Cloud DVR: Don’t go Wrong on Content Rights
In a dynamic climate, flexibility is key to a successful cloud DVR strategy. Regular Techzine readers should be familiar with the benefits of network DVR technology, which I detailed in a previous article. But in case you missed it, here’s a quick refresher on how cloud DVR – moving hard disks, tuners and processing from traditional, home-based set-top boxes into the network – brings value to all stakeholders.
Network DVR benefits entire ecosystem
Subscribers like the technology because they can access time-shifted TV services on any device, at any time and in any connected location. Service providers benefit, because they can deliver DVR services without putting costly hardware in subscribers’ homes, the costs for operating and maintaining network DVR services are lower, and they can increase profitability by offering value-added services to subscribers and partners. And speaking of partners, content owners and advertisers benefit by having more control over how their programming is displayed, recorded and played back.
How Content Rights Affect time-shifted TV Deployments
Despite these benefits, content rights issues have held back network DVR deployments in many regions. Most jurisdictions allow subscribers to copy video content or TV programs on personal devices such as DVRs. Letting subscribers to record and store TV programs within service provider networks is less well accepted. And whether or not cloud-based recording violates copyright laws has significant implications for service providers looking to deploy the technology.
If courts deem the use private, then the service is legally covered by the private-copy exception to copyright and service providers don’t need to seek approval to record or playback content from the network. If, however, courts decide the use is public, then service providers must obtain approval and reach agreements with rights holders.
As a result, service providers deploy network DVR technology in different ways – either using a private-copy or a shared-copy approach – to ensure the service conforms to content rights agreements and individual countries’ copyright laws.
For example, Switzerland’s Swisscom chose a shared-copy cloud DVR implementation when they launched their “Replay TV” service in 2012. Other operators have also chosen the shared-copy model to fully benefit from its cost savings advantages. Conversely, Cablevision and other US-based subscribers have deployed private-copy services to ensure they comply with US copyright laws and agreements, which to date forbid using shared copies. A previous Techzine article also provides a more complete explanation features and benefits of private- and shared-copy cloud DVR deployments.
Adopting a Flexible Cloud DVR Approach
Considering the benefits network DVR technology provides subscribers, service providers, content owners and advertisers, rights agreements will likely evolve to accept the shared-copy model. Until this happens, service providers can start with a comprehensive cloud DVR service that replicates home-based DVRs within the network to reduce costs and ease the technology’s acceptance by content providers. Such a cloud DVR service could provide:
- Private copies
- Limited storage space
- Limited concurrent recording and/or streaming
- No playback on mobile devices or playback to a limited number of devices
Service providers can then relax some of these constraints through simple software system configuration changes as regulations and agreements evolve. For example, operators can increase storage space, remove expiry dates, and allow shared-copy in this manner.
Nevertheless, broadcasters are unlikely to suddenly have all the rights they need to access all the features and benefits of network DVR technology. Service providers should select a solution that lets them grant or withhold cloud DVR capabilities on a program-by-program basis. For example, hybrid solutions allow service providers to store private copies (in the cloud or on a home-based DVR) for some content, create shared copies for other content, and gradually move to a full shared-copy model once better rights agreements are secured.
To maximize their return on investment, service providers should select network DVR technology with the flexibility to manage and overcome copyright restrictions by supporting private-copy and shared-copy models in parallel, and allow for easy migration from one to another as rights evolve.
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