• Category: Latest News
  • Written by Rick Ellis

The Battle For Your DVR

When I looked at my Hulu Live DVR this morning, I noticed there were three new episodes of the NatGeo series "Wicked Tuna" from last night. Now because I have gone through this every single week of the show's season so far, I know that in reality there is only one new episode of the show that premiered on Sunday. The other two episodes are clip shows with little or no new content that the network has labeled as "new," so that they'll be recorded on the DVR of every person who is following "Wicked Tuna."

Welcome to "DVR creep," cable television's answer to auto-playing video on your favorite web site. Some networks - primarily those who air a lot of reality programming - are aggressively pushing additional programming onto your DVR when you decide to regularly record one of their hit shows.

NatGeo does it most notably with "Wicked Tuna," and History is especially aggressive with long-running shows such as "American Pickers" or "The Curse Of Oak Island." You decide you want to record only the new episodes of your favorite program, only to find your DVR clogged up with "Best of" episodes with two minutes of "unseen" footage, clip shows that center around one of the show's characters or a myriad of other ways designed to make the episode appear to have enough new elements to it that fans will tune in.

This trend has accelerated now that many reality shows are doing episodes in which cast members "watch" reruns and provide commentary. For instance, if you subscribe to the Food Network's "Restaurant Impossible" on your DVR, you'll record both that week's new episode, as well as one in which Robert Irvine and his wife watch an older episode. Along with the random clip show. Everything is labeled as new and there is no way to record just the original show episodes.

In fact, the Discovery Communications group of networks have turned this DVR creep into a near work or art. Their various networks have began bundling shows together in two-hour blocks, making it impossible to record just the episode you care about. If you've been recording the two-hour episodes of "Worst Cooks In America Celebrity Edition," you'll find the episodes are in reality 90 minutes long. They're followed by thirty-minute specials with names such as "The Ten Most Memorable Contestants," with footage drawn from previous season of the show. Those extra specials aren't listed in the programming guide and you won't even realize they are there until they've been recorded.

It's the same way with the Discovery spin-off series "Deadliest Catch: Bloodlines." Despite having heavily promoted the series (which stars a couple of fishermen from the parent series," you won't find it broken out separately in programming guides. Instead, it's bundled into a two-hour block, following an hour-long episode of "Deadliest Catch."

I haven't had any luck convincing one of the networks to discuss this issue with me. I'm assuming that they have discovered a certain percentage of people will just watch the entire block, whether they had planned to record it or not. Aside from the annoyance factor, this DVR bloat is a challenge to the people who subscribe to services such as Hulu Live TV, Sling or other virtual cable systems. The basic DVR package on a lot of those services is fairly small-often limiting subscribers to 25 hours of storage. So filling up those 25 hours with trickery and programming customers don't care about seems like a pretty bad business idea.