TV operators offer timeshifting for a variety of reasons - it has been shown to increase advertising revenue, increase overall TV consumption, increase the rate of subscription upgrades, and decrease subscriber churn (for a more detailed look at these benefits, see this article). Timeshifting is intended to satisfy and attract customers by offering flexibility - a greater window of opportunity for subscribers to watch what they want, on the device they want, when they want. However, this service can also confuse and irritate subscribers in their attempts to invoke the feature.
In order to better anticipate and solve these customer issues, here’s a look at some common complaints that have surfaced in online forums and articles:
Subscribers don’t like it when timeshifted viewing disables trick modes (i.e. subscribers want the ability to fast forward shows, skip commercials, etc)
Pausing Live TV for too long a time can cause a switch into Start Over mode, and a subscriber is forced to sit through the whole show, from the beginning - without the ability to skip commercials
Not enough timeshift channels
Doesn’t work on all viewing devices
Existing subscribers don’t like paying to upgrade for more features
Subscribers are confused as timeshift is available on some channels and not on others.
As evidenced by these customer complaints, timeshift TV is not always an appealing feature for the user. Some complaints (complaint 5) are unrealistic for a TV operator to properly address - subscribers may dislike paying to upgrade their service for more features, but paying for TV is a harsh consumer reality of the Pay-TV ecosystem and not a factor that’s likely to change. However, some complaints (like complaints 1, 2, and 6) seem to arise out of a sincere misunderstanding of timeshifting, what it offers, and how it works. There’s nothing simple about the way timeshift TV works, and this complexity is too often transferred to the subscriber, who is left to their own devices to figure it out.
For instance, one large North American TV operator advertises their timeshift feature by pointing out benefits like these:
Full HD DVR functionality, including the ability to pause, fast-forward, and rewind live TV
Easily skip commercials in recorded PrimeTime Anytime Shows
This might cause a consumer to believe they can skip commercials on many of their favorite shows. They’ll be frustrated later on if they didn’t read the fine print, which points out that the commercial skipping feature is available only on certain primetime shows, and only those airing on one of four channels.
In another example, a large European operator describes the rather complicated parameters of their Catch-Up feature, explaining on their webiste that a subscriber can watch programs from nine of the channels the day after they’re broadcast, while one of the channels is made available for Catch-Up only on the Monday after being broadcast. They add that a number of other shows are also available during a time that ranges from 7 to 30 days, accessed by the viewer via three different portals within their service. Clearly, timeshifting is a complex undertaking, but it is made more complicated (and costly) at the customer service center when confused TV viewers become frustrated by a service that they don’t understand.
Clarifying Timeshift TV
Specifically, it seems that customers lack clarity regarding the distinctions among various nonlinear features, which often arrive to their screens in a package with a combination of SVOD, PVR, Start Over, Catchup, Pause Live TV, etc. For example, a subscriber who is frustrated about not being able skip commercials in a Start Over function may not realize that they can skip the commercials if they use a SVOD feature to record the shows ahead of time. There’s an opportunity here to make clear distinctions about the application of these features so that subscribers will remain happy with their TV service. As a reference, here’s a guide for differentiating between the various manifestations of timeshift TV:
Other names: Pause Live TV, Timeshift, Delay TV
Intended purpose: For briefly pausing linear TV so a viewer can interrupt their viewing without missing anything.
Storage: The service is typically limited to a brief recording window, and therefore can use the hard-drive disk in the viewer’s set-top box. Some services use network storage instead.
Viewers can pause a program they’re currently watching by pressing the pause button. The program will either start recording from that moment on, or it will record from the beginning of the program segment (channel tune time).
Pause can last for a few seconds up to several hours, typically under 4 hours
After pausing, viewers can continue with the play button, browse within certain limits in the stream to skip forward or back, or catch up to the linear broadcast.
Other names: Restart TV, Timeshift
Intended purpose: For watching broadcast programs from their beginning, even if a viewer arrived too late for the full linear broadcast.
Storage: typically network storage, but also can use the hard-drive disk in a set-top box. The more likely scenario for employing set-top box storage is when the viewer invokes start-over on the currently tuned channel.
Viewers either use the rewind button on the remote, select a start-over icon on the screen, or search for start-over-enabled programs using the electronic program guide (EPG).
Depending on how storage is configured, start-over will be available on various channels, even not-yet-tuned ones, or it might be restricted to the tuned channel.
Generally, some trick modes are enabled, but this depend on service provider/content provider agreements.
PVR & DVR
Other names: NPVR (network personal video recorder), RS-DVR (remote storage digital video recorder), Virtual PVR, PVS (personal video station), HDR (hard disk recorder), PTR (personal TV reciever); encompasses recording modes like Impulsive Recording or Red-Button Recording, Scheduled Recording
Intended purpose: For a viewer to proactively scheduling recordings of programs or start recording the program they’re currently watching.
Storage: Set-top box or network storage
Viewer can watch a recording while the program is still being recorded.
Viewer can start a recording by pressing the “record” button on the remote (Impulsive or Red-Button Recording), or they can schedule a recording by browsing the EPG and designating a program to record or a time-period to record.
To locate the recordings, viewers generally access an archive.
Trick modes are enabled.
Other names: Replay, Flashback, Automatic Recordings, Shift, TV Archive, Lookback, 72 Hour Rewind
Intended purpose: For “catching up” by watching previously aired programs without the need to proactively record them.
Storage: network storage
Viewers browse for shows by surfing on a timeline, looking through the EPG, or going to an archive organized by days/genres.
Time window for viewing ranges from a few hours to 30 days.
Varies from operator to operator in terms of number of channels offered and hours of content available (depends on technical constraints and legal and business rules).
Trick modes are enabled according to service provider/content provider agreements.
Other names: On Demand, SVOD, T-VOD, EST-VOD, commercial names involving “Anytime” or “Now”
Intended purpose: Viewers can pay a given amount to watch content whenever they want.
Storage: Content is unicast or streamed to the home from network storage.
Viewers can perform a transaction, paying to rent content for a time window of up to 48 hours (T-VOD), or paying to purchase the content to watch without restriction on a given platform (EST-VOD).
Viewers can pay for a subscription, through which they can access all shows within the VOD catalogue (SVOD).
Trick modes are enabled.