Life without DVR

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Living without a DVR this summer has been moderatly difficult. It’s a good test to see if it’s possible because while I can’t ditch cable (sports!) it might be possible to ditch the DVR, which would save $10 or $15 each month. It’s also a good time to ease into such a transition as there aren’t as many shows on during the summer. Still, there are some important ones. I haven’t ranked my favorite shows in a while but Breaking Bad is #1, Curb Your Enthusiasm is somewhere in the top 5, and Louie and True Blood are must sees as well.

I’ve survived the summer using Hulu, HBO Go, channel sites, and iTunes in case of emergency. For the most part I can watch most of what I want. It gets to be a pain having to go to a bunch of different places and keep track of what I’ve watched. Only Hulu has a decent queue system, HBO has a watchlist but it doesn’t seem to update quickly or remove things I’ve watched. Some of the channel sites are pretty awful. Actually, all except Hulu and HBO are pretty awful.

Not all shows are online. It’s frustrating how even some networks pick and choose what is available. What makes even less sense are the shows that they decide to put on, but not for a month after it originally airs. Tosh.0 and The Car Show are the ones airing now, and I’m pretty sure Real World was like that on Hulu as well. The Real World makes some sense because it was available on the MTV site. MTV makes their own money from streaming it for a month and then makes it available to a wider audience to make a few more bucks. The others aren’t available on their channel’s site (Car Show’s site just embeds the Hulu player).

Ok, it’s helpful that the shows are available eventually, but what are they trying to accomplish with this delay? I can think of two types of Hulu users:

Catching up with Hulu – People don’t see the start of a show or miss a few episodes. Hulu is great to get back on top of a show and then start watching again on TV. I’m assuming the top goal of the network is to get people to watch a show on TV. Delaying posting for a month means you never have the option to go back to TV until the next season starts.

Online Viewer – Maybe some people just live online and watch everything online. They are fine waiting the month, because they don’t really know any better. But there is no reason to make them wait. All that’s being done is splitting these people off from the people who are up to date. This kills off talking about the show.

The other option is iTunes but paying $2-$3/episode to catch up or buying a seson pass that costs more than the DVDs will cost (and don’t give you the DVDs) is not something I’m willing to do. The only show I bought on iTunes this summer is The Soup. It wasn’t available for streaming and I thought $6 for 8 episodes was a very fair price.

I don’t know how to solve this exactly. The Hulu Plus model should open up more options of how this can be handled by having their free and paying users. How about this method. Just post every show the next day. For the free viewers only leave the show up for a week or two. Then everyone is on the same page. No reason to have a large catalog of more than one or two episodes. The network obviously doesn’t care about the catch-up audience. Paying customers can get more of the old shows. Even a day or two window that only paying customers can access is valid. The rule the network needs to follow is that everyone should be able to watch the last episode before a new one airs on TV.

For me, I’m just going to put these shows in my Hulu queue and then forget about them until a new episode shows up. I won’t be able to talk about them with people who watched them live or the week they aired. I won’t share clips from something like Tosh.0 because they will be stale by a month.

One more thing I need to menion are ads. I’m ok with the 30-60 second ads. However, TBS has started 3 minute commercial breaks on Conan. I’m watching on my computer. A 3 minute break and I start browsing and forget what I’m watching. I’ll mute it and play something else and then forget I was watching until the show is half over. Now when I watch Conan I just watch one segment.

Instead of trying to figure out how to ditch the DVR, I’m trying to figure out how to ditch Hulu Plus. The DVR is so much easier to deal with than this online mess of varying rights. When I get back home, I’m swtiching to Tivo, which will hopefully get my season passes in order (something Comcast couldn’t handle very well). Still, not having Daily Show and Colbert on a non-Tivo TV (using my blu-ray player) or my iPad will be difficult.

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