Cablevision to Delay Network DVR

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Cablevision Systems Corp. said it will delay the launch of a network-based digital-video-recorder service until this fall, agreeing to wait until a lawsuit brought against the company by several TV networks and studios is resolved.

Before 20th Century Fox Film Corp., CBS Broadcasting and other networks and studios sued Cablevision May 24, the cable operator had planned to begin testing its network DVR on Long Island, N.Y., this month.

Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella said the company agreed to delay the launch of the network DVR under a deal that resulted in an expedited schedule that could bring a decision in the case as early as this fall.

The delay impacts not only Cablevision, but other cable operators that are waiting for the suit to be resolved before pursuing their own network DVRs, which could help cable to compete against direct-broadcast satellite and telephone providers.

Cablevision executives believe the product, called “RS-DVR,” would enable it to more efficiently deliver DVR service to all digital-cable households by allowing subscribers to store programming on remote servers.

While Cablevision said the network DVR would perform just like DVRs contained in set-tops from Scientific Atlanta Inc., Motorola Inc. and other vendors, the networks and studios argued that the network-DVR concept is actually a video-on-demand programming service that would require rights agreements with program producers.

The delay of the rollout of the network DVR -- pending the outcome of the lawsuit -- means that Cablevision wouldn’t be able to market the service until this fall, at the earliest.

“Defendants agree not to launch their ‘remote-storage digital-video recorder’ pending resolution by the court of the question of liability in this action,” U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Denny Chin wrote in a scheduling order filed late Wednesday at the court.

According to the case schedule, a hearing in which Chin would rule on the case will take place Oct. 30 or 31. The parties are scheduled to complete the exchange of discovery evidence by the end of July and to file legal briefs with the court in August and September.

Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and other cable operators are paying close attention to the Cablevision suit, since those MSOs have said they would also like to deploy network-based DVRs, which could cut costs and accelerate the rollout of subscription-based DVR services.

20th Century Fox Film Corp., Universal City Studios, Paramount Pictures, Disney Enterprises, CBS Corp., ABC and NBC Studios filed a suit seeking an injunction that would block Cablevision from rolling out the RS-DVR May 24.

Two days later, Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s Cartoon Network and CNN filed their own suit against Cablevision, which has been combined with the original complaint.

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