Time-Warner Cable, who seem to be at forefront of trying new things with cable programming, are expanding their “Start Over” service beyond their original test market in South Carolina.
In and of itself, “Start Over” is a pretty good idea: if you’re flipping around, and you find a show that you’ve missed the first few minutes of, you can use this service to watch that show from the beginning.
There is a catch, however: you cannot fast-forward through commercials.
Here is my reasoned analysis of that limitation:
This, of course, is not a technical limitation. It’s a corporate greedhead move designed to create a Faustian choice on the part of the viewer: “Hey, it’s the ‘Turkey Drop’ episode of WKRP!, I haven’t seen that in ages, and it’ll never be on DVD. But if I start it from the beginning, I have to sit through a bunch of crap commercials!!”
Also, once you start watching TV like that, you theoretically might never stop, because you’ll always miss the starting times of the next set of shows. The only time this might be OK is with a sporting event, but even then, what happens when you’re perpetually 15 minutes behind and your buddy calls you up about that amazing play that ended the game.
And they want to expand this concept into something called “Look Back.” With this service, you’d be able to go back and watch anything that had been on your cable service in the past 24 or possibly 48 hours. Once again, theoretically cool: if you missed that cool drop-by on one of the late night talk shows that everybody is talking about this morning, no problem!
They haven’t decided whether or not to force-feed us the commercials on this one, but if they do, I’m not interested.
In a way, it’s almost Mr. Burnsian in its perfect diabolicalness: they’ve figured out a way to use DVR technology to bring back the pre-VCR mode of television watching. Bollocks to that, I say, as should you.