Feature Article
TV - Where Should It Be Going

August 1, 2000
By Scott Lewis

This month I want to discuss TV. With HDTV on the horizon I thought it was time to visit this topic, and provide you with another get rich slow idea.

A while back I wrote about combining DSS style digital satellite broadcasting with car audio. My idea was to have an antenna mounted in a car that would provide access to music from a satellite. There must have been something to my idea because someone is actually building it. And that's just the start. Clearly there is something to Internet broadcast radio.

Now it's time to tell you about my next big idea that should be able to make you rich if you have the ability to invest in, or build, it.

The device is basically a TiVo like device on a PCI card you add to your computer. TiVo & ReplayTV are services that you subscribe to, in addition to your regular Television subscriptions. It works in tandem with cable TV or DSS satellite service. In a nutshell, you buy a TiVo device and pay a month fee to have your current TV subscriber’s programming downloaded to the TiVo set-top box.

The set-top box uses a hard drive instead of a tape to record Television programs. It even records as you watch so they can provide enhancements such as pausing a live show. Just press pause, and a running program is paused until you hit play. The program is being recorded in the background so you don’t have to miss anything.

The TiVo device (btw... the reason I am picking on TiVo is because it is faster to type than ReplayTV. I don’t have a preference between the two... yet.) can be programmed to record all the shows you like. You can even tell it what types of shows you like and it will search the TV schedule for programs you might like so you can watch them at your leisure.

By using a computer you can basically supply a TV tuner card and handle the rest in software. The initial hardware investment for customers would be much cheaper, especially if the person already has an Internet connection. Just piggy-back on their existing Internet connection to download the programming information without the need to dial the phone independently.

In my opinion TiVo & ReplayTV have just hit the tip of the iceberg. A set-top box doesn’t have near the programming ability or storage capacity of a computer. By adding a card to a computer, you can have your TV signal sent to a computer with large quantities of disc space. You can perform more complicated programming that just isn’t possible with the limited functionality of a set-top box. Also, you would be able to designate programs to save permanently. If you have the disc space you can buy movies through pay-per-view and store them for replay whenever you want, as many times as you want.

If you run out of space you simply buy another hard drive. It would be easier to upgrade, or add, a hard drive to a computer than to one of those "boxes." If the company that jumps on this idea is afraid of losing money on upgrades they should build a decent removable hard drive system for a computer so you could buy an endless supply of storage from them.

Combined with the nominal monthly fee, it would be a gold mine. The only downsides are that people don’t already have their computers attached to their TVs and getting a remote to control the software on the computer. Neither of these hurdles is too difficult. Remote devices like these do exist, and it’s just a matter of time before computers and TVs are connected together.

In fact, this idea could be the driving force to the inevitable movie/music "server" I (and others) predict we will have someday. This server would be computer based (hopefully not through a set-top box) and would store all the music/TV/movies you have the space to hold. It would be able to send music to any radio in the house, and television shows or movies to any TV in the house.

Remember, hard drive space doubles every year. Right now a 60GB drive is roomy and reasonably priced (I just bought one for $279). By the time HDTV is an accepted standard (2006 according to the FCC, but that is another story) hard drives will be up to 3840GB. DVD movies take up around 4-8GB each. That means by the year 2006 you will be able to hold around 480-960 movies in full DVD quality. Gee, maybe you should download that DeCSS program after all.

It’s just a matter of time. Does anyone want to get rich slow?