Market Insight

Danish cable operator launches start-over service

February 25, 2009

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Danish cable TV operator YouSee has launched StartForfra, a start-over service for its digital subscribers, which allows viewers to restart television content. As long as a given programme is still being transmitted users may choose to re-watch it from its beginning. The service has been in trials for a year on English-language channels. Content rights have been granted and the service is being offered at no charge, on ten Danish channels, to any subscriber using YouSee's Samsung-made STBs.


YouSee is not alone in offering start-over services. Danish cable operator Telia Stofa and US cable operators TWC, Comcast and Cox offer similar solutions.

Start-over services are part of a trend in cable TV and IPTV towards network personal video recorders (NPVRs). NPVRs move recording capacity from hard disks in STBs to servers on the operator's network. Subscribers are allotted space on the servers to record content. The move away from STB-based PVRs offers subscriber-acquisition CAPEX reductions which scale with the subscriber base.

Start-over offerings are not true NPVRs: viewers cannot schedule recordings, store content of their choosing, or repeatedly view content after its transmission. However, viewers may restart a programme should they tune in to it after it has started. This functionality is not possible with STB or true network PVRs.

Start-over solutions are also attractive because they minimise the content rights wrangling that has hindered, for example, US cable operator Cablevision's deployment of a true NPVR. Sanctioned use of STB-based PVRs rests upon legal precedent set by the 1984 Betamax Supreme Court ruling. NPVRs move content storage from in-home devices onto operator networks, which in the eyes of content owners is tantamount to a VoD service. As a result NPVRs have had difficulty finding legal shelter under Betamax private-use guidelines. Start-over services store content on networks for a very limited time, simplifying rights negotiations.

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