My TV screen continued to pass on the DVR’s same little message it had been telling me for the past two hours: “Almost there, just a few more minutes.” Sure. I had optimistically believed that for the first 30 minutes, thinking that perhaps the DVR’s definition of a minute was a little longer than mine. But at this point I was beginning to read between the lines… my DVR box was fried.
A year ago, such a message would have propelled me into a flurry of web activity, looking for a new hard drive for the DVR that I could install as soon as possible to deflect the family’s anguish at the loss of their TV companion. Indeed, that was the case with the previous DVR box that passed on suddenly. But this time I sat back and thought about my family’s TV habits for a little longer and I realized that after 14 years of friendship, it was time to move on. I no longer needed the (sometimes) loyal companionship of a DVR.
In fairness, I’m not suggesting that my family could go cold turkey. Far from it; we still have a second DVR that is running smoothly, but I realized that I personally didn’t need the DVR. When I considered my TV viewing, I realized that 90 percent or so of what I watch is available online. Everything from HBO shows to Lizard Lick Towing is available online whenever I want to watch it.
Looking back 14 years, the initial DVR was, without doubt, a revolutionary device for the home. I remember having it explained to me – and then passing on that knowledge to others. No, you didn’t need a VCR tape, and no, you didn’t need to remember to hit record. The concept of the season pass, and the ability of the DVR to guess what else you may like was a blow-your-mind moment for most people.
But the current transition is just as significant. No, you don’t need to worry about hard drive space and no you don’t even need to think about what you may want to watch. Just sit down, search for it and in many cases you will find what you are looking for. Of course, these are still early days and the content transition is still a work in progress. Not all content is available online – especially not all of the latest episodes. HBOGO is still an exception, rather than the rule, in its approach to provide online access at the same time as the linear TV launch of a new episode. But this availability is improving, especially as content providers realize that the advertising options are as valid – if not more valid – than in the DVR era. With online, you can still ensure that the ad is watched, not skipped; and consumers are okay with that as long as the ad is short.
So I unplugged my DVR, pulled out my smartphone and started watching TV via a Google Chromecast. Smooth, simple, and in most cases an adequate alternative at far less of a cost: the Chromecast cost far less than a replacement DVR hard drive. Will I miss some shows? Sure. But not enough to go back. Instead, I’ll be here online waiting for them to join me.