Cablevision Puts Set-Top DVR Pitch in Play

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With major TV networks and Hollywood studios fighting its plans to allow subscribers to store shows on remote servers, Cablevision Systems Corp. last week began running commercials for a more conventional digital video recorder service that stores video in set-top boxes.

Although Cablevision began offering a DVR service using a Scientific Atlanta Inc. set-top last fall, the company has not marketed the $9.95 per month service until recently.

Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella said Friday that the new spots that began running last week in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, have “no connection” to the litigation over storing shows for customers on remote servers.

Maiella said Cablevision began marketing the set-top DVR service two months ago with inserts in New York-area newspapers.

Cablevision may be “hedging its bets” with the set-top DVR ads, Kagan Research analyst John Mansell said, noting that the company would need to beef up marketing efforts for traditional digital recorders if the network DVR plan is held up in court.

At the end of March, Cablevision said it was developing a network-based DVR service that would perform just like a set-top-based digital recorder — including pause, fast-forward and record functions. That new service stores programs on computers at cable-system equipment headends.

Cablevision plans to start testing the network DVR service this month in Long Island. But several movie and TV producers asked a federal court to block the test with a suit filed May 24.

These include 20th Century Fox Film Corp., Universal City Studios, Paramount Pictures, Disney Enterprises, CBS Broadcasting, ABC Inc. and NBC Studios.

Two days later, Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s Cable News Network and Cartoon Network also filed a suit at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking an injunction to prevent Cablevision from moving forward with the network DVR.

The one-minute cross-channel spots running on Cablevision systems also feature an actress that bears a resemblance to Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow on Home Box Office’s The Sopranos) touting the benefits of DVRs.

“Thanks to iO Digital Cable with DVR, I always catch my favorite shows, even if they’re on when I’m not at home,” the actress says in the spot, as cameras follow her to work, the gym, out to dinner and finally, to bed. “So wherever I go, I don’t worry about the TV I’m missing. I just live my life, and the shows I love are here at home, waiting for me.”

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