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Time Warner Cable seeks to “Startover”

Time Warner Cable (TWC) is tackling a method to solve an age old problem for television viewers — what to do when you miss the beginning of a show.

Industry reports state that the multi-system cable operator is working on a new service, tentatively called “Startover,” which will allow viewers to go back to the beginning of any program that’s currently on the air. If a viewer tunes in after the show begins, Startover would provide the chance to see the show from the beginning. The service would work at any point in a show, as long as the program is still being aired.

A test is planned in a TWC market sometime next year, but significant hurdles still remain for the project.

If launched, Startover would essentially be a cross between a digital video recorder and VOD for live TV. However, it would differ from a DVR in several ways. There wouldn’t be a way to fast-forward through commercials or programming. And unlike a DVR that stores hours of programs on a hard drive in a viewer’s home, Startover would store only shows currently on the air at the cable head-end.

That would raise copyright issues that helped sink an earlier high-profile Time Warner project, Maestro. That network-based DVR project came to an end last year after content providers became concerned about piracy of their programs from cable company servers.

But some of Maestro’s ideas live on in Startover. A Time Warner spokesman said it’s an outgrowth of some of the Maestro technology and the on-demand, VOD technology.

TWC would need to secure rights to be able to show individual programs not only in the current hour, but the next hour as well because Startover could potentially begin playback of a show in the last minute of its televising. Plans call for only making Startover available on the shows where rights could be acquired.

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