- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Time is my enemy. There’s just too few hours in a day, what with working (and extra work), commuting, family, personal needs and whatever.

On top of that, there are the TV schedulers. Sunday nights at my home look very much like rush hour on the Capital Beltway: too many vehicles at one time, at least during “Amazing Race” season. Because of scheduling conflicts, I have to pick up Showtime’s “The Tudors” during one of its later showings. I’m not complaining, mind you, just noting that we who have bellied up to the all-you-can-watch media buffet sometimes need to get an extra plate.

Time shifting, of course, is about 30 years old, more or less, with the advent of VCRs such as the late, lamented Sony Betamax, moving along to today’s DVD recorders (yes, digital video disc recorders) and hard-disc-based digital video recorders, or DVRs. Program the recorder properly, have everything ready - as in keeping the TV tuner on - and you can save items for more convenient viewing.

Some tools are better than others for this purpose. I like DVRs because they store far more programming than a tape cassette or blank DVD can hold. You can watch a show, delete it and that’s that. My current favorite, by a long shot, is the TiVo HD XL DVR, mentioned here a few weeks back. It holds a lot and has a great programming function - you can get to the unit from anywhere with Internet access and set up shows to record.

It gets better. One of the keys to TiVo is that it uses Wi-Fi communications to send and receive information via the Internet. (It also will work over a “wired” Ethernet home network in a similar fashion.) That same connection can transfer a TiVo-recorded program to a Macintosh computer for burning to a DVD using Roxio’s Toast 10 Titanium (www.roxio.com). This is a time-consuming process using Wi-Fi: It takes about three hours to transfer a two-hour TV show. But, hey, set it up in the evening, and you are good to go the next morning.

Doing this for single copies for personal use shouldn’t put you on the wrong side of copyright laws; it should fall under “fair use” as decided in the 1984 Supreme Court Betamax case Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios Inc. It’s running off hundreds of copies to sell on a street corner that will get you into trouble.

It’s not just that you can cut these recordings onto a DVD, but also that these are high-def programs you are recording. Alternatively, the same Roxio Toast software will let you shift these programs to your iPod. Now, time shifting joins location shifting, putting the viewing experience with you on the Metro.

All this is combining to create a huge revolution in the way we use media. Experienced users will know this, but one additional delight of TiVo is that you can skip through those voluminous commercials and get back to the televised action when playing back the recording on your DVR. That’s good for viewers, tougher for advertisers and a potential nightmare for broadcast-TV networks, which, after all, derive much of their income from those commercials.

The networks themselves are fighting back: Miss a show such as ABC’s “Lost” or NBC’s “30 Rock” and you can watch reruns online, free and in high-definition no less. The catch? “Limited commercial interruptions” that you can’t fast-forward through. Many of those same shows also can be ordered from Apple Inc.’s iTunes store for $1.99 to $2.99 an episode, commercial free.

In my view, these are exceptionally positive developments overall. Consumers are in control far more than we could have been 10 or 20 years ago. The entertainment industry is coming around to recognize that, and if they are smart, Hollywood and its executives will roll with the change rather than try to fight against it. Give the market what it wants, when and how it wants it, and the market should respond positively.

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