial in terms of keeping customers satisfied and preventing an exodus to Internet video programmers such as Netflix and Internet TV-delivery solutions such as Apple TV, the newspaper said.

“You’ve got to find something new to compete with,” analyst Bill Niemeyer of The Diffusion Group told the newspaper, “and this new thing is tech.”

DirecTV’s Genie DVR has one terabyte of storage — the equivalent of about 200 hours of high-definition programming. With the optional Genie To Go device ($99), users can stream content from their DVR to their Apple iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.

Dish Network’s Hopper escalated the DVR wars with its ability to record up to six programs. Earlier this year, a successor arrived — the Hopper With Sling DVR (free with subscription package) that also lets users watch any live or recorded content on a set-top box when on the go, as long as the user is connected to the Internet.

The two-terabyte DVR has three built-in tuners. One, if devoted to the PrimeTime Anytime feature, records all of the nightly series on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. The programs are stored for eight days, so viewers don’t miss favorite network broadcasts; two other tuners can be used to record other channels.

While watching, users can engage the AutoHop feature that lets them automatically bypass commercials. CBS, Fox and NBC have sued over the feature, but so far the courts have sided with Dish.

Dish is also on the leading edge of integrating social media (Facebook, Twitter and Get Glue) and additional apps into its second-screen app Dish Explorer. Other Hopper-specific apps can be added to the main TV interface, including a Gamefinder app that details all the current sports matchups, ranks them based on viewer interest and excitement level and offers one-click navigation to games.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox, USA TODAY reported, are all testing improved boxes with increased recording ability and app-friendly TV guides that make it easier to personalize the TV experience. Cox’s Contour DVR, which records six programs simultaneously, is available nationwide for $14.99 per month.

DVR pioneer TiVo is seeking to beat its competitors with a trio of new Roamio DVRs (priced $199-$599). These new models can record four or six programs at a time, depending on the model.

Each of the new Roamio DVRs also integrates Net video services Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube, as well as music services Pandora and Spotify.