Back in the late '90s, the brand "TiVo" was eponymous with the term "DVR" after all, it was the first successful digital video recorder aimed at consumers. And although TiVo use is down from its 2006 sales peak, many of us have fond memories of the service. Remember the bubbly little sounds as you clicked fast forward? Or perhaps you recall rewinding the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, when Justin Timberlake ripped off Janet Jackson's top, exposing her breast in the now-infamous "wardrobe malfunction?"
Indeed, DVR technology has impacted the way we interact with entertainment in general, not just television. Most of us are familiar with the optional DVRs incorporated into the set-top boxes that come with a cable or satellite subscription. However, DVRs also function with portable media players, recorders with memory cards and hard disk drives on some PCs.
But the majority of consumers interact with DVRs through their televisions. Nielsen reports that the percentage live content we watch today has dropped to 85%, from 89% in 2006. And of the three major devices Americans connect to their televisions (video game consoles, DVD players and DVRs), the latter logs the majority of our viewing time. In 2011, 38% of households in the U.S. used a DVR.
If many of us interact with DVR technology on a regular basis, why not get to know it? Cable and satellite providers like DirecTV, DISH, Time Warner and Comcast are increasingly including video recording functionality into the set-top boxes that sit near your television screens. However, some countries allow consumers to purchase third-party boxes separate from their cable providers.Most of these set-top boxes record programs through a digitally encoded MPEG stream to a disk.
Dual tuners can exist within one receiver, allowing users to record multiple programs at once or watch a program while recording another. Some even output to multiple televisions on one cable subscription.
But what if you don't want to deal with a bulky and unsightly set-top box? Many modern LED and LCD screens integrate DVR functionality into the device, without HDMI or SCART ports. Some are even compatible with Bluetooth and can record from other wireless devices and smartphones over Wi-Fi.
Particularly creative users may opt for customizable DVR platforms and link network-attached storage (NAS) devices and hard drives. Linux is a particularly popular option with which users can customize open source software and applications, such as MythTV.
As more and more people tune in, fast forward, pause and record their media, DVR technology will only become more personalized. And right along with it, entertainment will change accordingly. DVRs are affecting everything from advertising impressions to social media commentary to live television.