2014-04-02

VMedia Launches Cloud-Based PVR

VMedia announced the availability of their cloud PVR service today. The update to enable the feature is expected to hit VMedia TV customers by the weekend.

The new recording capability is available to existing VMedia customers at no additional cost. Read on for details.

Updated 2014-04-05 to clarify pricing details.

The full press release is available here: VMedia Introduces Cloud TV in Canada.

Cablevision and Comcast in the US have cloud-based PVRs, but VMedia is the first of the TV providers in Canada serving a large customer base to offer the service. If you've been following this blog for a while, you might recall that my initial article about VMedia mentioned the cloud recording technology they already had with their Russian TV service. Unfortunately they weren't able to offer that technology with Canadian channels due to restrictions placed on them by the Canadian channel owners. In case you weren't aware, Bell, Rogers, and Shaw own most of the TV channels licensed for service in Canada. That's on top of the fact that they also own virtually all of the newspapers, radio stations, cable/satellite companies, and magazines.

Based on the information in the press release, the newly launched cloud service sounds a little different from what I described in April - more like a typical on-premise PVR than their Russian TV product's recorder, which acts more like a time warp that lets you scroll backward a few weeks in your on-screen guide to access programs that aired in the past.

If you've used a PVR from one of the other Canadian TV providers then you already know how to use VMedia's service. The big difference with a cloud-based recorder is that you don't need to attach a hard drive to your TV receiver - the recording happens at VMedia's facilities rather than at your house. I would expect the recordings to be available to all receivers in your house, which makes it a whole-home PVR - something that is only available from a few other TV providers in Canada and requires their latest and greatest receiver hardware.

At present, the retention time for recordings is only 7 days, but the press release says that is expected to be extended in the future, based on demand.

Another restriction compared to existing on-premise recorders is that the channels you're allowed to record is limited to a subset of your subscription package. The press release has the full list, but all of the major US and Canadian networks are there. Absent are most of the specialty channels such as TSN, Food, and HGTV. Those and the rest of the channel line-up are hoped to be made available in the future, but for now VMedia is bound by restrictions placed on them by the channel owners. This is yet another problem with the highly integrated media ownership in Canada. When only a handful of companies own both the channels and the cable/satellite systems that distribute those channels, they have every incentive to limit what competitive services can offer to customers.
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